The 4 Most Common Questions About Computer-Based Testing


The 4 Most Common Questions About Computer-Based Testing

Rory McCorkle, PhD.


2020 has tested our ability to remain adaptable and responsive. Recent research reveals that flexibility is a top priority for global CEOs in the post-COVID world, with investment in technology emerging as one of the business adjustments believed to have the greatest long-term impact. When it comes to credentialing organizations, the importance of technology to achieve flexibility is reflected in the large-scale migration to online testing that PSI has supported in recent months.

Across every aspect of life, technology has played a fundamental role in the dramatic change we have experienced, whether it is the need to pivot from office to home working or from paper-based (PBT) to flexible computer-based testing (CBT). Since March, many credentialing organizations across certification and licensure, as well as as government and corporate programs, have moved to computer-based testing.

At PSI, we have been supporting our clients with this transition for many years.

Drawing on this knowledge, here are the most common questions we are asked by organizations considering the move to CBT. We hope that these answers provide a useful guide in your decision making around the most appropriate methodology for your testing program.

1. Can computer-based testing be as secure as onsite proctored paper-based testing for my organization?

Test security should never be a barrier when considering the move to CBT. Our research supports this, showing that both mean scores and pass rates are comparable across exams, whether they are delivered with online proctoring or in test centers with in-person proctors. This comparability applies whether you are a small or medium-sized organization with stringent test-security requirements or a large-scale high-stakes testing program.

In much the same way as with PBT, the level of security you require from CBT is down to your organization. For most organizations, the first step is a migration to CBT in test centers, delivered with the additional security of online proctoring. In this environment, there are two options depending on your security needs – live online proctoring or record and review proctoring.

You Might Also Like our eBook: Discover Online Proctoring

More and more organizations are opting for a flexible multi-modal solution. This methodology gives test-takers the option to access testing via a network of secure centers or in their own home. For instance, you might require test centers for candidates who live in urban districts and have easy access to transport. However, for those from more remote areas or where travel is complex, you might put in place the provision for remote testing, with online proctoring that can be delivered at home. These provisions for home testing also mean that you will be prepared for any tightening of COVID-19 restrictions that may occur in the future.

Read More: Going Multi-Modal with Testing

2. Is computer-based testing more or less expensive than paper-based testing?

The honest answer to this question is that it depends on the approach. While CBT can often save money in the long term, the cost of CBT can either be more or less than the cost of PBT.

After the initial set-up costs of CBT, savings are frequently found through either reduced item or test production costs. In addition, the ability to randomize test content at the touch of button is more cost effective than manually creating alternate versions. This presents the potential for considerable savings, particularly when your candidate base is large or your test content must be varied or changed frequently.

3. How flexible and accessible is computer-based testing for my organization and for test-takers?

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of adaptability for testing organizations if you want to avoid disruption for candidates and maintain business continuity. CBT delivered with the multi-modal methodology described above increases your ability to scale-up and scale-down testing as needed. In an environment of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, multi-modal testing also allows you to deliver tests safely, while presenting your candidates with flexible options.

While a migration to CBT will prepare your testing program for the unknown outcomes of COVID-19, it will also increase your reach, market, and revenue opportunities for the future. This move places your organization in the best possible position to face the challenges ahead – whatever they may be.

CBT also provides greater flexibility for your test-takers. This flexibility comes with on-demand testing in more convenient test center locations on specific days, as well as the ability to take some tests at home. Reduced travel, or complete lack of travel, along with the less intrusive adaptations made possible by CBT also makes testing considerably more accessible.

4. Should I be concerned about data security and privacy with computer-based testing?

This is a common question, particularly when credentialing organizations are considering the introduction of online proctoring to increase test security. Unfortunately, the rush toward online testing triggered by COVID-19 has only served to heighten these concerns.

However valid, many of the fears around data security and privacy can be addressed by clearly explaining the process to candidates and providing adequate support. It is important to explain in advance of testing why test-takers are being monitored and how the process aims to replicate the onsite proctoring experience as closely as possible. By providing information about unfamiliar technology, such as online proctoring and Artificial Intelligence, you will do a lot to ease test-taker anxiety.

Much of the technology we use at PSI serves to safeguard data security and privacy. Again, we have found that early communication and clarity around these tools significantly eases concerns and potential issues down the line. This includes a lockdown browser that prevents online proctor access to a test-taker’s device, as well as Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and an Application Programming Interface (API) that protects any personal information.

Next Steps

Technology should be an enabler and never a panacea, and this is always the case with the move from PBT to CBT. Regardless of the current need for speed and expediency, any testing program that moves from PBT to CBT must involve a high level of rigor. This includes test design and delivery, as well as stakeholder communication and continuous ongoing improvement.

However, with the right expertise and best practice in place, any questions or concerns about CBT can be addressed. Any credentialing organization, regardless of size and security requirements, can achieve the flexibility needed to succeed in the post-COVID world.