5 Steps to Move from Paper-Based to Computer-Based Testing


5 Steps to Move from Paper-Based to Computer-Based Testing

Rory McCorkle, PhD.


Organizations have been migrating from paper-based testing (PBT) to computer-based testing (CBT) long before 2020. COVID-19 has accelerated this for some, with many more migrating to computer-based tests. And this was with good reason. Tests need to be conducted safely and conveniently for candidates, while remaining cost-effective, secure, and scalable for organizations.

As with any change, the move from PBT to CBT has be managed carefully. And a high level of expertise is required to ensure the validity and integrity of your tests are maintained, especially when under pressure to move tests online.

1. Start thinking about the move to computer-based testing now – not later

There has never been a better time to make the move to CBT. Recent technological advances have provided many more options to reach candidates. At the same time, technology has significantly increased the security and accessibility of online assessments.

Prior to COVID-19, the first step for most organizations was to hold computer-based testing in test centers. However, COVID-19 forced many organizations to bypass this step and move directly to remotely proctored testing. Whether you moved to CBT in haste earlier this year and now need to review and make adjustments, or you have yet to make the transition and need to start the process from the beginning, now is the time to start thinking about the move to CBT. COVID-19 has taught us that it’s all too easy to get caught out by unforeseen circumstances.

2. Do your homework

While you need to start thinking about the move now, take the time to do your homework. A great way is to speak to other similar organizations who have made the transition to CBT. Ask searching questions about what worked, what didn’t, what they would do differently. You’ll be able to learn from any mistakes they made along the way.

Just as important is research to identify the right partner. Again, similar organizations who have made the move will be able to advise you. Read up on the benefits and capabilities of the different solutions on offer. For example:

3. Create a clear project and change management plan

A good plan can make all the difference between project success and failure. When making the move from paper–based to computer–based testing, you’ll need a comprehensive project plan that defines:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Project scope and deliverables
  • Tasks and a timeline for the project

Your provider will work with you closely to develop a project plan that you should both agree on in advance. Equally, the move to computer–based testing is a big change. To ease the transition, you’ll need a plan that assesses the impact of this change on your organization and how this impact will be managed – including how key stakeholders will be involved and communicated with.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Involve your communications and marketing functions early on and keep them involved throughout the move from PBT to CBT. You’ll benefit from frequent two way communications with everyone affected by the change. For example, get key stakeholders involved in developing your project plan before you begin to make changes as it will be a lot easier to take them with you.

When you come to launch your new CBT program, don’t assume that all of your stakeholders have received and absorbed the messages you’ve been sharing with them during the project. Regularly repeat important messages using a variety of different channels:

  • Explain clearly what is going to happen and when it is going to happen
  • Communicate during the change and make sure that stakeholders have access to support if they have questions or concerns
  • Directly ask for feedback after initial implementation
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5. Review and make adjustments

Of course, what your stakeholders tell you won’t always be positive. Unfortunately, we are programmed as human beings not to like change. However, by asking people what they think and then acting on their feedback you’ll gain significantly more buy-in. And you’ll be able to make ongoing improvements to your testing program that you may not have anticipated.

What’s more, the technology available for CBT is advancing all the time. Are there new technologies that you can bring in to improve your testing? This might include Artificial Intelligence and biometrics to improve test security, assistive software to improve accessibility, or multimedia options such as Virtual Reality headsets to increase engagement.

While the technology available to deliver CBT is constantly improving, CBT is not new. At PSI, we are highly practiced in the transition to CBT. We are experts in the delivery of CBT and we know what to expect. With best practices in place, it is possible for any organization, regardless of size and number of candidates, to make the move to CBT.