Computer tests faulty and completely unnecessary

January 30, 2019 — by Andrew Li and Alan Zu

After several freshmen were caught cheating on an online drivers’ education test last fall, largely because they were enabled to do so through scouring the internet for answers while taking the test, the effectiveness and integrity of such internet tests have undoubtedly come into question. Because teachers were unable to pinpoint the exact number of cheater, all of the freshmen were assumed to have cheated, which resulted in the entire grade retaking the exam.

This incident demonstrated that even though some people can be trusted to take online test, as long as there are dishonest people who will attempt to cheat on tests, online testing may not be the best idea for tests that result in actual class credit. (Needless to say, the students who cheated are far from blameless and deserve punishment for their actions and poor judgment.)

Clearly, using computers in class does benefit teachers and students, allowing for more streamlined communications among classmates and more organization in terms of class assignments among other advantages. For example, quizzes on Canvas are automatically graded and inputted, but Scantron and free-response tests require teachers to manually evaluate each answer, which not only can lead to human errors but also take days to grade and return to students.

The school’s acceptance of a paperless approach to teaching is not the problem at all. In fact, the school should pride itself on using Canvas and other online tools effectively in aiding student learning.

However, the problem with this transition to everything virtual in the classroom lies with the simplicity of cheating on a computer test. Simply put, computer-given tests are generally too easy to cheat on.

Students can easily search for answers, and to avoid being caught, they can use keyboard shortcuts that navigate between tabs much faster; commands such as pressing the “control” and “tab” buttons at the same time switch between tabs, and students can hide the answers they find online behind other pages by using the “four-finger swipe.”

To put it simply, there is no easy way for teachers to effectively monitor students in these situations. Even after last semester’s incident, those cheaters were only reprimanded for their actions after other students came forward with accusations and confessions.

Students here are already pressured to perform well on tests, and this pressure inevitably causes some to become more desperate for high scores, resulting in cheating.

But, as all moral people know, cheating completely defeats the purpose of learning in the first place. A student’s exam grade is supposed to reflect how much they understood in class when they are prompted to answer questions without any external references during a test; however, when all of the test’s answers are just a Google search away, the temptation to cheat is too great for a certain percentage of students.

Ironically, the AP Computer Science class does not take tests on computers; they actually hand-write code and have multiple choice sections on their tests. Computer science is most commonly practiced on computers in order to run codes, which suggests that their tests should mostly be online. However, since the class does not use computers for testing, there is very little reason for other classes, which tend to have less needs to use computers, to use them.

Traditional test-taking on paper benefits both teachers and students. Teachers might complain about having to scan each individual test for a class if students don’t take tests online. However, the teacher won’t need to enforce certain rules in order to prevent students from cheating on tests online, such as standing behind in a classroom and constantly stare at different students’ screens. And, when online cheating methods are no longer available, students will need to study and perform well by themselves in order to achieve their desired grade.

This approach may be old-fashioned, but it works.

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