By Divyalok Chetan Sharma
Academic results unquestionably play a part in evaluating a student’s performance but should not be considered as the ultimate indicator of an applicant’s skill set and talent.
In India, competitive entrance examinations have become a kind of ‘filtration’ test helping educational institutions and organisations to vet and filter down a large pool of candidates – a million students might take an exam but only a few thousand are accepted to the universities based on their scores. Many of these competitive exams are more of a test of rejection rather than a selection test. Due to a high number of applicants and a very limited number of available seats, students face considerable stress. A subjective or general knowledge test itself cannot decide if the student is capable of better performing in that particular subject in the future. The concept of rote memorization and cramming for exams needs to be eliminated. This is where standardized tests are more effective as assessment tools.
Why are standardised tests important for India higher education?
Instead of being reliant on competitive examinations alone, many universities are embracing standardised tests to better assess the skills and potential of individual candidates. Since a student’s choice of undergraduate program largely influences their career choices later on, it’s important to prepare them for the type of recruitment interviews they will encounter as they embark on their chosen career path.
No matter their specialist field, candidates are expected to have skills and expertise that extend beyond having a great academic record. Many higher education institutions and universities across India are now encouraging young people to have broader knowledge of core concepts such as quantitative, verbal, and abstract reasoning. Psychometric or aptitude tests (as they are sometimes known) also apply these concepts and are increasingly being used by large global employers to objectively measure attributes such as candidates’ cognitive abilities, personality types, knowledge, and numeracy and literacy skills. The Indian government is also supporting the implementation of testing frameworks encompassing standardised assessments through its ‘National Education Policy’.
Beyond the undergraduate degree – understanding the candidate’s thought process
An applicant’s personality and unique perspective is as relevant to their approach to an undergraduate program or job role as their knowledge of their specialist subject. How the candidate thinks,identifies how they handle challenges, how they adapt to a changing set of circumstances and how they work under pressure. Many academic institutions are embracing computer-based assessments to have a more objective overview of a candidate’s psychological profile and personality type.
The benefits of standardised tests
So why should universities and other academic institutions be investing in standardized testing?
Determining key strengths and weaknesses. Every candidate’s particular skillset can only be determined through tests that force them to think beyond the books they have read. Standardised computer-based tests enable institutions to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of candidates based on their interests and skills. If the candidate can figure out which area needs improvement at an early stage, then dedicating requisite efforts becomes easy. The most effective way of identifying areas for improvement is to take a standardized test that evaluates aptitude, reasoning and analytical skills. Students can test their clarity of specific concepts, thereby improving their chances of academic success.
A way to upskill. Regardless of the industry, upskilling and reskilling remain important for all types of professionals. With computer-based standardised tests, it’s possible to quickly and easily identify key areas needed for improvement. These types of assessment get students used to the process of navigating their own educational pathway – guiding them to topics that might require more attention, so they can improve their skills in these areas.
Becoming more ‘exam-ready’. Standardised computer-based tests better prepare students by directing them to useful study guides and preparation materials so they can be more ‘exam-ready’ and more confident. Practice tests can help them to score better in their real exams.
Preparing for the world of recruitment. More large global employers are using psychometric or aptitude tests for recruitment and hiring. Being familiar with this type of assessment tool enables students to perform better in these types of interviews and also to potentially explore a wider set of career opportunities, since they have experience with this form of assessment.
The needs of both students and employers continue to evolve. With a changing and increasingly global employment landscape, how students learn should be given more focus. With undergraduate courses, there needs to be a shift away from content, towards students learning how to think critically and solve real problems they will encounter in the workplace.
The author is vice president, India and SAARC, Pearson VUE