If you’re a college student, you probably have experienced both in class and online test taking. If you have not yet experienced online test taking, it is likely that you soon will. Online and in class tests have their similarities and differences. Each method of testing also has its own pros and cons.
Online Tests and In Class Tests – How are they alike?
Online tests are still tests. You can still have multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, true/false, short answer, essay questions, etc. You may even still be required to show work on an online test. Online tests and in class tests from the same instructor will probably contain similar questions and be given in a similar style. Although this is not always the case, sometimes online tests may also be timed just like an in class test. Online tests can also be set so that they are only visible during a certain window of time, similar to how an in class test may only be taken during your designated class period.
Online Tests or In Class Tests – What’s the difference?
While there are many similarities between online testing and in class testing, there are also some differences. Online tests typically do not require any artwork. You will not be asked to draw anything. On graphing questions, you are generally already given the graphs, or you may be a multiple choice question with graphs already drawn out so that you can pick the correct one. You are also unlikely to be asked any questions requiring you to do experiments. Instructors typically don’t expect students to already have microscopes at home or anything like that. Another huge difference is, you will probably be taking the test alone (hopefully), rather than in the presence of a group of people. You will also be unsupervised while taking the test. There are also more variables in an online test. Your computer could crash, you might be interrupted while taking the assessment, or you might accidently click a wrong button and get booted out of the test. Also, if you happened to have a question during the test, you likely will have no way to ask that question to the instructor in time.
Pros of In Class Testing
1. The testing method is generally straightforward.
2. If you have questions, the instructor is present to answer them.
3. While cheating is certainly possible, the professor is there to catch cheaters.
4. Everyone has the same chances to pass the test. A glitch isn’t going to occur that causes one person to time out of the test and fail. If there is an error on the scantron, the error will be the same for the class, and the question will be thrown out (unless you have a really evil professor).
5. You’re used to this testing method. You have been tested in the classroom for years.
Cons of In Class Testing
1. Many people have testing anxiety. Being in a room full of people taking a test can make these people forget everything they knew on the subject being tested.
2. You may just be staring off into space, but if the instructor thinks you were looking at another student’s paper, you were cheating.
3. You must be on time to take the test. While some professors might care that your car broke down, others won’t.
4. Materials are required. If you don’t have a scantron and you can’t buy one off someone else before class, you are out of luck.
5. Staying seated is generally mandatory. If you just got a leg cramp, you can’t jump up and run around the room. You must stay seated and that leg cramp may prove to be quite a distraction.
Pros of Online Testing
1. You can often take the test at your own preferred time. Many instructors offer a window of time for you to choose to take your test. While the test is still likely timed once you begin, at least you didn’t have to wake up at 7am unless you wanted to.
2. If you have testing anxiety, it should be lessened when you are at home on your computer answering questions, rather than in a room full of people.
3. If you get a leg cramp, feel free to jump up and run around the room.
4. Generally, you aren’t going to need any materials. Scratch paper may prove helpful though.
5. Being online can be fun. Taking a test online can seem at least a little bit more fun than going to class to take the test.
Cons of Online Testing
1. It is easy to cheat. For some people, this isn’t a con. It’s great that you can look up the answers on Google while taking the test. But for people who don’t cheat, this is a con. If you didn’t cheat and you got a low grade, which normally would have been curved, there is some bad news for you: the cheaters ruined the curve.
2. If your computer crashes, tough luck. If you’re lucky, you can get back into the test with only a few minutes deducted. If you’re not lucky, your instructor set the test so that once you leave, you can’t go back in at all for any reason.
3. Maybe you have a question during the test about what a certain question is asking. You call up the professor but they are not in their office. You leave them an email and they don’t answer it quickly. You only have a limited amount of time to complete the exam, so eventually you will just have to guess at what the question was really asking.
4. If you’re not used to online testing, you may not be used to navigating the test. Unskilled navigation can result in pressing the wrong button and getting locked out of the test.
5. Many professors are not really ready to use online testing. This can result in several mistakes, most of which will not be in your favor.
During your time spent in college, you almost certainly will encounter an online test. Know what to expect and be prepared. Ask the professor as many questions in class as you need to so that you will be comfortable taking the online assessment. Even if you hate computers, if you’re in college, you will need to know how to take a test online. Don’t be afraid, just be informed.