02 Feb 2016 15:59 IST

How computer-based testing delivers greater value

Divyalok Sharma from Pearson VUE India highlights the challenges and opportunities in the field of testing

Most people perceive computer-based testing (CBT) as merely removing paper and pencil, but CBT is more about the advantages that come with it, says Divyalok Sharma, Pearson VUE India Director, Client Development. Sharma works for the world’s largest certification and assessment company which has around 300 testing centres in 80 cities across India. He is aggressively involved in increasing Pearson VUE’s clientele and wants to evangelise the industry by bringing a strategic shift in the way hiring is currently done in India. He spoke to BLoC about the advantages and threats that come with CBT. Excerpts:

How has CBT changed the way examinations are conducted in India?

India is currently going through a transition phase and moving from written tests to the CBT examinations, and our key charter at this point is not just sign customers but also help organisations in this transition.

Most people perceive CBT as merely removing paper and pencil and conducting the exam on a computer. But when we talk about the transition to CBT, it is more about the advantages that come with a CBT. GMAC’s GMAT for instance, is using the best practices in place when it comes to computer-based testing. The coordinates in the two cases are very different.

Many organisations are reluctant because they do not realise the right value which the CBT examination can bring. Obviously, cost is a factor but when they understand that the value they derive from CBT is higher than the hidden costs of a pen-and-paper system , they’ll start moving in the right direction. Apart from signing partners in India we are spending a lot of time and resources in evangelisation.

One such activity planned for the first quarter of 2016 is a test owners workshop. We also conduct a lot of webinars on content development, testing development, content delivery and so on covering different aspects of testing.

Which is the most popular computer-based test in India?

It will be wrong on my part to rate them on popularity because every examination that we carry out is very important for us. There are two kinds of examinations: the ones which we sign in India and deliver, and the other is where we help our global partners to deliver in India. For example, if we look at IT as a domain starting from Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, and so on we deliver all of their global certifications in India.

Plus, our Indian clients such as NMIMS generate lot of volumes and we deliver more than 70,000 examinations in a year for them. Thus, we would not want to rate it in terms of popularity.

Also, we have recently partnered and helped Data Security Council of India to launch its certification, which is is picking up, and is the right kind of certification to be starting in India. Now, security is one of the key areas. The certification was launched a few months ago and is not fetching volumes right now but it is a step in the right direction and is likely to gain momentum. We have also partnered recently with National Commodities Exchange, and will be delivering a certification for them.

All these certifications are important because when companies want to hire a person with the desired skill set, a certification by some authority ensures the candidate has the right skills available. Thus, it not only makes a hiring manager’s job easy but a line manager’s job easy too.

What are the threats involved with a CBT?

Impersonation is the key problem. That is someone taking the examination in the place of original candidate. To avoid this, a robust security mechanism needs to be in place, and when we say security, it is not just the technology part but has lot of layers to it.

For instance, even if somebody can match your thumb print how can he/she match your palm’s impression? This is the level of security we are talking about.

Thus, the top challenge of impersonation is what we are trying to deal with in case of NMIMS also. The second challenge is to find out if you are the same person who had given the test.

Examinations need to be designed in a way so there is a lesser chance of the candidate remembering the questions after the exam and passing it on to others. That is where the key skills of right question development can come into the picture. LSAT, the Law entrance test that we conduct in India for around 60 law colleges is one of the examples.

Another thing is, are we into the business of filtering the right candidates? No, we are into the testing business, thus, we should allow the candidates to take the test when they are best prepared for it. So, there should be an option to reschedule the test at candidate’s convenience. And this is what we strive to offer to the applicants.

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