Special Report
Education

A Test-Taker’s Perspective

By Jennifer Park — September 12, 2017 3 min read

An informal survey of students about Oregon’s online testing system shows they find computer-based testing faster and more enjoyable than the paper-and-pencil variety, and they report feeling that they perform better on computerized assessments than on traditional tests.

While some states are just beginning to contemplate the possibility of computerized testing, Oregon piloted a program in spring 2001 that is now being expanded across the state. The system delivers the Oregon Statewide Assessment over the Internet.

The main goal of the Technology Enhanced Student Assessment, or TESA, program is to provide test results quickly, so teachers can more effectively determine how well students are meeting state standards. The program also aims to offer more flexibility: Teachers can administer the online tests whenever they deem appropriate, whether to an individual student, a group of students, or an entire class.

To assess the pilot phase of the online testing program, Oregon state education officials surveyed 740 3rd graders and 730 high school students from around the state about their experiences taking the state assessment online compared with taking the hard-copy version. About 2,500 students had taken the online tests. State officials also held debriefing sessions and hired evaluators to conduct interviews with teachers.

Third graders were especially positive about Web-based testing. Seventy-nine percent of those pupils surveyed believed they had done their best work on the computer-based reading test, compared with a little more than 5 percent of 3rd graders who felt they either had done better on paper or were frustrated using the computerized test.

Results were similar for the online math test. On that assessment, more than 94 percent of the 3rd graders said they felt that they had done their best work on the computer test or that they had done equally well on both versions. Only 6 percent believed they had performed better on paper or had felt frustrated with the computer-based exam.

A majority of the 3rd graders enjoyed taking the Web-based version more than they did the paper test: Sixty-two percent reported that the online reading test was easier to use and more enjoyable than the paper test, and 58 percent said the same about the Web-based test in mathematics.

Not as Positive

High school students were slightly less positive about their performance on the Internet-based tests.

On the reading test, 78 percent of the high school students believed they had either done better on the computerized version or equally well on the Web and paper tests. About 22 percent of the high schoolers felt they had either done better on paper or were frustrated using the computer-based exams.

In math, about 76 percent of the high school students either felt that they had done their best work on the computerized test or that they had done equally well on both versions. Fewer than a quarter of the high school test-takers felt they had done better on the paper exam or were frustrated using the Web assessment.

Most of the high school students reported finding that the Internet version had taken less time or the same amount of time as the paper test.

But a considerable number of the students disagreed. Thirty-one percent of the high school students tested said the Web version of the reading test had taken more time than the paper test. The same percentage reported that the computerized math test had taken longer to complete than the paper test.

Thirty-seven percent of the high school students rated the computerized version of the reading test easier to use and more enjoyable to take than the paper version; 38 percent found the Web-based math test easier to use and more enjoyable to take.

Twenty percent of the high schoolers surveyed in Oregon said that the Web-based reading assessment was harder to use than the paper-and-pencil test.

A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2003 edition of Education Week