This paper documents and reflects on the creation of a Chinese writing test conducted online using a video conferencing platform (Zoom or Microsoft Teams). One of the purposes of an examination is to evaluate the students’ level of learning, and teachers’ prime concern must be on ensuring its quality and fairness. It is also important and necessary to lighten the burden imposed on both students and teachers struggling with online teaching and learning. Consequently, the author decided not to introduce new tools or systems just for online exams, and instead used Microsoft PowerPoint presentations with screen sharing. There are four key elements regarding the examination.
(1) The method of question presentation. Each question is provided on one slide, and all the slide show’s transitions are set up at the same speed (the response time for each question) to create a self-running presentation. Every question slide is displayed only once, and students cannot navigate back to previous slides. The number of test questions given to the examinee exceeds the number of answers required so that examinees can skip the questions they cannot answer. In this way, it is possible to reduce cheating to a certain extent without strict monitoring.
(2) Early notification. It is necessary to distribute the exam guideline and procedure to students so that they can familiarize themselves with the testing procedure beforehand. Early notification also allows students enough time to ask for help. In addition, students tend to review what they have learned more often when they know they have an examination, so this has a motivating effect.
(3) Elimination of inequalities. Unlike face-to-face examinations, online tests can be taken anywhere. Conditions may differ in many ways including equipment, devices, and students’ technological capabilities. A convenient option should be offered for test takers in order to avoid a particular student gaining an unfair advantage. Teachers cannot ask students to print examination papers on-site, or scan and convert them to PDF files because many students do not have printers and scanners in their possession. However, typing skill and speed is not an issue in testing students’ Chinese language proficiency.
(4) Evaluation. Different types of questions not only give every student an equal opportunity to fully demonstrate their learning but also enable teachers to identify which areas are difficult for students. Limited time to access each question makes it possible to estimate the speed at which examinees can process language. In a real conversation, they cannot take time to understand what someone has said, even if they know the meaning of the words. This is an important aspect of evaluation because our Chinese course is focused on dialogue and communication skills.