Generally, e-assessment is the use of information technology for any assessment-related activity.

This definition embraces a broad range of student activity ranging from the use of a word processor to on-screen testing. Due to its obvious similarity to e-learning, the term e-assessment is becoming commonly used as a generic term to describe the use of computers within the assessment process.

E-assessment can be utilized to assess cognitive and practical abilities. Cognitive abilities are assessed using e-testing software; practical abilities are assessed using e-portfolios or simulation software.

Components of e-assessment:

  1. An assessment engine: comprises the hardware and software required to make and deliver a test. Most e-testing engines run on standard hardware so the key characteristic is the software’s functionality. There is a wide range of software packages. The software does not include the questions themselves; these are provided by an item bank.
  2. An item bank: Used by the assessment engine to produce a test. The creation of the item bank is more costly and time consuming than the installation and configuration of the assessment engine. There is currently no business model to support the creation of high quality item banks. Issues such as copyright and intellectual property rights remain unsettled.

Advantages of e-assessment:

  1. lower long-term costs
  2. instant feedback to students
  3. greater flexibility with respect to location and timing
  4. improved reliability (machine marking is much more reliable than human marking).


  1. E-assessment systems are expensive to establish. The main expense is not technical; it is the price of producing high quality assessment items.
  2. Not apt for every type of assessment (such as extended response questions).

Hand Held Student Response Systems

An area of E-assessment that has seen extensive growth in recent years is the use of hand held student response devices (often referred to as ‘clickers’ or voting devices). These allow a teacher to carry out whole group assessments, polls and surveys quickly and easily. They use either radio or infrared to communicate with a central hub that is usually attached to a computer. In many school classrooms these devices may also be used in combination with an Interactive Whiteboard.


To create a mechanism for the sharing of high quality assessment items, global standards have emerged. The IMS Question and Test Interoperability specification (QTI) gives a common format for describing and distributing question items across disparate systems.


Various terms are used to describe the use of a computer for assessment purposes. These include:

  1. Computer-Assisted Assessment or Computer-Aided Assessment (CAA)
  2. Computer-Mediated Assessment (CMA)
  3. Computer-Based Assessment (CBA)
  4. online assessment.

Although these terms are commonly used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

Computer Assisted/Mediated Assessment pertains to any application of computers within the assessment process; the role of the computer may be extrinsic or intrinsic. It is, therefore, a synonym for e-assessment which also describes a broad range of computer-related activities. Within this definition the computer often plays no part in the actual assessment of responses but merely facilitates the capture and transfer of responses between candidate and human assessor.

Computer-Based Assessment refers to assessment that is built around the use of a computer; the use of a computer is always intrinsic to this type of assessment. This can relate to assessment of IT practical skills or more commonly the on screen presentation of knowledge tests. The defining factor is that the computer is marking or assessing the responses provided from candidates.

Online assessment refers to assessment activity which requires the use of the Internet. In reality, few high stakes assessment sessions are actually conducted online in real time but the transfer of data prior to and after the assessment session is conducted through the Internet. There are many examples of practice and diagnostic tests being run real time over the Internet.