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Computer based Tests are the future of Entrance exams. Many major examinations in India have adopted the Computer based mode of test taking – the list includes, JEE Mains, CAT, and BITSAT. BITSAT has been Computer based for long now. As these are the top-end engineering and management entrance exams, choosing the type of test posed a huge dilemma for the aspirants, i.e., Computer-based or paper based? And if the numbers are to be trusted, a majority of the vote goes to the paper based tests. Now, in an era where almost everyone is internet savvy with an active social media presence, reluctance towards CBTs is a little surprising.

Computer based Tests – an experiment:

In 2011, Dr. Achim Hochlenert of the University of Heidelberg conducted a social experiment on fifth year medical students that revealed an interesting result. 98 students in their final year were made to take a test on human genetics. The test was available in two modes vis-a-vis Computer based Test (CBT) and Paper based Test (PBT). Students were introduced to the GUI (Graphic User Interface) of the CBT and updates were made on the GUI based on student feedback, prior to the test. Out of the 98 students, 36 opted for the CBT, which formed 37% of the group. They were also asked to fill in a questionnaire after the test. Based on the questionnaire, out of the 36 who took the CBT, 30 were willing to retake CBTs in their future tests. Expected scores for both the groups matched their actual scores very closely. Given the difference in amount of exposure to CBTs and PBTs, the results were highly encouraging.

Most importantly, the conclusion drawn was that Computer based Tests are of no disadvantage to the students. Although the scale of the experiment wasn’t very huge, the result of the experiment holds very well, even for an extrapolation of its scale.

Computer based Tests – the fears:

True that you, the aspirants, have a fair share of doubts and arguments against Computer based exams. However, if you are afraid of the Computer Based Exams for any of the following reasons, read on:

You’ve practiced mainly on paper

This is one of the main reasons students refrain from taking the test online. This is also why a majority of the students from the University of Heidelberg went for the PBT. It is understandable that there is some comfort in the familiar, but you are provided with rough papers even in the Computer based form of the test. So, while you can work out stuff on paper, you have computers for quickly marking the answers and switching between problems for a quick check, as opposed to worrying about the speed that you need to write, or colour of the ink and the tedious job of properly filling in the bubbles on the paper.

To diversify your preparation, try taking tests online too. This will prepare you for Computer based tests. Online mock tests also offer a much better performance analysis, and you will get a better insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Basically instead of worrying about the CBTs, you can start familiarising yourself with them.

Online exams include tougher questions

This is a myth. In fact, there are articles suggesting that test takers somehow found it easier. There was positive feedback in line with the benefits such as, ‘We were able to unmark answers and change them with just a click.‘, ‘We could see the questions we skipped for later review‘ etc.

Even organisers have denied the view on disparity in difficulty level of questions between CBTs and PBTs. In fact, CBTs can help you be more organised by allowing you to to quickly browse through questions and alert you of any you’ve missed, unlike PBTs where human error can account for missed questions.

There may be a power failure

This is a competent reason to not go for an online test. In fact, if the power situation constantly fluctuates or is really bad in your city, don’t go for CBTs. But, if you’re basing your decision on a mere possibility of power failure during your exam, you need to think like this:

Having been in the business long enough, your examination center will definitely have a power backup. If you are in doubt, you can check that with the center before the exam. One may argue that the time between the power cut and the backup ‘kicking-in’ goes to waste. Well, in that case, for argument’s sake, you may drop your pen in a paper based test or worse, spill your stationery on the floor, which you need to re-arrange. This will need the exact amount of time it takes for the power backup to kick-in.

As the test is online (LAN), your responses will remain unchanged, even if a power failure were to take place.

What if there are other technical glitches?

If you are worried about technical glitches other than power failure, you can put those fears to rest. The organisers have already thought it through and made the appropriate arrangements for you; sufficient buffer computers are also provided at the centers. This is also evidence from the fact that there haven’t been any major mishaps during a national level CBT so far. The reason is the amount of intense situational testing done before the exam by the examination centers.

So there you have it! Now that your biggest fears about CBTs are addressed, all you need to do is make them your best friend – familiarise yourself with the process and give a few mock tests and you’ll be all set!

In my opinion, everyone should go for Computer based tests. There are many advantages of the online exams over offline. If you look closely, the cons of a CBT are highly unlikely and pros are most definitely certain.

JEE Mains offered an online exam in 2014 for the first time. Here’s an official FAQ floated by CBSE on JEE Mains online. It may answer some of the lingering questions you may still have.

There is enough reason to believe that more and more competitive tests are going to be online in the future, given the amount of emphasis being laid on digitalization these days. Your best bet is preparing for what lies ahead without the fear of embracing the new. All the best!

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