3 Steps to Get Students Started with Computer-Based Testing

September 14, 2016 Kristen Hicks

With a new semester beginning, one of the jobs you have is to teach students the ins and outs of how to be a student at your school and in your courses. If your school has implemented computer-based testing (CBT), then easing your students into the process of taking exams on a computer or tablet may be a part of that process.

If you aren’t administering exams via CBT, then this semester is a good time to consider a shift. It can help your students in a number of valuable ways:

  • Regular access to CBT ensures students are prepared for high-stakes exams that are administered with CBT, like the NCLEX for nursing students or the bar for law students.

  • Students benefit from formative assessments throughout the semester, along with a summative assessment at the end.

  • Embedded assessment equips professors with better data to provide improved feedback.

When it’s time to get your students on board with CBT, a few steps can help ensure the transition is easy for them.

  1. Give practice exams.

Ideally, the first time a student uses computer-based testing software at your college, it shouldn’t be for credit. They shouldn’t have to learn to navigate the software at the same time that they’re under the pressure of being tested.

Set a time early in the semester to give them a practice exam and send them the installation instructions in advance. Expect that not everyone will download the instructions before class time, so you may have to wait on the procrastinators for a few minutes before getting started.

Emphasize to the students that there really are no stakes and the quiz is simply an opportunity to let them test the software. Make the questions easy and provide enough to give the students a little time with the software—10 to 20 questions should do it.

  1. Listen to student feedback and questions.

Once students have finished their first practice tests using CBT, ask for their feedback. You want to know about any discomfort or issues they had with the process early on, especially as some of the problems have easy solutions.

Ask questions such as:

  • What issues, if any, did you have while taking the exam?

  • In comparison to paper-based testing, was there anything about CBT that you didn’t like as much?

  • Did you experience any technical issues?

The likelihood of every student finding computer-based testing intuitive and problem-free from day one is fairly low, so expect to hear some criticisms or concerns raised at this point. In some cases, you may simply need to point out features your students didn’t know about. George Washington University (GWU) found that some students were bothered by not being able to cross out answers—an option that’s actually readily available in ExamSoft.

  1. Tweak the process, if needed.

Some student feedback might have easy solutions, but in other cases you may need to get a little creative. GWU made a special point of eliciting student feedback when implementing CBT and then coming up with solutions to issues students raised.

Students complained of not being able to take notes during the exam, for example, so the school provided whiteboards to serve that purpose.

Your students can benefit from CBT in a lot of meaningful ways, but it’s crucial that they buy into the value of it. By giving students a chance to get used to the process and listening to any concerns they have, you can go a long way toward alleviating hesitations and ensuring students are prepared for the semester ahead.

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