In common usage, computer-based assessment refers to the integration of computer technology into the delivery of a test to examinees. This has come to encompass far more broadly a continuum of assessment strategies and delivery devices that are fundamentally linked by the underlying use of such technology to present/display test items, record examinee responses, evaluate such responses according to a key or rubric, and/or to transmit data by landline or wireless internet to a remote server for reporting and further analysis. At present, a computer-based assessment involves the administration of an assessment ‘form’ on an electronic device of some kind. The devices commonly in use for this purpose are desktops, laptops, tablets, and other handheld devices that are capable of displaying information and recording examinee responses. Examinees can interact with and enter or submit responses by mean of several mechanisms, including an external or onscreen keyboard, a computer mouse, a trackpad, a touchscreen, and/or a stylus. Current and emerging technology has always influenced what is possible in many measurement contexts, such as the advent of bubble sheets and scanners to quickly and automatically score thousands of responses in the early–mid 20th century, but the widespread adoption of computer-based testing and the continuing evolution of such tests (in light of the seismic technological shifts of the present day) combine to make the topic of computer-based assessment one that is at once psychometrically exciting yet still fraught with significant practical and operational choices and challenges.
Indeed, the computerisation of assessment has had an impact on testing and testing practices in many ways, both large and small. In this entry, the emergence of modern-day computer-based assessment is traced, beginning with the aspect of computerisation that is perhaps most evident publicly: the rise of the experience of completing a test by means of computer technology. Computer-based testing is first and foremost an approach to test delivery in its public face, but as discussed here, has likewise transformed the development, assembly, presentation, and scoring of tests in various far-reaching ways. With computerisation has come change in the way in which items are selected and sequenced, the kinds of item formats that can be administered, and the automation of scoring varyingly complex responses on-the-fly, and the capability to give examinees access to tools such as calculators, authoritative literature, and glosses on a section-by-section or even item-by-item basis. Given the continuously evolving technology that underpins computer-based assessment, there is a need for ongoing validity research with respect to many aspects of testing, with special focus on experiential elements of testing such as construct-irrelevant variance, human-computer interaction, and the implementation of assistive tools. Test security has always been an issue for high-stakes assessment, but with technology the nature of threats to security are evolving as well. This entry concludes with a look ahead to the emerging re-conceptualisations of assessment that technology is ushering in, whereby simulations and game-based assessment approaches are taking established ideas of assessment and skill evaluation to a very different place. In some contexts and applications, reflection on and perhaps even reinvention of psychometric conventions will be needed.