- Technology and the future
- English language testing
The role of AI in English assessment
Digital assessment is becoming more and more widespread in recent years. But what’s the role of digital assessment in teaching today? We’d like to give you some insight into digital assessment and automated scoring.
Just a few years ago, there may have been doubts about the role of AI in English assessment and the ability of a computer to score language tests accurately. But today, thousands of teachers worldwide use automated language tests to assess their students’ language proficiency.
For example, Pearson’s suite of Versant tests have been delivering automated language assessments for nearly 25 years. And since its launch in 1996, over 350 million tests have been scored. The same technology is used in Pearson’s Benchmark and Level tests.
So what makes automated scoring systems so reliable?
Huge data sets of exam answers and results are used to train artificial intelligence machine learning technology to score English tests the same way that human markers do. This way, we’re not replacing human judgment; we’re just teaching computers to replicate it.
Of course, computers are much more efficient than humans. They don’t mind monotonous work and don’t make mistakes (the standard marking error of an AI-scored test is lower than that of a human-scored test). So we can get unbiased, accurate, and consistent scores.
The top benefits of automated scoring are speed, reliability, flexibility, and free from bias.
The main advantage computers have over humans is that they can quickly process complex information. Digital assessments can often provide an instant score turnaround. We can get accurate, reliable results within minutes. And that’s not just for multiple-choice answers but complex responses, too.
The benefit for teachers and institutions is that they can have hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of learners taking a test simultaneously and instantly receive a score.
The sooner you have scores, the sooner you can make decisions about placement and students’ language level or benchmark a learner’s strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments to learning that drive improvement and progress.
The next biggest benefit of digital assessment is flexible delivery models. This has become increasingly more important since online learning has become more prominent.
Accessibility became key: how can your institution provide access to assessment for your learners, if you can’t deliver tests on school premises?
The answer is digital assessment.
For example, Versant, our web-based test can be delivered online or offline, on-site or off-site. All test-takers need is a computer and a headset with a microphone. They can take the test anywhere, any time of day, any day of the week, making it very flexible to fit into someone's schedule or situation.
Free from bias
Impartiality is another important benefit of AI-based scoring. The AI engine used to score digital proficiency tests is completely free from bias. It doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t have good and bad days like human markers do. And it doesn’t have a personality.
While some human markers are more generous and others are more strict, AI is always equally fair. Thanks to this, automated scoring provides consistent, standardized scores, no matter who’s taking the test.
If you’re testing students from around the world, with different backgrounds, they will be scored solely on their level of English, in a perfectly objective way.
Additional benefits of automated scoring are security and cost.
Digital assessments are more difficult to monitor than in-person tests, so security is a valid concern. One way to deal with this is remote monitoring.
Remote proctoring adds an extra layer of security, so test administrators can be confident that learners taking the test from home don’t cheat.
For example, our software captures a video of test takers, and the AI detection system automatically flags suspicious test-taker behavior. Test administrators can access the video anytime for audits and reviews, and easily find suspicious segments highlighted by our AI.
Here are a few examples of suspicious behavior that our system might flag:
- A different face or multiple faces appearing in the frame
- Camera blocked
- Navigating away from the test window or changing tabs multiple times
- Test taker moving out of camera view
- More than one person in the camera view
- Looking away from the camera multiple times
Last but not least, the cost of automated English certifications are a benefit. Indeed, automated scoring can be a more cost-effective way of monitoring tests, primarily because it saves time and resources.
Pearson English proficiency assessments are highly scalable and don’t require extra time from human scorers, no matter how many test-takers you have.
Plus, there’s no need to spend time and money on training markers or purchasing equipment.
AI is helping to lead the way with efficient, accessible, fair and cost-effective English test marking/management. Given time it should develop even further, becoming even more advanced and being of even more help within the world of English language learning and assessments.