Choosing assessment software is difficult. There is a large number of software packages on the market with widely ranging prices and predicting the future requirements it has to meet is not always easy.
The choice of assessment software is a long-term decision. You therefore also have to consider the specific requirements that the package has to meet at the present time as well as in the future. The number of candidates or the number of users of exam locations may increase as a result of internal reorganisation. For example, in a large internationally operating organisation, exams are currently organised to take place in a number of locations at the same time. In the future, the organisation intends to make exams independent of time and location, which imposes requirements on the assessment software. This is just one example, but there are often many uncertainties.
To help you with the the choice of assessment software, a number of focus points are listed below:
Will multiple people spread over different locations use the assessment software? Remember to include exam builders and question revisors. This calls for a web-based system with questions stored in a central and properly secured location. In addition, asking questions about the security of the system is important. Is it properly arranged? Security is a critical issue especially with summative assessment. The security for systems that are only suitable for formative assessment is not always optimal. Lastly, it is important to study how the software behaves when a large number of candidates take an exam simultaneously. Are the servers suitable for the number of candidates?
To what extent is the system equipped to meet the requirements of the GDPR? The security, storage and use of personal data and the possibility of deleting it are important.
Setting up exam processes usually involves assigning different responsibilities and authorities. To what extent can roles and rights be incorporated in your digital assessment software. Who is ultimately responsible for (or the owner of) the question bank? Who is allowed to enter, check and revise questions? Who is allowed to edit the templates the system uses and adjust the difficulty level of an entire exam, etc.? When looking for suitable assessment software, it is important to know what your requirements are and to find out the extent to which the system meets them.
How is the packet structured and is it also suitable for modular use? For example, does the package include modules for holding exams on location, for supervision, for enrolment and registration, for analysing data and for generating reports. Is it possible to use a
‘light’ version of the software, for example, for formative assessments?
How easy is it for candidates to book a place for an exam, change their registration details and to pay the fee? Are there possibilities for creating a link between the supplier’s website and the respective assessment software? And how is communication with candidates arranged? Is there a mail module and how easy can it be customised?
“As a user, you will benefit from a clearly organised structure.”
How easy is it to enter questions? Can it be done by relatively untrained people? It can be particularly relevant to make to assessment software accessible exam builders and question revisors, and to assign various user groups different data input, editing and sign-off rights. In addition, it can also be important to make the status of questions (signed off, under review, etc.) visible in the system.
Another important point of attention is to look at the possibilities the system has for analysing results. Does it already contain formulas for calculating the p and rit values, also for non-multiple-choice questions? Some systems require user input in this area, while others have this option built in as standard.
Lastly, as a user, you will benefit from a clearly organised structure. How are the questions in the database arranged? Can you immediately see the structure, or does it look more like a jigsaw puzzle?
What is the best way of examining the subject matter – with open or closed questions? Open questions are, for example, needed if you have to examine whether a candidate can formulate their own answers or when examining a ‘higher-order’ competence, such as analysis. If this is at all pertinent, you have to look for a system that offers this functionality. You should also look into the amount of leeway in the marking method: can it be used by multiple markers? And are there various possibilities for calculating marks and grades?
Assessment software systems do not all have the same possibilities for extracting and analysing statistical data; for example, the p, rit and a values, but also data on how markers rate questions and a representation of the chance of guessing the answer to each question. Sometimes you will also need information about which candidates have already had a specific question in an exam. This is, for example, the case if you use flexible-moment exams or if you want to exclude one or more questions from an exam after it has been taken.
With some types of questions, it can be useful to employ visual material in the form of illustrations and videos. How easy is it to do this with the software? What are the respective image-format and file-size requirements?
Is it to be expected that a link to other software will be required? This may be the case if other programs are to be used during the exam, such as Excel or another bookkeeping program. Some systems offer this possibility.
Written exams have completely different possibilities to digital exams. We have already discussed some of them in this booklet. To what extent is it necessary to hold exams at a specific time and or location? In this respect, you have to consider measures taken to make the system future proof. What do you do if candidates are spread all over the country or live abroad? In that case, it would be wise to take this into account from the start. When you look at the options for holding exams, also check the possibilities for dyslexics, the visually impaired, etc. And the possibilities for taking exams offline; there are bound to be situations where there is no internet connection.
How pleasant is to increase the recognisability for users and candidates by creating an exam in your own style and with your own logo? Various software packages offer this possibility. Can the system be customised? Is the supplier willing to make adjustments to the system to meet specific requirements? Are they open to innovative ideas and product development suggestions?
Choosing the right software for your organisation is a complex process and some of the aspects are critically important. They are briefly outlined above, but each system has to be reviewed on its own merits. The above aspects will help you ask assessment software suppliers the right questions.