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What is a Computer-Based Assessment?

Computer Based Assessments

Computers and technology have impacted almost every industry across the globe. And, one specific area that has experienced a substantial change is the education industry.

The pace at which the process of teaching, assessing and learning has evolved is enough to signify the impact. Books have moved to ebooks, physical classrooms have turned into online classrooms, and paper-based tests have become online tests.

For a very long time, until the arrival of computers, paper-based tests were the only method of assessment available to educators & instructors.

Educators and instructors would jot down a set of questions on a paper and then distribute these papers to the learners, wait for them to complete and submit the test before the instructors can grade the tests, write feedback and prepare reports.

It was a time-consuming activity.

It was only when technology-based assessment systems arrived that the idea of pen and paper assessments became redundant and slowly gave way to a better, more effective system of assessment.

Compelling features such as accessibility, scalability, and security make online computer-based assessments the most desirable and this is the main reason for their wide adoption. And why not? A machine can now do everything that instructors used to do before, allowing them to focus on the more important tasks on hand.

But what is a computer-based assessment? How does it work? What are the advantages of using this type of testing?

Let’s try to understand it by answering each of the following questions one after another:

  • What is a computer based assessment?
  • What’s the history of computer based assessment?
  • What’s the definition of computer based assessment?
  • Are all computer based assessments online?
  • How does a computer based assessment work?
  • What are the benefits of computer based assessment?
  • What are the types of computer based assessment?

What Is a Computer-Based Assessment?

In simple terms, computer-based assessment is the practice of assigning quizzes and tests to learners on a computer instead of paper. Computer-based assessments are already used widely in many eLearning environments.

For example, the last time you took a written driver’s test you probably used a computer.

This type of test is also being used in schools, starting as early as third grade, often to deliver standardized tests, as well as in colleges and universities and in employee training programs.

Having said that, not all computer-based assessments are online assessments.

Watch: How to Choose Best Assessment Software

History of computer based assessment

Computer based assessment is not a new idea—in fact, it has been around in some form since 1959, when the very first computer based training (CBT) system was built.

However, like CBT, computer based assessments didn’t get much recognition until a few decades ago, and it only started becoming really influential in the past few years, as online technologies have greatly advanced what is possible.

Because computer based assessment has changed so much since its inception, it isn’t always clear what
people are talking about when they use the term.

At its broadest, the definition of computer based assessment is this: “the use of digital tools for assessment-related activity.”

Notice the use of the term “digital tools” rather than “computers”—this is because today computer based assessments can also be both created and taken using laptops, tablets, and even smartphones.

Any type of testing that involves the use of these technologies, as opposed to paper and pencils, can be considered under the umbrella of computer based assessment.

Are All Computer Based Assessments Online Assessments?

It is quite obvious that assessments that run on computers are computer-based assessments. But, here’s what confuses many people – all assessments are online.

Many people would ask – what is computer-based assessment? Is it always online?

The answer is -No.

All online assessments are computer based but not all computer-based assessments are online.

Offline assessments: Let us begin with offline assessments. These are the assessments that are created on a computer-based test software and are available only on a single device.

These tests are offline, so a single set of tests cannot be taken on two devices simultaneously and the responses are stored in a database. The grades are assigned manually and the reports are prepared much later.

Online assessments: Online assessments or online computer-based tests are created using online assessment software so they can be taken anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Online assessment in education is vital since a single set of tests or assessments can be attempted on many devices at the same time. The answers can be automatically graded and the responses are stored in auto-generated reports.

The reports can be visited anytime by instructors to review individual or group performances. You can easily create reports using an online assessment tool.

Read More:- The Five Steps to Creating an Online Assessment

How Does a Computer Based Online Assessment Work?

Online computer-based assessment is a broad term that encompasses several different types of testing tools and technologies.
One of the most common tools is a computer-based assessment software in which an instructor uses a web-based assessment software to create and share an assessment.

Then, the instructor provides a link to the students who take the assessment online.

The online assessment creator automatically takes care of all of the administrative tasks—tracking who has completed the test, collecting data such as how much time students spend on each question, and even grading the tests and providing feedback to the students.

Read More:- What is Educational Assessment and Why is it Necessary

Benefits of Computer Based Assessments

Well, any feature that makes the task of assessing someone easier and accurate is considered an advantage. Check out some of the primary advantages listed below:

✔ Efficiency

It takes less time for teachers to prepare, distribute, and grade online tests compared to paper tests. Also, it is easily scalable, whether you’re assessing 20 students or 2,000.

✔ Convenience

Students can take the assessment at a convenient time and place they choose, rather than having to take it at a fixed schedule.

✔ Automatic Scoring with Instant Feedback

A computer can automatically score the assessment and provide students with immediate feedback on their performance.

✔ Analytics and Reports

The computer-based examination software enables you to make data-driven decisions as it collects a large amount of data that can help you identify who is having trouble and also improve the assessments over time.

✔ Security Configurations

Online assessment creators have a variety of features to prevent cheating and unauthorized access.

✔ Less human error

Computer-based assessment removes a significant amount of human error, such as grading errors.

✔ Re-usability

Create tests and even individual questions once and reuse them easily on other assessments.

Now that we know about the advantages that these bring let’s have a look at how different types of such computerized assessments can be useful.

Types of Computer Based Assessment

Our definition is very broad, and within it are several subcategories. Here are two of the most common types of computer based assessment:

Assessments embedded within e-learning modules: This type is most similar to the original computer based training. Here, online assessments are embedded within larger e-learning modules so that all of a students’ learning activities take place on the computer. For example, a student might watch a video that has comprehension questions contained within it. Or, a student may complete a full e-learning module that culminates in a final test.

Standalone online assessments: This type is relatively new, and it is being used in all kinds of learning environments, including in-person courses. Here, an instructor uses an online assessment creator to develop quizzes and tests, which students then take using an online platform. Online assessments have many possible applications, from traditional chapter quizzes to final exams. They can also be used to boost student engagement and measure retention on an ongoing basis. For example, an educator could start every class with a short quiz that students take on their smartphones.

How to Create Online Assessments

Perks of Using a Computer Based Assessment Software


The advantages of using a computer based assessment software to develop, distribute, and administer assessments and tests are many. Here are just a few of the major ones:

  • It’s easy to use – Using online test maker, you can create a test in minutes and distribute the link to learners via email. The software will automatically grade tests and provide you with reports about the results. Compare that to how time- and energy-intensive the evaluation process usually is.
  • It’s flexible – Computer assessment tests can be used to evaluate a wide variety of knowledge and skills. You aren’t limited to just multiple choice and true or false questions. In fact, you can write almost any kind of question you can imagine, including essay questions. You can also incorporate video, audio, and other types of media into your test items.
  • It can double as a learning tool. The main reason to use assessments is, of course, to see what your students have learned. But the best assessments also serve as learning tools. With pencil and paper tests, this opportunity is usually lost due to the amount of time that elapses between when students take the test and when teachers provide the feedback. With computer assessment tests, however, the software grades the tests and provides instant feedback so that students can better learn from their mistakes.
  • It teaches key digital literacy skills. Students today need to be able to use digital tools proficiently. Taking assessments online can help them develop many of the skills that will be key to their future success.

After reading the points above, you aren’t really surprised, are you?

Well if you are, then you might want to take a look at the shortcomings of paper-based assessments that computer-based assessments overcome.

Computer-Based Assessments Vs Paper Based Assessments

Shortcomings Paper-Based Assessments Computer-Based Assessments


Takes a longer time to create.  Can be created in minutes with templates & ready-to-use questions
Wastage Includes heaps of test papers There’s no paperwork involved in the process
Grading Can take hours to grade Grades automatically with automated grading
Feedback Individual feedback can take hours Feedback can be provided instantly.
Results Due to manual grading and scoring of papers, results are often delayed by days. Results are displayed instantly after completion.
Results can also be personalized. 
Reports The reports have to be generated after all the assessees have completed their tests.  The detailed reports & statistics are
automatically generated for all the assessees. 
Performance Evaluation Difficult to compare individual performances and analyze group performances.  With auto-generated reports & statistics,
it becomes easier to analyze overall student
performance and gauge the complexity of
individual questions.
Risk of cheating Always has to be invigilated physically to prevent cheating.  With better security controls like time-limits on questions,
question randomization, and answer shuffling,
there’s no need for physical invigilation.
Security Can be mishandled Can be prevented from unauthorized access with password protection
Accessibility Confined to physical spaces Can be accessed on any device. 

Of course, there may be a few technology glitches here and there, but in general, computers make significantly fewer errors than humans do.

So, what does all of this add up to? Our original computer based assessment definition, “the use of digital tools for assessment-related activity,” turns out to be pretty accurate. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the range of digital tools and assessment-related activity that computer based assessment encompasses.

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About the author


Priyanshi has more than four years of experience in the eLearning industry. She is an ardent follower of new trends emerging in the learning & training sphere and loves to create interesting articles on the same. She has a passion for listicles too. In her free time, you’ll probably find her reading or exploring bizarre content on the web.

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