When banking exams go online

If you are one of many thousands aspiring for a banking job, you may be relieved to learn that entrance tests for jobs by the nationalised banks have now become simpler in the last year. No more waiting for individual banks to come up with the test dates throughout the year.

With the old system proving to be complicated for both the banker and the prospective employee, the former has moved towards a single-window Common Written Exam (CWE) administered by a professional skill assessment agency. The only thing left for the banks is to fix the minimum CWE score a candidate must secure to apply for jobs with them and conduct final interviews.

“The CWE scores are valuable for one year, which is adequate for the candidate to find a job with one of the banks,” said M Balachandran, Director, Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), the organisation which specialises in cognitive testing for assessing required skills for various jobs and positions.

“We’re also making the tests available online, which means that the candidate can find out how he/she has fared immediately after completing the exam.”

The institute has been toying with the idea of online tests for the past three years, moving a few of the promotional exercises online. Owing to the success of the process, it has been scaled up in the last one year and almost all promotional tests from banks now take place online.

Despite the “digital divide” widely thought of as a barrier for candidates from rural areas, IBPS says that the online concept has been wholeheartedly embraced by candidates of all categories. “The application process is going online. In the last one year, we’ve received 98 per cent applications online, which means nearly 12 lakh candidates have applied online. Most of them no longer remit the fees by demand draft — which is the time honoured tradition, but rather prefer online transfers. Even in the event of submitting applications, nearly 48 per cent of candidates from all regions scanned their forms and photographs and send it to us without reporting glitches,” Balachandran said.

For preparations, candidates have to download the handbooks which IBPS has posted on its website for each individual test. The manual contains instructions on taking the tests, the subjects covered and some sample questions. They can also take the mock tests available on the site to get some practice.

While online tests are evaluated in a few minutes of completion, IBPS ensures even offline tests are computer-evaluated through OMR (Optical Mark Readers) to which the scanned copies of the answer sheets are fed.

The institute is also experimenting with computerised evaluation of Descriptive Papers (DPs) for the officer’s exams, for which the system is programmed to assess skills such as comprehension, communication and expressive abilities.

Public sector banks are the largest customers for IBPS testing services. Besides which, it is also signed up to administer tests such as the Common Admission Test (CAT) for the IIMs, Common Entrance Test (CET) for Maharashtra, AIMS Test for Management (ATMA) for All India Institute of Management, PSU and government department jobs.

The institute’s in-house researchers have started to work on Item Response Theory (IRT), a method through which it can amass a huge database of questions to administer online tests anytime/anywhere.

“We’re working with several international organisations to evolve the system,” said Dr M L Dutt, IBPS Professor and head of R&D. “We’re confident that very soon, candidates should be able to take these bank tests from the comfort of their homes.”

In order to make the tests accessible to persons with blindness, IBPS is working with National Association for the Blind (NAB), Karnataka to evolve an online testing system for blind candidates taking the test. Besides obviating the need for a manual scribe, this would extend the benefit of instant assessment to the visually challenged community.

Comments (+)