What Is Computer-Assisted Testing?

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  • Written By: D. Nelson
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Computer-assisted testing is an assessment model in which candidates or test takers answer questions or complete exercises that are part of a computer program. In many cases, computer tests also include automatic scoring. This occurs when there are a finite number of correct answers, such as in multiple choice testing models. When short answer and essay questions are included in computer-assisted testing, a grader normally reads answers and enters grades into a database. Computer-assisted testing is used for standardized tests, for psychological and skill assessment, in classrooms, and may even be used by individuals who wish to test themselves.

Proponents of computer-assisted testing believe that it makes recording scores much easier for scorers and instructors. Individuals who take these exams often can receive their scores immediately. Some critics, however, believe that people with different ways of learning and processing information may find computer testing difficult.

Many standardized tests have adopted computer-assisted testing models. An example of a standardized test is the Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®), which many students in the United States take prior to applying to graduate programs. Students who take the GRE® normally meet at a designated testing center, where they sit for the exam at computer workstations. Their scores are recorded automatically, though written portions are assessed by trained scorers.


It also is common to find computer-assisted testing in the business world. When human resources (HR) professionals want to learn about employees' and job candidates' strengths and skills, they might administer tests on computers. They either may create their own tests using specially developed assessment software or purchase computer tests that are designed specifically for their needs.

Instructors at all levels of education can use computer-assisted testing. Many education systems provide students and teachers with access to closed networks where instructors can upload exams and students can access the tests and provide answers. This testing model is especially common on college campuses where students have the option to take online classes.

Individuals commonly use computer-assisted testing to assess themselves. Those who are preparing to take standardized tests, for example, might use practice test software that they can install on their own computers. Many people prefer this kind of practice test because the computer model often is more similar to the actual tests for which they are studying than practice tests on paper. Computer program practice tests can be accessed online from relevant websites or may be purchased and installed on personal computers.


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Post 3

@allenJo - It’s not learning styles that are the issue for me. Some people simply don’t test well sitting in front of a computer – they freeze. This has nothing to do with how well they learned the material, just with the comfort level of working with a computer.

At least with human aided testing (to coin a phrase) they can always ask questions from a teacher to clarify something, or at least feel a little more comfortable taking the test.

Post 2

I’m a firm believer in computer aided testing and can’t understand why anyone would oppose it on the basis of differing learning styles. Actually, I do understand that point, because I’ve heard it before.

When I worked as an educator, there were those teachers who opposed systematic testing of students on the grounds, they claimed, that everyone learns differently.

Unfortunately, we don’t have too many options. If you choose a more subjective method of assessment, that approach is open to criticism as well, namely the charge that every teacher is doing testing their own way.

Systematic testing, whether on pen and paper or in front of a computer screen, is the only way to ensure a level playing field for all in my opinion.

Post 1

I can think of two times in my career when I had to use computer aided testing.

The first time was when I worked as a data entry operator, many moons ago. The main purpose of the computer test was to test my typing speed on the keyboard and the ten-key. I don’t know if you would call this a true computer aided test or a typing test, but it was part of pre-screening for employment.

The second occasion was when I signed up with a contract programming firm. I took a test that measured by proficiency with programming concepts. It wasn’t a hard test, because it didn’t focus on any one programming language, but it did test overall understanding of logic, programming constructs and algorithms.

That test was really useful, and I guess I passed it, since I got the job.

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