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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effects of computer-based tests on the achievement, anxiety and attitudes of grade 10 science students Chin, Christine Hui Li


The purpose of this study was to compare the achievement and test anxiety level of students taking a conventional paper-and-pencil science test comprising multiple-choice questions, and a computer-based version of the same test. The study assessed the equivalence of the computer-based and paper-and-pencil tests in terms of achievement scores and item characteristics, explored the relationship between computer anxiety and previous computer experience, and investigated the affective impact of computerized testing on the students. A 2 X 2 (mode of test administration by gender) factorial design was used. A sample of 54 male and 51 female Grade 10 students participated in the study. Subjects were blocked by gender and their scores on a previous school-based science exam. They were then randomly assigned to take either the computer-based test or the paper-and-pencil test, both versions of which were identical in length, item content and sequence. Three days before the test, all students were given the "Attitude questionnaire" which included pre-measures of test and computer anxiety. Immediately after taking the test, students in the computer-based group completed the "Survey of attitudes towards testing by computers" questionnaire which assessed their previous computer experience, their test anxiety and computer anxiety level while taking the test, and their reactions towards computer-based testing. Students in the paper-and-pencil test group answered the "Survey of attitudes towards testing" questionnaire which measured their test anxiety level while they were taking the paper-and-pencil test. The results indicate that the mean achievement score on the science test was significantly higher for the group taking the computer-based test. No significant difference in mean scores between sexes was observed; there was also no interaction effect between mode of test administration and gender. The test anxiety level was not significantly different between the groups taking the two versions of the test. A significant relationship existed between students' prior computer experience and their computer anxiety before taking the test. However, there was no significant relationship between previous computer experience and the computer anxiety evoked as a result of taking the test on the computer. Hence, the change in computer anxiety due to taking the test was not explained by computer experience. Of the students who took the computer-based test, 71.2 % said that if given a choice, they would prefer to take the test on a computer. Students indicated that they found the test easier, more convenient to answer because they did not have to write, erase mistakes or fill in bubbles on a scannable sheet, and faster to take when compared to a paper-and-pencil test. Negative responses to the computer-based test included the difficulty involved in reviewing and changing answers, having to type and use a keyboard, fear of the computer making mistakes, and a feeling of uneasiness because the medium of test presentation was unconventional. Students taking the computer-based test were more willing to guess on an item, and tended to avoid the option "I don't know." It is concluded that the computer-based and the paper-and-pencil tests were not equivalent in terms of achievement scores. Modifications in the way test items are presented on a computer-based test may change the strategies with which students approach the items. Extraneous variables incidental to the computer administration such as the inclination to guess on a question, the ease of getting cues from other questions, differences in test-taking flexibility, familiarity with computers, and attitudes towards computers may change the test-taking behaviour to the extent that a student's performance on a computer-based test and paper-and-pencil test may not be the same. Also, if the tasks involved in taking a test on a computer are kept simple enough, prior computer experience has little impact on the anxiety evoked in a student taking the test, and even test-takers with minimal computer experience will not be disadvantaged by having to use an unfamiliar machine.

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