Digital high stakes testing meets mixed reviews


Hannah Nguyen

Students take a practice test using Link-It at NPHS. The mid terms and semester finals will all be completed this month through Link-It.

TOWAMENCIN- I spent nearly my entire education learning how to show work and to annotate on tests. It’s been drilled into my head that I must write things out and it has reached the point where I only hope that we’re able to write on the test. But now, I have to take the most important exams in my high school career on a Chromebook making all that I’ve learned about how I should be taking a test useless.

Before the North Penn School District was introduced to the Chromebooks, we were given surveys to complete which asked various questions involving the use of technology at school and at home. They also included our thoughts on whether or not we should be taking tests on Chromebooks instead of paper. At that time, many of us were already so used to taking tests on paper that the likelihood of everyone wanting to make the switch was low.



“I do not like taking tests on Chromebooks because they are so unreliable and slow. It is also difficult to keep track of the test as you have to navigate many pages and there’s no quick and easy way to go back and check answers since switching pages takes so long to load,” said North Penn High School senior Lucas Morley.

From then on, the question continued to be asked yet the response from the students still remained the same.

It’s a no for me.

But our request to not make the switch ended up not being fulfilled when we began to take CDT testing in 2016 which lead to the PSSA testing to be taken on a Chromebook in 2017 and now our midterm and final exams. Throughout those times, North Penn Chemistry teacher Craig D’aquanno and many others have also dipped their toes into online testing.

“I have created some assessments in the LinkIt program and have given them to my
students so that they gain familiarity with the user interface and the general
feel of taking an assessment in a digital format,” mentioned D’aquanno.

Familiarity, one of the biggest issues in this situation.

We’re so used to taking tests on paper that the idea of online test taking stresses many students out. For most, having the midterm and final taken online only makes the tension even worse.

It makes it more nerve racking than it already is and being a generation in the middle of only paper to paper and technology, it’s hard for most of us to take tests online”

— Sahana Prasad, NPHS student

“It makes it more nerve racking than it already is and being a generation in the middle of only paper to paper and technology, it’s hard for most of us to take tests online. There is always that fear that something more technological will go wrong or you’ll click the wrong answer,” said North Penn High School sophomore Sahana Prasad.

Students mainly fear for math, science, and a little for English subjects due to additional work and annotations on the side. Because of this, it requires a lot of switching from paper to Chromebook since many students prefer writing things down by hand first. You’re also given a bird’s eye view when taking a test on paper which allows you to make fewer mistakes because you can see everything clearly in one spot. But on a Chromebook, you can only see one question at a time. Overall, this whole idea is just time consuming.

“I am very nervous to take the test on a Chromebook especially for classes like math and chemistry where you have to write down work because I like solving my answer in the same place the question is written, but with a Chromebook, you have to write your work on a separate sheet of paper,” said North Penn High School sophomore Rhea Abraham.

During the week before break, students were given time during Knight Time for a test drive on Linkit. At the end of Knight Time, we learned one thing.

It’s extremely confusing.

Might I mention, it took us the entire period to answer 12 questions. Questions with answers already on the screen.

Now, imagine having to actually use your brain while answering questions. A nightmare, right?



Although many students have a negative disposition toward online test taking, we must acknowledge the reason why the decision to switch was made.

“My assumption is that the gradual transition to online standardized testing, such as Keystone testing, is occurring because there is a great time and money savings to the organizations that facilitate this testing. While North Penn has not totally transitioned to online standardized testing and we still do Keystones using a paper and pencil, there has been discussion due to the relative ease of running online test sessions in comparison to organizing, distributing and collecting such a large volume of paper and pencil tests,” said North Penn High School principal Pete Nicholson.

Students also fear that switching to online test taking will affect the scores drastically though there isn’t much evidence to support that claim.

“There is research that shows no statistical difference between traditional paper testing scores and computer testing scores, and there is research that shows that scores actually decline when taking tests on computers. Interestingly, I have not seen research that shows an increase in test scores. As for student performance, the test-taking approach will seem different then they are used to. By that I mean that my in-class tests, and midterms and finals, are always on paper, and the students are allowed to write on the paper copies and work out the problems on the document itself and, in general, the approach is much more tactile than the computer-based experience. That change may initially impact the students, but I imagine that they will adjust rather quickly given their general resiliency,” said D’aquanno.

That change may initially impact the students, but I imagine that they will adjust rather quickly given their general resiliency”

— Craig D'aquanno- NPHS Science Teacher

A good thing to also mention is that when you think about it, the only difference with this testing is how it’s being taken. The amount and type of questions have not changed. So really, students don’t have to fear that the test itself will be any harder. For North Penn Mathematics Department Chair, Lisa Wright, she believes that the testing method will not affect the students in regards to their approach on these tests.

“Those that have always cared enough to perform at their best will continue to do so,” said Wright.

North Penn Learning Coach and technology leader Michael Botti believes that there is not much of a difference in taking tests online versus on paper based on a test run done last year.

“When we ran the pilot test last year with the business department and some other classes, we saw similar results to what we saw in the past. The only major difference we noticed was that students were more efficient at answering the questions because they didn’t need to look at a separate test and bubble sheet because the questions and answers were directly in front of them,” said Botti.  

As of now, North Penn doesn’t plan to switch back to paper and pencil but that doesn’t mean that it will be a permanent decision. In the meantime, many students will just have to see it in a brighter perspective.

“I believe that the benefits of taking assessments on devices, such as Chromebooks, is a positive. Increasingly, colleges and universities, as well as many other industry training and assessment, has been moving online. In preparing our students at North Penn for what they will see after high school, I believe that having students test online will better prepare them for the future,” said Nicholson.



As midterms get closer, we just have have to start accepting the fact that this is something new for all of us. If things don’t go well and the scores are low, administration will have to act immediately and we will have to hope that test retakes will be available. For now, let’s hope things go well and that there won’t be any problems during exams.