Contrary to speculations that Nigerian students are afraid to write online examinations, National Mirror’s investigations revealed the contrary. Unlike last year when a little over one hundred thousand students from the total of 1.7 million sat for the computer-based Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), no fewer than 650,000 candidates in all nationwide, are expected to sit for the same model this year.
It will be recalled that the body in charge of the examination- Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB)- had proposed and insisted that, beginning from next year, all candidates across the federation sitting for its exam would have to write their papers compulsorily online.
Our correspondents monitored the first phase of the exam last Saturday in some parts of the country and confirmed that many more students now preferred computer-based test otherwise known as online exam to the conventional paper and pencil model. At Cham Centre, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, where candidates sat for dual-based test, National Mirror observed that the students enjoyed the exercise. A total of 250 candidates used the centre.
The model gives candidates opportunity to read their questions online while they shade their answers with pencil on customised papers. Interestingly, two candidates for the same subjects’ combination sitting side-byside will find it almost impossible to copy each other because of the staggered way by which their questions are numbered.
Candidate ‘A’ question number 10 for Economics for instance, may be question number three, 18 or 45 for candidate ‘B’. Some of the candidates at the centre however, said they didn’t see themselves choosing paper and pencil model when there is online option.
Sunday Odebunmi, Uche Anyandu, Sefinat Abdullahi, among others told National Mirror that there was no serious challenge encountered during the exercise. Some of them said they had been sitting for online exams like GMAT, TOEFL and so on before now and therefore they welcome the transition to computer based.
Also at the University of Lagos, Akoka; Yaba College of Technology; Federal College of Education (Technical), Yaba, among others, where the same exercise took place in Lagos, students equally welcome the development. They said it was not only more convenient, but it was also in line with the development in the information communications and technology practice around the world. They added that after all, many of the tertiary institutions in the country nowadays conduct their post-UTMEs online.
The story is not different in Gombe State. At the state university, our correspondent observed that the exam was hitch- free. Muhammed Aliu, one of the candidates at the centre, said it was now that he realised that the online exam is far better than the paper and pencil format. While he encouraged students who are not confident in using computer to brace up, he said the introduction of online exam by JAMB is a good development for the education system.
Speaking on the workability of the model, an Assistant Director in charge of Corporate Support Services of JAMB, who supervised Cham Centre, Mr. Babatunde Ifesanmi told National Mirror that the questions were uploaded into the system as early as 6:00am while the biometric accreditation of candidates commenced one hour after and the examination billed for three and half hours followed by 9.30am.
He noted that the board had made adequate preparation with its partnering institutions to provide facilities such as generators that would make the exam uninterrupted.
And apparently in preparation for the next year’s edition when the paper and pencil exam is expected to be phased out completely, the examination body has reduced drastically the number of conventional centres nationwide.
This, especially in urban centres, where there are computer facilities. In Lagos for example, the exam did not take place at Agidingbi Grammar School Ikeja; Vetland Secondary School, Ifako-Ijaiye; Sango Secondary School, Agege; Tomia Secondary school, Agbado; Logic High School also in Agbado; and Ogba Grammar School, among others. All these are traditional centres for the exam.
But some candidates are still not comfortable with the online model, saying all students would need to be more familiar with computer system before the phase out of the conventional system. This was the view of many candidates at Ansarul Islam Girls High School, Ahmadiyya- Ijaiye and Falomo Comprehensive High School, Ikoyi where paper and pencil test took place among other few centres in Lagos.
Moses Oladejo, who aspires to be an economist, told National Mirror that he was more comfortable with the method than online. He noted that he had the opportunity of reading one question over and over again. Idiat Isiaka who shared similar view stressed that she has phobia for online examination.
“I was told that questions may disappear completely from the screen if not properly saved and that means one has missed such question. And what will happen if such occurs? It is failure,” she said.
Now as it is, the full computer- based where candidates will have to read questions and fill their answers on line for this year will commence Saturday, May 17 and will continue for the next three Saturdays.