Tips for Computer Based Exams

Paper might not quite be a relic of the past, but more and more tests are being given via computer technology, instead of the old standby of paper-and-pencils.  And for a good reason:  Computer tests are more efficient, and faster to take and grade.  A number of financial related exams are computer based –  the Certified Internal Auditor Exam (CIA), Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC), Certified Payroll Exam, and the Life Health Insurance Certification.    If you’re soon to test, there are two main kinds of computer exams you might encounter. First is the computer-based exam (or CBE).  This one mirrors a paper test to an extent. That’s because everyone gets the same questions, in the same order.  Also, just as on a paper test, you can do the questions in any order you want, on a CBE, you can jump back and forth between questions.

The other main category of computer tests is the CAT, or computer adaptive test. The CAT is an exam that has questions which become harder or easier, depending on how well you do on previous questions.  The result is that test-takers are not able to jump around from one question to another; the items must be answered in the order in which they are presented. Here’s how the CAT works:  You are presented with a question. Get it right, and future questions get harder. Get it wrong, and they get easier.  In essence, the test becomes customized for each individual—providing each test-taker a slightly different exam.  More on CAT tests from Wikipedia.

Four Helpful Tips for Computerized Tests

Since most students will at some time face a computerized test, here are some tips that will help you do better on them.

1)                Practice, practice, practice. The same advice that applies to paper exams applies to computerized tests:  You need to practice before you take the real thing. Fortunately, most major computer tests have practice materials that have been produced that will aid you.  You can buy them at local bookstores, or the cost-conscious can often find them at the local public or school library. But here’s a suggestion: Find one with a CD ROM; it does a better job of simulating the computerized test.

2)                Use scratch paper. It stands to reason that you’ll need scratch paper for more difficult math problems. But there are other places where it will help you, too.  For instance, scratch paper is helpful for taking notes, copying diagrams, and other items that will assist you with discovering the answers to various items.

3)                Keep an eye on the time.  Both CAT and CBE test forms usually have timed sections. In many cases, the test will provide an on-screen clock so you can better track how long you’ve spent on an item, and how much time you have left. Don’t spend too much time on one or two questions, and remember: Always pace yourself!

4)                Research the test’s rules before you arrive at the testing location. This way, you won’t be caught off-guard.

Here is a tutorial for computer based exams.  The exact computer environment may differ depending on the test, but this tutorial covers the basics.

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