Competitive Government Exams being Evaluated by Computers: Is this a Good Thing?

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Competitive Government Exams being Evaluated by Computers Is this a Good Thing

In a world that is increasingly adopting technology and computers, most of the exams in India are still largely paper-and-pen based. Rediff states that computer-based testing and evaluation only accounts for about 20 percent of the total examinations conducted in India.

However, more and more government exams like IES, UPSC, IAS, etc., are now becoming digital by introducing online examination and evaluation. Computer-based assessments are not just about conducting exams on a computer; they also involve significant changes in the way they are scheduled, designed, conducted, monitored, and evaluated.

According to a study performed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), while candidates’ scores for the computer-based exam were similar to paper-based exams, fifty per cent of the students preferred paper-based exams over computer ones.

Yet, in spite of student preferences, computer-evaluated examinations have a number of significant advantages as compared to traditional paper-based exams. These include immediate scoring and feedback, efficiency, and authentic assessments, to name a few.

Problems faced by computer-based evaluation:

Acceptance by students:

A computerised evaluation also requires the exams being given on a computer, which poses a hurdle as not many students are comfortable with using a computer system. Besides institutional and organisational barriers, it is also important to consider students’ adaptation to the computer-based test model.

Hence, to ensure a smooth transition to computer-based examinations in government exams like UPSC, IES, IAS, etc., it is essential for candidates to be equally comfortable with the computer-based exam as they are with paper-based exams.

Difference in student performance in the two modes of evaluation:

The effectiveness of computer-based evaluation method is also directly correlated to students’ performance on the computer-based test. Since students are mostly used to paper-based examinations, for computerised tests to be successful, students should also be able to perform as well in them to ensure unbiased results.

For instance, if computer-based assessment would consistently result in lower scores as compared to paper-based exams, either due to unfamiliarity with computers or due to technical problems, it would result in a biased judgement of the students’ capabilities, thus rendering the entire examination process as irrelevant.

Limited question/answer formats:

Perhaps the biggest drawback of computer-based evaluation, is that there are limitations in what types of assessments can be given to the candidates. Since a computer is evaluating the test, the questions can only be in the format of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs).

Similarly, subjective questions such as essays and discussions cannot be graded by the computer, as this demands an in-depth knowledge of the topic being discussed, and can only be evaluated manually by an examiner.

Advantages of computer-based evaluation:

Increased security:

However, keeping these constraints aside, computer-based assessment has many benefits and is the most prevalent evaluation method in most developed countries. The test centres have increased security where photo identity checks and digital signatures are required.

Further, to minimise cheating, the students are monitored with cameras, there is a live invigilation, and a restriction on the use of electronic devices as well. The test papers are not printed and physically delivered, but are digitally encrypted and uploaded instead.

Efficiency:

Computer-based evaluations make the conducting bodies more efficient for the simple fact that it requires a significantly lesser amount of time. While in the previous pen and paper methods, it took time for the administration to prepare, distribute, and grade exams, computer-based assessment is scalable for either 200 students or 2,000. Furthermore, computer-based evaluations also empower students to take their exams when and wherever it is more convenient for them, as opposed to taking the exam only at a designated time.

Automatic scoring and adaptation:

Online assessments of exams also come with the feature of automated scoring and adaptation. This means that the computer not only evaluates the exam, but it evaluates student performance in real-time as well.

Most online evaluation systems also come with a feedback loop that adapts the difficulty level of the exam based on the number of questions answered correctly by the candidate. This ensures that the candidates appearing for the exam are thoroughly tested not only in their aptitude, but also in their level of preparation.

No scope of human error:

There have been countless examples of grading errors in case of offline pen and paper method of evaluation. More often than not, human examiners might skip evaluating some section of the exam or another, thus prompting re-evaluation from the candidates which further prolongs the delay in the ultimate delivery of results.

With computer evaluation, there is no scope left for such human errors, and the candidates can be assured of a thorough assessment of their exam. In addition to this, since computer evaluation is performed in real-time, some exams deliver the result of the test as soon as the candidate is done with it.

The introduction of computer-based testing in competitive government exams is slowly gaining momentum. While it faces institutional barriers like the need for extra facilities, computer equipment, test security, need for backup in instances of technological failures, and teacher and student acceptance, the overall benefits of computer-based testing far outweigh the odds.

However, for computer-based exams to get adapted by students, it is also important that students practice and get familiar with this new mode of test administration.

Nisha Pandey

Nisha Pandey

Owner & Founder at SeoTechyWorld
She is the founder of SeoTechyWorld.com. She is fun loving person and love to share about SEO, blogging, social media and latest technology tips.

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