A Brief History of Testing: We’ve Come a Long Way!

by Debra B. McCraw | Mar 29, 2017

A brief history of testing: We've come a long way!CompTIA is excited to announce the launch of CompTIA Online Testing, which allows you to take CompTIA exams from anywhere, at any time, with the help of ProctorU. We’re kicking things off with CompTIA Project+, but will be offering more exams, soon, so stay tuned to see which exams will be offered in the coming months.

In honor of this big step forward, let’s take a look back at the history of testing, from the very first written test to filling in bubbles with No. 2 pencils to the evolution of electronic testing. We hope you enjoy the ride!

The Very First Standardized Test

The ancient Chinese government conducted standardized testing to help select candidates for government jobs. In 1806, England adopted this method for its civil service positions as well, although standardized testing did not make it to universities until the 1850s. The European education system had long relied on oral exams, but it began adopting written standardized tests in part so that those grading the tests would not be influenced by the identity of the test taker. In the United States, as Horace Mann worked to modernize the education system, standardized testing was introduced to not only evaluate a student’s knowledge and abilities, but also the work of the teacher and institution.

Scantron Tests and No. 2 Pencils

Hand-scoring standardized tests was not only tedious, but there was always the risk of human error. In 1935, IBM introduced computerized scoring in an effort to produce more reliable results. The first iteration was expensive and required the use of specialty pencils, but as the technology evolved, computerized scoring became more widely available. It also advanced to a point where students could use standard pencils to fill in the bubbles.

Expanding the Use of Computers in Testing

In the 1970s and 1980s, computers moved into other areas of testing beyond scoring. They were used in the design, construction, delivery, reporting of results and more. In the mid-1980s, computer-based testing was introduced simply as an electronic version of the traditional pencil-and-paper method. Even as computer-based testing evolved to be more dynamic, such as using a test taker’s responses to determine the difficulty of the next question, it would still be years before the introduction of web-based testing.

The Beginnings of Web-Based Testing

In its infancy, web-based testing meant that tests were downloaded onto a test center or test taker’s computer. The difference between computer-based testing and web-based testing is that you didn’t need special software to deliver the exam. You could download the test on any computer that was connected to the internet. Because of this, it was less expensive than its predecessor. Web-based tests also offered more design options and access to up-to-date help files and databases. 

Securing Web-Based Testing with Online Proctoring

Today, many institutions and certifying bodies use online proctoring as the next step in web-based testing. Rather than downloading the test and securing the physical space, online proctoring allows proctors to monitor test takers from afar. Online proctors confirm the test taker’s identity through the use of a webcam and microphone, assess the room where the test is being taken and monitor keystrokes, eye movement and more to protect the integrity of the exam and results. Some online proctoring services require the test taker to dismantle chat programs, web browsers and other communication tools that could influence the test results.

CompTIA Online Testing

CompTIA has embraced the evolution of testing to make the exam process more convenient and comfortable while still protecting the integrity of our certifications. We’ve partnered with ProctorU, a leader in online proctoring, to offer you the same, trusted CompTIA exams that are available in PearsonVUE Authorized Test Centers.

We’re kicking off CompTIA Online Testing with CompTIA Project+ but will be rolling out more exams across 2017 and into the future. Check back often to find out when your exam will be offered!


  • Refugio Villegas III

    Thursday, March 30, 2017

    I find this to be very informative because I am so new to this career choice.

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