Is test taking online better than test taking on paper?

by Toree Fisher (Staff Writer) – 5/14/15

Test taking on a scantron
Test taking on a scantron

A student’s performance on online tests in schools depends on various aspects such as the familiarity of technology, the complications that may follow, etc; whereas on paper-based tests, there are fewer disadvantages.

With the advancement of technology and the increasing use of it in schools, many test, such as the Smarter Balanced test, are being taken online. Dr. Victor Bunderson, founder of the EduMetrics, states, “Out of 23 educational studies, 11 studies showed no difference in performance, 9 favored paper-based tests and 3 favored computer-based tests.”

Although the computer based and paper based exams share similar concepts, there are significant differences. Some students aren’t as familiar with technology, which hinders them from performing as well as they could. According to researchers Roy B. Clariana and Patricia E. Wallace, “Those more familiar with the content and computers perform better than those who were not as familiar.”

A student’s familiarity with computers is a key factor to consider when given a computer-based exam. Additionally, students can be easily distracted by the internet.

Using technology can come with some complications such as the internet being down or the computer/iPad crashing or freezing. Also, there can be errors with logging in, and in some cases, the session may expire.

Not only can this be a huge problem, it can be very time consuming while taking a test that may result in not completing the exam on time. With these setbacks, a student’s performance can be impacted.

Depending on the subject, a student’s performance can vary.  Many students are more comfortable taking math tests on paper described junior Anthony Navarro. According to the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, “… with the math test, individual students with better hands-on computer skills tended to achieve higher online scores after controlling for their level of paper writing skills.”

Students are more flexible with test taking on paper than testing online.  With online testing, a student isn’t always allowed to skip problems and come back to them whereas on a paper-based test a student is capable of doing so.

Although paper-based exams have fewer technicalities and are simpler, they still have their imperfections. “Sometimes there are problems with identifying student’s writing, which leads to confusion when grading,” stated senior Alexander Sharoyan.

Out of 35 junior and senior students, 21 prefer paper-based tests while the rest prefer computer-based tests.