Computer-Based Testing (CBT) Vs. Paper-Based Testing
On the 25th of February 2011 the BBC Today Programme invited Isabel Nisbet, the outgoing chief of the UK based qualifications watchdog, Ofqual, to discuss the issue of computer-based testing (CBT).
Ms Nisbet felt the topic an important issue. Her exact words were: "In the future, how things are tested should match how people learn and how they act."
This echoes back to one of the most important issues with language testing,as raised by Bachman and Palmer (1996) that tests should resemble the real thing for which they are testing. This was one of the criteria for test usefulness; authenticity. Because the way people, especially younger generations, interact with the world is largely going to be through a computer, testing and assessment should reflect that.
CBT allows for more accurate, secure, rapid and controlled test administration: from students sitting the test, to tests being marked and results being published, all the way through to researching those data and evaluating the test.
This is perhaps something critics of CBT would argue against, but it is believed that any scepticism on this part would be aimed at a mistrust of technology rather than a genuine belief that paper-based testing (PBT) is actually better in these respects. As long as the computers are reliable and secure there is no reason to doubt the claim that CBT is far superior in these respects.