With ‘at random’ we refer to a testing based on a random structure. This results in a unique exam for each candidate. Currently, at random is the most widely used digital form of testing. But there are still plenty of organisations that have not yet (fully) made the step from written to digital testing or are using digital (fixed) examination versions. In this blog we explain the advantages of at random testing.
In a fixed examination (version), each candidate receives the same questions in the same order. This working method is generally used for examinations on paper, but sometimes also in digital form.
However, at random is the most common digital form of testing. In the case of at random testing, questions are placed separately in a database according to a certain structure, also called a test matrix. For example, the structure of the subject matter or the book. This results in a question bank. Next, questions per topic are randomly selected from this question bank. As a result, each candidate takes a unique examination.
As the questions in the database are divided into different topics it is easy to see if there are enough examination questions per topic. For example, if you need to change the questions of a certain topic due to a change in current affairs, you can easily look them up.
In the case of at random testing, it is simple and obvious to have multiple authors develop questions for each topic. This significantly speeds up the development process, improves progress monitoring of the development process and reduces the dependence on a single author. It also forces authors to comply with the examination requirements. Working within these set parameters not only prevents overlap, it also safeguards the equivalence of testing. A precise but demanding process.
You can see exactly which examination requirements are (not) complied with or cause problems, often during the development of the examination questions. An author has little leeway and cannot easily avoid examination requirements for which it is difficult to develop questions. Therefore, ask authors to share their experiences in working with the examination requirements.
It is a lot cheaper to maintain a few questions than to maintain whole examination versions; why is that? If changes are necessary in an examination, the examination will be temporarily set on non-active. Of course, it makes a huge difference whether one question or an entire examination is non-active. In the first case only a replacement question is needed and in the second case an entire examination is required.
Incidentally, setting up an at random question bank generally costs a little more time. Think of it as a long-term investment.
If the database still contains few questions, a small part of the questions could be redrawn during a resit. In at random testing, the questions are selected separately from the database and automatically mixed with ‘new’ questions. By also adjusting the order, the candidate is less likely to recognise the ‘old’ questions during a resit. Moreover, by using different variables, one can place the same question in a different context, which further reduces the chance that the candidate will recognise the question.
Are you going to start with digital testing and do you want to develop at random testing? Bear in mind that it is not the intention to copy a written test to a digital version. Developing a digital test involves a lot more than that. So take your time to make the right choices.
For example, which question forms would you like to use? What is the best ratio between knowledge, insight and application questions? Do you have to take other things into account in the question?
All in all, it makes sense to discuss the structure of the question bank with experts who have a good command of the field in question. They can assess the weight of a subject and how best to test it.