The advantages of computerised assessment

The advantages of computerised assessment has been explored by Singleton (see Singleton, 1997b, 2001). Computers provide more precise measurement, especially when complex cognitive skills are being assessed. Tests are administered in an entirely standardised manner for all persons taking the test, which enhances reliability of measurement. Timings and presentation speeds can be controlled precisely. The subjective judgement of the Administrator does not affect the test outcome as it can in conventional tests. LADS Plus is largely self-administered and results are available immediately; both of these factors help to reduce administrative load and avoid time delays.

Of particular importance in this context is the fact that people often prefer computerised assessment to conventional assessment. Research has shown that many adults – particularly those with reading or writing problems or who experienced difficulties at school – find conventional assessment by another person stressful and anxiety provoking, particularly when the assessor is viewed as being in the role of a teacher or some equivalent professional. By contrast, they are generally more relaxed and confident when taking computerised tests, and less worried about ‘getting something wrong’ (see Singleton, 2001).

The tests in LADS Plus are adaptive, so that the performance of the individual taking the test is constantly monitored and the program varies the items given according to patterns of success or failure on previous items. Computerised adaptive psychological tests have been shown to be much more efficient than conventional tests because the person taking the test receives a smaller proportion of items that are too easy or too difficult, and a greater proportion of items that closely match the individual’s ability level. Adaptive tests require fewer items overall in order to achieve an equivalent level of accuracy and reliability of measurement, and so the cognitive load on the person taking the test is reduced. Test fatigue is lessened, and positive test motivation maintained (for further discussion of adaptive assessment in education, see Singleton, 1997b).

Lucid has a unique track record in researching and developing computerised assessment systems for use in education. The first of these, Lucid CoPS Cognitive Profiling System, was an internationally pioneering scientific development, created by Singleton, Thomas and Leedale, and originally released in 1995. In producing CoPS, Lucid drew upon the results of a five-year longitudinal research study on the early identification of dyslexia carried out at the University of Hull (see Singleton, Thomas and Horne, 2000). Lucid CoPS is now used in over 7,000 primary schools in the UK and elsewhere in the world. To date, four foreign language versions of CoPS have been produced (Swedish, Italian, Norwegian and Arabic) and others are in development. In 1998, Lucid published Lucid Baseline Assessment System (Singleton, Thomas and Horne, 1998), which was accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for on-entry assessment in primary schools in England and Wales. To date, this remains the only fully computerised baseline assessment system ever developed, although some rival systems use computers to deliver items or process results. The development and validation of CoPS Baseline was reported in a scientific paper by Singleton, Horne and Thomas (1999).

In 1999, Lucid published LASS (Lucid Assessment System for Schools) Secondary (Horne, Singleton and Thomas, 1999), and in 2001 followed this up with LASS Junior (Thomas, Singleton and Horne, 2001), Lucid Rapid Dyslexia Screening (Singleton, Horne, Leedale and Thomas, 2003), and Lucid Ability (Singleton, Horne and Thomas, 2005). These programs, which are currently in use in over 5,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK, provide assessment of dyslexia, literacy skills, cognitive abilities and intelligence. All the computerised assessment systems published by Lucid have been developed in accordance with stringent psychometric and scientific principles, and with the co-operation of several hundred educational institutions and teachers, who assisted in trials for development, validation and reliability.