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In what way will technology help in competitive examinations?

One of the major advantages of CBT or online tests is the ability to programme personalized testing opportunities for students

Published: Mar 23, 2021 02:51:34 PM IST
Updated: Mar 23, 2021 02:51:29 PM IST

Image: Shutterstock

Slightly over a decade back, in a surprise move IIMs announced to shift their much-anticipated Common Aptitude Test (CAT) online. They opted for the computer-based test (CBT) model. On a pre-determined day and timeslot, students would visit IIM-approved testing centers equipped with the requisite technology infrastructure. A test facilitator would initialize and oversee successful implementation of CBT on the day. Though the first edition of the CAT CBT did not go glitch-free, successive system upgradations combined with an agile operations approach has witnessed successful implementation of CBT-based CAT since. Thus proving the naysayers wrong.

Other entrance exams like Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) were previously conducted on CBT model until early 2020 but have moved to online-test medium. Here in, students can login remotely from their homes to the testing portal using confidential credentials and take the test.

In a post-Covid world, our education system is readying itself for a similar push. In following years, CBT or Online-tests for major competitive examinations could very well be a norm.

For much of last year, Education sector like many others had to abruptly transition into delivering education digitally. The onset of lockdowns worldwide deserted once bustling university campuses, classrooms fell silent while the action shifted into our study rooms. A spate of spikes in infections and the need to follow ‘social distancing’ have resulted in universities as well as state administrations announcing to conduct competitive exams online or through the computer-based (CBT) medium. Let us take a closer look at the advantages of the CBTs:

Student Safety: With successful implementation of online classes, parents have raised concerns over the need for students to participate in ‘offline exams’. Psychologically speaking, students would prefer to concentrate solely on the exam rather than worry about possibilities of getting infected. Given a choice, even the authorities would be leaning towards hosting online or computer-based tests. This will ensure students and their parents do not have to ‘crowd’ at a testing centre. Additionally, authorities can lower the risks of an infection spread.

Ease of implementation: Conducting offline tests across the country is a tedious and resource-intensive task during a regular year let alone during these times. It means activating a multitude of resources including availability of staff, classrooms, distribution of exam materials etc. With the physical facilities yet to be fully operational, one would be rightfully skeptical to invest efforts on such short notice. Instead, conducting online tests allows authorities to automate key processes while offsetting main tasks like preparing their study rooms into test venue and having requisite desktops / laptops for taking tests to the students. Authorities can better monitor the online tests centrally. It definitely saves time and resources. Furthermore, the testing templates are quickly implementable and are available for reuse on a short notice.

Training: Unlike offline tests, one can centrally organize training / orientation sessions for students as well as facilitators. ‘Online recording’ option allows for these sessions to be viewed at the viewers’ convenience. Organizing multiple dry runs can test viability of the system and comfort of students with the testing tools. Additionally, authorities can conduct multiple entrance tests within a year thus providing more chances to students as against the singular tests in the offline model.

Personalized Tests & instant results: One of the major advantages of CBT or online tests is the ability to programme personalized testing opportunities for students. Such tests can be dynamic in nature thus clocking out possibility of ‘paper-leaks’ or other illegal methods. Moreover, the testing tools can be programmed to shortlist questions from a vast repository / question bank. One of the key advantage of such tests is the availability of results instantaneously.

Analytics & feedback: Finally, through these tests, testing agencies can gain critical insights into the success or failure of the test and recommend changes on the go. For students, every test report can have detailed analysis of their approach. Most importantly, the feedback report will help identify areas of improvements for students to help them score better. Online tests take self-learning to a completely new level.

In order to ease initial challenges and to ensure a level-playing field, authorities can offer either the tests to be taken at home or a test center. This will help those students who do not have the comfort of seeking a ‘quiet’ place for test taking. Nevertheless, time is ripe for competitive examinations to move online and for our students to benefit from the full extent of technological advances within the EdTech sector.

Nilesh Gaikwad, Country Manager, EDHEC Business School