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The efficacy of ExamSoft in supporting student and curriculum performance: Insights from 25 years of research

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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Twenty-five years ago, ExamSoft started as a proof-of-concept tool by a law student and engineer with the goal of making the United States bar exam more accessible and equitable with technology.

Now ExamSoft is the leading software for administering the U.S. bar exam and digital assessments in various fields such as nursing, pharmacy, and healthcare education. Years of peer-reviewed independent research detail the impact of ExamSoft on student learning, assessment design, academic integrity, curricula, and accurate assessment. In the field of assessment research, ExamSoft is often used as the testing tool platform to provide researchers with data—highlighting the software’s robust data collection capabilities.

Over the years, ExamSoft has continued to innovate and offer more reliable, robust insights that help improve both individual student performance and curriculum performance, via psychometrics, item analysis, and other features.

What are researchers saying about ExamSoft’s efficacy in testing and supporting curriculum? Let’s take a look.

ExamSoft enhances feedback and improves student learning outcomes:

ExamSoft provides assessment data at the student, course, or institution level. These insights offer sweeping insights about what students do and do not know, providing institutions opportunities to better student test outcomes.

In their research paper entitled Evaluating the use of automated feedback on student motivation, Simpson, Jones, and Taylor conclude, "Students who received enhanced ExamSoft feedback reported significantly higher relative autonomy (RAI) for feedback review than students who did not receive the feedback. This suggests that the enhanced ExamSoft feedback was autonomy-supportive. These results indicate enhanced ExamSoft feedback can be autonomy-supportive and should be used when faculty have access to the tool" (2018).

Students, in addition to administrators and instructors, also receive data insights on their assessments. ExamSoft offers Strengths & Opportunities reports (otherwise known as S&O reports) that inform students on next steps in learning. A 2020 research paper focused on S&O report impact on student learning outcomes. According to Evaluating pharmacy student use of ExamSoft strength and opportunity reports, "Our findings indicate that providing students with a downloadable S&O report after exams is beneficial. There was a trend towards increased student use and a significant increase in perceived usefulness of the report following brief educational interventions. Our pilot data suggest that educational interventions on use of S&O reports should be included in student ExamSoft training” (DeBiase, et. al., 2020).

ExamSoft helps instructors with effective exam design via data insights:

Item analysis can meaningfully improve exam design. For instance, item analysis helps ensure that multiple-choice questions measure learning at the appropriate level and aren’t too easy; for instance, if the item distractors (i.e., the wrong choices) are too easy to discern, item analysis can highlight whether or not any student chose those alternatives. ExamSoft’s item analysis function is robust; Turning a problem into a solution: Instructional benefits of using ExamSoft to map multiple-choice responses highlights ExamSoft’s ability to bolster multiple-choice exams, concluding, "This study presents the early positive implications of the integrations of an exam software, ExamSoft®, into the assessment process with focus on the instructor’s ability to enhance significantly the effectiveness of multiple-choice assessment items with benefits for students learning. The longitudinal analysis capability of this examination software expands the potential implications of these improvements from exam to curricular mapping and accreditation support levels” (Cernusca, Scott, & Friesner, 2017).

And when an institution decided to use ExamSoft and reviewed its efficacy, they characterized ExamSoft’s item analysis capabilities as not only robust but a worthy investment. Gentile, et. al., in The utilization of ExamSoft-iPad technology in administering and grading anatomy practical examinations state, "We explain the advantages of computer-based testing in the delivery and grading of practical examinations, including minimizing human error inherent in hand grading, improving the efficiency of reporting, and mapping the examination to course objectives. Furthermore, item analysis (including item difficulty, discrimination indices, and point biserial correlations) allows evaluation of laboratory teaching and testing and monitoring of the curriculum. We also address how the advantages of this format override any limitation, such as cost” (2019).

ExamSoft offers robust insights to boost effectiveness of curriculum:

Researchers confirm that ExamSoft reduces grading time while upholding feedback loops and enabling item analysis. Using the digital platform ExamSoft in veterinary anatomy and parasitology assessments in written and laboratory components sums their study by stating, "The application minimized errors and significantly reduced grading time. In addition, ExamSoft provided immediate, interactive feedback, including displaying of answers, and allowed students to see and discuss materials post-examination, reinforcing the learning process. Moreover, ExamSoft’s robust item analysis and reporting functions allowed instructors’ insight into practical and laboratory student learning not available before” (Inpanbutr, et. al., 2020).

ExamSoft is cost-effective and saves time:

Researchers state that ExamSoft’s effect on student learning outcomes and exam design make it a worthy investment. But some research states outright that ExamSoft is cost-effective. Pawasauskas, Matson, & Youssef’s research paper, Transitioning to computer-based testing concludes, "Methods ExamSoft© testing software was selected based on the best fit for the pharmacy curriculum and integration with university factors...The implementation of the computer-based testing software was straightforward and cost-effective. Overall success of our transition was measured by student and faculty views, to which [sic] were favorable on all areas of survey evaluation including software usability, assessment of student performance, cheating-related issues, and faculty workload” (2013).

In Use of Moodle, ExamSoft, and Twitter in a first-year pharmacy course, Bussiéres, et. al., state the literal time savings of using ExamSoft for administering and grading examinations. "ExamSoft greatly facilitated the process of correcting the examinations. In the past, a similar examination took on average 40 hours to correct by hand. With ExamSoft, the amount of time required to correct examinations was reduced to approximately 25 hours” (2012).

ExamSoft upholds academic integrity:

And finally, ExamSoft upholds academic integrity by not only making assessment fair, but by offering remote proctoring as needed. “Assessing collaboratively with all stakeholders (ExamSoft, students, course directors, administrators) after every iteration and improve [sic] step-by- processes was critical. Collaboration at the university level with the other schools (Medical, Veterinary, Biomedical Sciences) using the same technology was key. Based on these lessons, remote proctoring for advanced education programs is planned,” states Dragan, et. al., in their 2020 research article, Integrating Remote Proctoring in Dental Education: Problem, Solution and Results.

The above are just a few snapshots of the research surrounding the use of ExamSoft not just for computer-based testing, but for enabling positive student learning outcomes and ensuring the robustness of curriculum.

Looking for a compiled list of research at your fingertips? We’ ve got you covered there too. Here’s a more comprehensive list of research articles focusing on ExamSoft efficacy to start you on your research journey: