New computer testing center allows for easier, more exact exams

The University of Miami has moved its Computer Based Testing Center to a new and larger location to fulfill a growing demand for computer based testing.

The new Blue Lagoon Drive facility can accommodate 14 test workstations – up from 9 – with room to expand. The center provides a variety of examinations, including placement tests, English proficiency tests, and the GREs, which is required by most graduate schools.

Test takers were intimidated when computer-based testing was first introduced, back in 1990. However, more than a decade later, test takers now accustomed to working with computers are thankful for computerized testing. Most examinees say they like computer testing much better than paper tests, according to Dr. David Wiles, director of the UM Testing Center.

Fifi Theye, a staff assistant at the CBT, agrees. “You get the results faster and people are more computer literate nowadays,” she said.

Computer-based testing is also less time consuming for the takers, since the computer can assess the same skills in fewer questions than paper tests, Wiles said.

“The major disadvantage of computer-based tests right now is a higher cost,” Wiles said. “Computer-based testing is the wave of the future and we’re still in a primitive stage.”

Pencil-and-paper tests have reached the limit of what they can accomplish in assessing a test taker’s abilities. Computer-based testing has the capability of measuring several more areas.

“Computer delivery gives us the ability to open up the power of testing,” said John Yopp, vice president of Graduate and Professional Studies at Educational Testing Service, on the company’s Web site. ETS, the largest private educational testing organization in the world, is responsible for writing the GRE, TOEFL, CLEP and many other standardized tests.

Some of the most innovative tests are used in the medical field. Medical students, for example, are being tested through visual simulations depicting the human body.

UM administers hi-tech computer tests like the TOEFL, a test of English as a foreign language, that makes use of audio and video to provide a much more authentic assessment of a person’s skills than paper testing can, Wiles said.

There will always be some value in the traditional paper based tests, Wiles said, but as technologies continue to progress, more tests will be administered through computers.

UM’s CBT facility moved from the Ungar Building on the Coral Gables Campus to the more spacious location at 6303 Blue Lagoon Drive in May. The new 5000-square- foot center, next to the Miami International Airport, is shared with UM’s Information Systems Institute, a computer hardware and software training facility.

The CBT moved off campus to accommodate more test takers in a more convenient location , Wiles said.

“Free visitor parking was a plus,” Wiles said, “because most examinees are not UM students.”

The CBT has handled 14,000 tests since it opened in the Ungar Building in 1998. The old center, on average, could handle 27 appointments a day, administered during three sessions. The new center can handle 28 appointments a day during only two testing sessions. This is possible because the new center has 14 computer workstations, five more than the old facility. This makes UM one of the top three largest computer based testing facilities in the U.S., Wiles said. The other two are George Mason University and the University of Houston.

“Some students are nervous when they come here because they don’t know what to expect.” Theye said. Her advice: “Just relax, we don’t expect you to know exactly what you’re doing. We guide.”

Items like hats, digital watches, and gum are not permitted inside the testing room. However, the facility has small lockers that test takers can use for free, Theye said. Examinees must bring a signed photo I.D. They will be video taped and should expect to have a photograph taken, and possibly a thumb print, for security reasons.

The old testing center will remain open in the Ungar building. It will continue to provide scanning and scoring services, faculty evaluations, and traditional paper testing for the LSAT, MCAT and SAT standardized tests.