As many of you have probably experienced, there is a push right now for computer based testing. Computer based tests are becoming the norm for taking standardized tests like the GRE and NYSTCE. As with many things there are pros and cons to these exams. But the question is do the pros outweigh the cons? Or do the cons make these tests unfair?
Some of the benefits of computer based testing include: timely feedback, more efficient monitoring and tracking of students’ results, a reduced number of resources (as they are replaced by computers), easier storing of results records, and electronic analyzing of data that can be used in spreadsheets and statistical packages. Some downfalls of computer based testing include: costly and time consuming implementation of the exams, assessors and staff implementing must have IT skills, close monitoring of the software as there are chances it could fail or malfunction during an exam, the absence of an instructor, issues to prevent cheating, and computer anxiety.
This last disadvantage is a big one for students taking the exams, and it brings up the question of fairness. I am not saying that paper exams are entirely fair, as some people are better test takers than others to begin with. However, the computer based tests may give an advantage to students who are used to using a computer and have better skills using a computer. For example, a student who has not had a lot of experience typing on a keyboard may be at a disadvantage when taking a computer based test. Or a student who struggles when looking at a computer for too long may not be able to complete a long computer based examination.
I am interested to see how far computer based testing will go. Will students soon be taking SAT exams as computer based tests? And will it go so far that using paper and pencils on exams becomes a thing of the past and all tests taken in college and high school are taken through computer software? I do see the advantage of computer based testing, but I think it would be beneficial if students had a choice, especially right now for students who have not necessarily grown up taking all exams and assessments with a keyboard and a computer screen in front of them.