|Examination and Testing System
|THE COMPUTER-BASED TESTING SYSTEM :
A Breakthrough in the Philippine Civil Service Examination System
|One of the most important and visible functions of the Philippine Civil Service Commission
(PCSC) is the conduct of examinations - the first step in the process of selecting prospective
|Examinations are conducted in pursuance of the constitutional mandate that appointments
in the civil service, except to certain positions defined by law, shall be made according
to merit and fitness to be determined as far as practicable through competitive examinations.
Examinations are considered as the most objective means to determine who among the hundreds
of applicants aspiring to join the government are most qualified. Those who will pass civil
service examinations are conferred a civil service eligibility -- a basic requirement for
entrance to government service.
|The examination system of the PCSC is as old as the civil service system of the Philippines.
Every year since 1900, the PCSC has been administering examinations for entrance in the
government. In the past seven years, the PCSC administered at least five examinations a year
to some 5,000 to 400,000 examinees nationwide. In fact, in 1994 alone, the PCSC administered
various examinations to some 570,000 examinees. The large volume of examinees who take the
examinations every year underscore the important role of the PCSC in keeping professionalism
and competence in the bureaucracy.
|The Office for Recruitment, Examination and Placement (ERPO) is the specific unit of the
PCSC tasked to implement the overall examination and placement programs of the Commission.
It is also the lead office that studies and recommends policies concerning civil service
|Before the PCSC started to move towards the path of computerization, examinees of civil
service examinations had to write their answers on mimeographed answer sheets. Those
answer sheets were handscored twice to ensure accurate results. A number of employees
designated as checkers painstakingly handscored the answer sheets. Most often, public
school teachers were commissioned during their non-teaching hours to handscore answer sheets.
The release of the test results of a multiple-choice type of test normally took a year for
a test population of about 100,000.
|The PCSC’s examination system has gradually taken off from its crude beginnings.
Starting 1967, the examination system began to use computer technology, initially,
in the processing of test results. The year 1990 marked a milestone in the history of the
PCSC’s examination system. It was during that year that the PCSC acquired mid-range computers
to beef up its capability to handle more test data and process them at a much faster rate
such that results were released in only about six months. The impact of this important
development was far-reaching as it gave birth to the PCSC’s vision of a computer-based
|In the latter part of 1990, the concept of a "walk-in" type of examinations started to
take shape. The walk-in examination system is envisioned to be an
"instant test - instant result" type of thing. One who wishes to work in the government
but has no Certificate of Civil Service Eligibility can simply walk-in the PCSC office
or any of its regional offices and apply for an examination. If he is found qualified
to take the test, he can immediately take one on the same day he applied. After the
test, he can wait for a few minutes for the result of his test.
|While this vision of a one-stop examination scheme has tremendous potential, at that time,
the needed technology was not yet available to the PCSC. Despite this, the PCSC remained
steadfast in its intention to pursue this vision.
|One of the most significant steps it made towards this direction was the implementation
of the "dispersed" examinations. The "dispersed" examinations were administered twice
|It did not take long before the PCSC thought of administering the examination more
frequently. Beginning 1994, the Career Service examination has been administered six
times a year in 14 regions throughout the Philippines.
|These developments have encouraged the PCSC to build the ground work for
a fully-computerized examination system. In 1991, the PCSC embarked on an ambitious
project to develop its own software programs to begin the process of computerizing
the entire examination system. First to be given priority is the creation of a
computer-based test bank.
| The Computer-Based Test Bank
| Early in 1991, the computer-based test development system or the Examination
Generation System (EGNS) was developed. The EGNS was designed for test item banking,
assembly of test forms, and generation of equivalent test forms.
|Through the years, the PCSC has continuously enriched and refined the test bank.
The test questions in the test bank are classified according to the subject area, specific
skills to be measured and the difficulty level. The questions drawn from the test bank
are "assembled" to make a test form. On each examination schedule, a different test form
is used to maintain variety and confidentiality of the test questions. While no two test
forms are alike, they are nonetheless equivalent in that their level of difficulties are
|Prior to the installation of the EGNS, the PCSC’s test bank was in the form of
records and index cards. Recording, filing, storage, retrieval and assembly of the test
items were done manually. But with the EGNS, a whole test form can be generated in minutes
by only pressing several keys on the computer keyboard. Presently, the EGNS can generate
a 150-item test in just ten minutes.
|Periodic review and refinement of the test items in the test bank are
performed to ensure that they remain relevant and up-to-date. While the Office
for Recruitment, Examination and Placement (ERPO) maintains and enriches the
computerized test bank, it also solicits the expertise of Test Consultants from
the academe to write and review various types of test questions.
|The operationalization of the computer-based test bank provided an impetus
for the Commission to experiment on the walk-in examination system for the Career
Service Examination. The walk-in examination system has metamorphosed from a
paper-and-pencil testing scheme in 1991 to computer-assisted testing in 1994.
| Computer-Assisted Test (CAT)
|Computer-Assisted Testing (CAT) is a PCSC-developed software program designed to
administer the PCSC’s Career Service Professional or Subprofessional examinations - the
entrance test for the second and first level employees, respectively, in the government.
It facilitates the systematic storage, updating and retrieval of pertinent examinee
data as well as checking and scoring of examinee answers to test questions from a
computerized software. It is also able to generate reports of ratings and statistics
of the test scores.
|The CAT system, a tool for test administration, replaces the paper-and-pencil
type of examination and enables speedy checking and scoring of the examinees’ answer
data on different levels or types of examination. The system provides the advantage
of generating test results to examinees within one hour. It is also capable of generating
statistical reports of the test scores and other pertinent data about the examination.
|CAT Version 1.0 was initially administered in July 1994. Under this system, the
examinees read the test questions from a test booklet or printed questionnaire, but
recorded their answers on the computer. In the latter part of that year, the PCSC marked
another milestone in the field of testing. By redesigning the framework of the CAT Version
1.0, the PCSC came up with the CAT Version 2.0. This higher version of the CAT enables the
examinees to read the questions from the computer monitor and record their answers on the
|The design of the CAT system is so simple that even those who do not have any
experience in operating computers can easily take the test. It is equipped with
user-friendly features that can be easily understood and appreciated by the examinee.
One unique characteristic of the CAT is the tutorial session which the examinee may choose
to undergo before proceeding to the actual test. The "practice test" is a ten-minute,
ten-item test which enables the examinee to familiarize himself with the instructions
in taking the test. Because of this, the CAT is administered with minimum supervision
from a test proctor or administrator.
|The CAT System aims to :
|| provide an individual, through a one-stop process, the opportunity to acquire
a civil service eligibility at a time he/she may need it for immediate employment
in the government;
|| facilitate the evaluation and processing of examination results
(as compared to the paper-and-pencil test which took at least a month
before the results are released, in the CAT, it only takes about an hour) and;
|| make the administration of Career Service test flexible and convenient
because the examinee does not have to wait for the next scheduled examination.
|At present, the CAT is operationalized in all 14 PCSC regional offices
throughout the Philippines. Each of the regional offices has at least 15 computers
dedicated for the CAT. The frequency of the conduct of the CAT depends on the
regional office’s capabilities.
|The ERPO serves as the core unit for the CAT operations. The operation
of the CAT starts with the generation of the test form from the computer-based
test bank stationed in the ERPO. The test package, which includes the test form
or the test questionnaire, key to correction, and table of score transmutation,
is transmitted from ERPO to the 14 PCSC regional offices through the WAN
(Wide Area Network). The regional offices download the test package into a computer
and store it in a floppy diskette for installation. The test package is then installed
in one or more computers. The CAT is conducted on a one-on-one basis or for a group
setting depending on the number of computers available.
|As of the end of 1997, the CAT has serviced a total of 81,351 examinees all
over the country. Of this, 14,987 (18.42%) were given certificates of civil service
|Future Plans for the CAT
|Improvement in the CAT system continues to be the order of the day insofar
as the development of CAT is concerned. Linking the test bank to the CAT
seems to be the logical next step.
|The PCSC plans to expand the applicability of the CAT. At present, the CAT only
carries the Career Service Professional and Subprofessional Examination. The other
examinations that the PCSC regularly administers such as the Police Entrance Examination,
Competitive Examination for the Local Scholarship Program, Career Service Executive
Examination, etc. are still using the paper-and-pencil test approach. The PCSC hopes
to use the CAT technology in all these examinations.
|Complementary mechanisms will have been put in place for CAT. The PCSC hopes
to develop video-based test administration procedures to automate the complete
examination process and to minimize manpower requirement in the frequent conduct
of the CAT.