Put yourself to the test

When did you last put yourself to the test? Maybe it was at school or university, or perhaps it was for a post-grad or professional qualification. Whenever you last sat an exam, you probably had an anxious wait for the results, and when they came, you may have wondered just how well you did on that tricky question.The rapid growth in computer-based testing (CBT) in recent years has changed the way assessment is conducted, providing instant results, detailed feedback – and no problem if your handwriting would make a doctor blush.

So what is it, and who is it for?
In essence, CBT uses computer technology to present, record and mark responses to a test.

Anyone taking a computer-based test parks their pen and paper at the door and picks up a mouse instead.
    
This ‘e’ technology needn’t mean that you have to use the web or a company intranet, as many organisations conduct CBT via a LAN (Local Area Network), ensuring they have complete control over all content.
    
As e-Learning has become the norm, there are ever growing signs that e-Assessment – the taking of tests, marking of questions and issuing of results, by computer – is catching up. You know that a computer can act as a classroom or library, thanks to websites and CD-ROMS, but did you know that it can act as an examiner too?
    
With a business culture of regulation and licensing, the United States has spearheaded the growth in CBT, but there are many reasons why firms in Europe and elsewhere are increasingly turning to computer based testing.
    
Suzana Lopes, Commercial Director of Pearson VUE (EMEA), acknowledges that while the reasons may differ, the fact is that private enterprises, professional bodies, educators and government departments are looking to technology to speed up and streamline staff assessment.
    
“Sometimes it may be used to prove knowledge and professional competence; at other times it may be used to show aptitude for a particular career, helping the recruitment and selection process; or to demonstrate specific skills and abilities,” said Ms Lopes.
    
“E-Assessment isn’t just about transferring paper-based questions onto a computer; it’s more about harnessing a new way of testing that has developed enormously over the past decade.
    
“More and more companies and organisations are benefiting from what is a fast, insightful, portable and flexible system. It’s also secure, efficient and easy-to-use; good for organisations and good for the individuals taking the tests.”
    
In the UK, educators have already realised the benefit of e-Assessment in University admissions tests. Many of the leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are implementing admissions tests for applicants to courses such as medicine, dentistry and law. Pearson VUE currently delivers the UKCAT and LNAT admissions tests. These help to establish the candidate’s aptitude for a degree in their chosen field.

On demand secure e-Assessment
Companies can develop their own computer-based tests with a flexible, scalable and quick-to deploy delivery system that provides on-demand secure e-Assessment, with real-time management reports to help evaluate and continually improve assessment programmes.
    
So what does a computer-based test actually look like? The type and sophistication of tests available is evolving all the time, so e-Assessment can include 3D simulations, virtual reality, video and voice clips, as well as essay-type and multiple-choice questions.
    
For businesses considering a move to e-Assessment, there are multiple ‘bottom lines.’ It can help companies to comply with legislation or regulation, build a qualified workforce and ensure equality of opportunity by using objective standards to measure ability.
    
Being able to offer tests on-demand at times convenient to you, eliminating the need to have all candidates take the test at the same time on the same day, is a further bonus. You could, for example, stagger the assessment of a group of staff who need to master a new piece of software across your enterprise.

Time-saving
Businesses can benefit from the time saved on manually scoring tests or preparing handwritten reports, CBT eliminates the logistics of distributing, storing and tracking test papers.
    
For individuals taking the tests, mastering the interface to complete a test on-screen is easy. The results are instantaneous and can be delivered either directly to the candidate, or to the organisation that set the test, providing detailed, question-level feedback – so you can find out exactly how you fared on that difficult question. There is even the provision for taking a practice test with Pearson VUE.
    
And of course, this efficient form of testing shows that your commitment to training has paid off, with internationally recognised certification, career development and the sense of pride that comes with recognition of a job well done with outcomes that are well worth having.For more information
www.pearsonvue.co.uk