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Understanding Terminology Related to Computer Based Testing (CBT) and Remote Testing

September 19, 2017  | By  | Leave a comment

Certification organizations have several options for test administration. Understanding the terms associated with the various modes of computer-based testing can help organizations understand and select the best option for their programs.  Test administrations, including computer based testing (CBT) or remote testing, contain four components: location, delivery method, timing, and monitoring.

Location

Location refers to the type of facility in which the test is administered. Some of the major types of testing locations you may encounter when administering CBT or remote testing can include the following.

Vendor Owned Testing Center – A vendor owned testing center or a “professional” testing center is an administration site that is owned or operated by a test delivery company.  Since the testing center is owned by the company that is delivering the examination, the delivery of the examination is usually more seamless, the centers are standardized, and the test delivery company is able to maintain a higher level of control over general security measures, such as check-in procedures, proctoring, video recording, and the monitoring of candidate breaks.

Authorized Testing Center – In order for a vendor to enlarge a test delivery network, a test delivery vendor may enter into agreements with testing centers that are owned by a third-party organization based on a certain set of standards established by the test delivery company that must be maintained by the testing center.  Some companies use these centers in addition to their own.  Others depend entirely on these third-party agreements.  The agreements between the test delivery company and the testing center can vary and some companies may have different levels of agreements for different testing centers. Since the test delivery company does not have direct control over the testing center, test delivery may not be as seamless, the centers may vary in physical setup and quality, and there may be less control over security.

Client Obtained Testing Site – Some testing sponsors or test development companies may take on the responsibility of obtaining and operating testing centers, rather than use a network provided by a test delivery company or in conjunction with the testing company.  This often happens for special administrations of the examination where the client hosts an examination administration at an event such as a conference.  In a computer administered examination, the test delivery company only provides access to the examination either via secure software, network, or internet connection.  The test sponsor is responsible for all other aspects of the examination.

Client Authorized Testing Site – Some testing programs for examinations that are lower stakes and/or have fewer candidates or candidates in remote locations, may  require candidates to obtain their own testing center.  The testing sponsor must have policies and procedures in place to approve the requested testing center, including standards the testing center must meet and the means of evaluating and authorizing the center.

Anywhere Testing – This type of testing allows a candidate to test from any location, via their home, office, or other location.  This has the highest risk when it comes to test security.  Often times this is used with practice examinations and other lower stake examinations.

Delivery Method

The delivery method deals with where the test and test results are physically stored and how they are transported to and from the testing location.  The types of delivery methods that may be encountered are examinations that are administered via a/an:

Individual Computer – This is where an examination is stored and administrated on a dedicated computer. The candidate’s response is also stored on the computer.  The examination administration does not require access to a network or internet to administer the examination.  Multiple computers may be used for administering the examination; however, the examination is stored on each individual computer and the computers do not interact with one another.  This delivery method is used less often today; however, it is applicable in special testing situations (such as administering a test at a location without internet access) where several computers can be set up to administer the examination.   After the examination administration, the responses of the candidate or candidates who took the examination need to be transferred from the computer into a centralized database.  Since the computers do not access the internet or a network, the examination is not vulnerable to threats coming from outside the computer.  Cautions need to be put in place to block access to computer functions outside of those permissible by those authorized to manage the examination, or by those authorized to take the examination.  This is so candidates taking the examination, or those unauthorized to have access to the examination, are unable to steal the examination or sections of the examination.

Local Area Network (LAN) – A local area network (LAN) is a network where the computers are interconnected in a limited area such as a room or a building.  The examination is stored on one computer and delivered to the others via the network.  The computers do not require access to the internet so are not vulnerable to risks by those outside the network.  Administering the examination via a LAN has an advantage over administering through a group of individual computers in that the candidate responses can be stored and managed from one central computer vs. having to manually access multiple computers.  An added risk to the security of the examination is the remote access to the examination through any computer physically connected to the network.  Often times this is used for testing administrations where multiple computers are set up within a single room or across several rooms within the same building.

Wide Area Network (WAN) – A wide area network (WAN) is a network where the computers are interconnected across a large geographic location, for example, across multiple cities, states, or countries.  Large testing companies that use their own network of testing centers will administer the examination via a WAN.  The WAN is not accessible by the internet so is not vulnerable to threats that come through the Internet thereby allowing the examination to be administered more securely.  The advantage of using a WAN is that the examination can be administered simultaneously through various locations, and responses and test administration can be managed from a centralized location.

Internet Based Test (IBT) – An internet based test is a test that is delivered over the internet.  Since it is delivered over the internet it can be delivered to any computer connected to the internet.  Methods to secure the examination during the delivery of the examination is highly critical since it can be vulnerable to unauthorized access or other attacks from virtually anywhere with internet access.

Mobile Testing – this is when a test is administered on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smart phone.  Sometimes the mobile device is used in conjunction with computers to administer the examination.  Other times the test is developed to be specifically delivered on a mobile device as part of a performance or practical examination. Mobile devices are also used as a means to present information for the candidate and/or record responses from the candidate as they engage in performing a particular task or skill.

Timing

This relates to the time frame in which a test is administered, whether all the examinations are administered in one seating, in a time specific testing window, or whether they are available to be administered on-demand at any time.

Single Test Administration Session – This is when all the examinees take the examination at the same time in a single test administration session at a pre-determined time and place.

Testing Window – This is when eligible examinees take the examination individually during a pre-determined time frame.  Depending on whether the examination is delivered only at testing centers or through anywhere testing, candidates may or may not have to make an appointment to take the examination within the testing window.  Regardless, candidates are not allowed to test outside the specified time frame. The timeframe may vary depending on the needs and policies of the testing organization and/or the size of the candidate population.  The testing window can be short (such as a week or two), can last one or two months, or maybe longer.  Testing windows typically are scheduled seasonally based on the time of year candidates are more likely will test, for example, a nursing exam may have testing windows during the summer and winter months, shortly after nursing students graduate from nursing programs.

Continuous Testing/On-Demand Testing – This is when the test is continuously available and not restricted to testing windows.  Again, depending on the location of the examination (in a testing center or via anywhere testing), a candidate may or may not have to schedule an appointment to take the examination.  Sometimes one hears the term “Anytime-Anywhere” testing. This is the testing situation where on-demand testing is coupled with anywhere testing and candidates are able to take the examination at any time from any computer and/or mobile device.

Monitoring

This pertains to whether the examination is proctored or not.

Physical On-site Proctoring – This is where at least one human-being is physically present in the testing room to actively observe the candidates as they take the examination.  The proctors are trained on the test administration, what to look for when observing the examination, and activities permitted and not permitted while proctoring.  The ratio of proctors to candidates taking the examination should be such that each candidate is adequately observed.

Remote Proctoring – This is where a human-being is proctoring a candidate taking the examination in a location outside of the physical location of where the candidate is taking the test.  The proctor views the candidate via one or more web cameras and from information provided to the proctor from the candidate’s computer, for example, the candidate accesses software programs while taking the examination.  While recent technological advances have improved remote proctoring, remote proctoring is still not fool proof and should be used with caution.  There is still a debate in the testing community of whether it is advisable to use remote proctoring with high stake examinations.

Un-proctored – This is where there is no human-being proctoring the candidate while the examination is being administered.  Sometimes other technologies such as biometrics and information regarding the testing session may be collected prior to or during the examination.  For low-stakes exams, such as practice exams, a testing program may use an honor system with the candidate when administering the examination.  Most typically the practice of administering an un-proctored examination is only used in situations where the examination itself is a practice examination and/or some other form of formative evaluation that purely provides feedback to the candidate but is otherwise low stakes. Given the high-risk of cheating in an un-proctored environment, it is highly unadvisable for testing programs providing a high-stakes examination to offer the examination in such an environment.

Related Blogs and Information:

To learn more about test security read our What is a Test Security Plan blog by Joy Matthews-López, PhD

To learn more about CBT go to CBT Test Topics

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