The paper substantiates the advantages of the computerised variant of taking the qualifications examination, which is currently being introduced in Ukraine in the NDT certification centers. Transition to the computerized variant of taking theoretical examinations was necessitated by the desire of the Personnel Certification Body of the Ukrainian Society of Non-Destructive Testing and Technical Diagnostics (USNDT) to improve the objectiveness of conducting and assessment of the examinations.
USNDT Standard 01-00 "System of NDT personnel certification" makes mandatory EN 473 provisions that the specialist who took part in training of the candidate or is his employer, or is working in the same organization as the candidate, cannot be the sole examiner of this candidate. This statement promotes higher objectiveness in assessment of the examination, yet does not eliminate the subjective factor completely. For instance, the examiner could be connected to the candidate through performance of joint work in the past, the candidate could earlier have been the examiner's employer or could have worked before in the same organization with the examiner. In this case, the examiner might have already formed either a positive or a negative attitude to the candidate before the examination. Both will interfere with his objective assessment of the candidate's knowledge.
Transition to a computerized examination will allow elimination of the human factor in conducting and assessment of the theoretical examinations. A computerized examination also has other advantages for all the certification participants. They are as follows.
The currently existent in Ukraine structure of questions of the general examination consists solely of questions with multiple replies. Part of the questions of the special examination also have a similar structure. Therefore, transfer of the general and part of the special examination to the computerized variant is absolutely logical and does not require the candidate to have any special computer skills (it is sufficient to press several keys in the computer monitor, following the prompts). Appropriate software for several nondestructive testing methods, qualification levels, and industrial sectors has already been developed and is currently used in two examination centers of Ukraine. Certainly, the questions and replies should be quite correct and absolutely unambiguous. Therefore, the questions and replies are fully worked out and verified in several written examination sessions before transition to the computerized variant.
- Advantages of the computerized examination for the candidate: replies will be assessed by an unbiased computer which is indifferent to the relations between the candidate and the employer in the past, candidate's position, his social status, candidate's abilities as potential employer of the examiner, etc.
- Advantages of the computerized examination for the examiner: purely psychologically it is difficult to give a failing grade to a candidate when you know that as a result, the candidate can suffer financially at best, or lose his job at all in the worst case.
- Advantages of the computerized examination for the certification body: complete confidence of the employer in the certification results even in the case, if the expert does not receive the certification.
- Advantages of the computerized examination for the employer: reduction of the cost of certification at the expense of shortening of the time spent by the examiners to check the candidates' replies.
In order to eliminate the situation when the questions are non-uniformly distributed through the training course sections, the examination program algorithm envisages the procedure of selection of the questions in proportion to their number in the appropriate section of the collection of the examination questions. Thus, the candidate will get a positive grade only in the case if he has knowledge in the full scope of the program.
As regards that part of the special examination, which requires narrative replies, the computer cannot evaluate such a reply. Therefore, the replies to such questions of the special examination can so far only be assessed by the examiner.
No preliminary computer skills are required to reply to the questions of the qualification examination. Nonetheless, it would be correct to conduct computer testing during special training of the candidates. Such testing could be conducted after completion of study of certain sections of the training course (physical principles of a control procedure, equipment and reference blocks for control, control technology, assessment of the control results, types and causes for formation of defects, etc.). After such training the candidate will feel more confident when taking the computerized examination, certainly, if he has the main attribute - knowledge of the fundamentals of the control procedure.
Another advantage of the computerized examination is elimination of the routine work when performing statistical analysis of the examination questions. The question numbers to which incorrect replies are provided, are entered into a special section of the program, where the number of incorrect replies provided to them is also recorded. The appropriate protocol of statistical analysis can be called to the monitor screen at any time or printed out and those examination questions to which the greatest number of incorrect replies were provided, can be considered.
However, there also exists another point of view as regards transition to the computerized variant of taking the examination, which consists in that the examiner can assess the actual knowledge of the expert being certified only by interviewing the candidate. Let us give our arguments here to counterbalance this point of view.
It should be taken into account that the candidates are not only former school and college students for whom an exam is a usual procedure, but also people of an older generation, who have already forgotten what an examination is, and for whom the dialogue with the examiner is a kind of psychological barrier which can be rather difficult to cross. Actually, any candidate feels the need to preserve a good reputation, prestige, and position after the examination and for his capabilities to be recognized by other candidates. Before the examination a candidate can develop the condition of psychic stress which is characterized by a feeling of general physical and psychological discomfort and has a strong influence on the effectiveness of his mental activity.
Such a condition can also be caused by:
Such a feeling of discomfort is accompanied by:
- increased importance of the examination results;
- strict conditions of taking the examination;
- high price of the possible error;
- dependence of job security on the examination result;
- presence of other candidates in the classroom;
- fear of additional questions;
- possibility of a prejudiced attitude of the examiner (it is no secret that it is always possible to ask such a question to which it is quite difficult to provide a correct reply).
Therefore, it is necessary to try shelter the candidate from most of these negative factors during the examination performance. This is exactly the goal which, in our opinion, is promoted by the transition to the computerized variant of taking the theoretical part of the qualification examination.
- depressed spirit;
- feeling of worry, anxiety;
- acute anticipation of failure;
- lower ability to concentrate;
- lower productivity of short-term memory;
- lower ability to solve logical problems.