Advantages of computerised tests

One of the great advantages of a well-designed computer-based test is that it does not require any special expertise on the part of the administrator. This applies to all the tests in Exact, which can be administered by any competent adult (see Section 1.2.6). Provided headphones are used, they can also be administered and undertaken in a room where other activities are taking place, and no special directions to the students are required other than to tell the student(s) which of the tests should be attempted, along with an explanation of the importance of moving through the tests quickly and of thinking carefully about responses (see Section 2.6.3).

Computers also provide more precise measurement, especially when complex cognitive skills are being assessed. Tests are administered in an entirely consistent manner for all persons taking the test, which enhances reliability of measurement. Timings and presentation speeds can be controlled precisely. The subjective judgment of the administrator does not affect the test outcome as it can in conventional tests. Exact is largely self-administered and results are available immediately; both of these factors help to reduce administrative load and avoid time delays.

There is good evidence that most students prefer computer-based tests to conventional tests (whether paper-based group tests or administered 1:1 by a teacher). This is particularly the case for students with below average literacy skills, who are more likely to feel intimidated by assessments and be embarrassed by their performance. Computer-based tests have generally been found to be less threatening and less stressful, which helps to ensure more reliable results.8 There is also evidence that there is less gender bias in computer-based tests than in conventional tests, so there are good reasons to regard computer-based tests as fairer, as well as being more consistent and objective, than conventional tests.9

8 Singleton, C.H. (2001) Computer-based assessment in education. Educational and Child Psychology, 18, 58-74. BDA (2005) Practical solutions to identifying dyslexia in juvenile offenders: Report of a joint project of the British Dyslexia Association and HM Young Offender Institution Wetherby, 2004-5. Reading: British Dyslexia Association.

9 Horne, J.K. (2007) Gender differences in computerised and conventional educational tests. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 47–55.