Mac vs PC vs Chromebook: English testing edition

By BES Technical Director Rich Collier

itepcompysOne question we hear many times is “Will your test work on our computers?” With more than 600 test centers around the world and over 100 schools using  iTEP for in-house English assessment, there is quite a variety of computer installations. Every business and educational institution has different hardware, but the short answer is that iTEP works on all fairly modern computers.  Are there specific computers that work better than others?

For the best performance of the iTEP a direct connection to the internet is preferred over WiFi.  Desktop and Tower computers work great, and usually have a direct connection, but might need a web cam added for our FotoSure feature.  For convenience, laptops have all the necessary hardware, including speakers, microphone, and web cam, but keep in mind that connecting a quality headset will provide for a better testing experience.  Laptops will also work better if they have a direct connection to the internet, but for the Chromebook, which only has WiFi, just be sure to have a strong WiFi signal in the testing area.

When it comes to a secure testing environment, Internet Explorer and Chrome are the best browsers to use.  They have a secure mode for running web applications called kiosk mode.  This mode blocks out other windows on the screen and makes it difficult to switch applications.  It also hides the menus and search features that are normally present on the screen.  Internet Explorer is available on all Windows PCs and allows for an easy install of our desktop icon to start the iTEP quickly in the secure kiosk mode.  Chrome is available on Windows, Macs, and Chromebooks.  Our Chrome install for Windows will create a desktop icon for easy startup of the iTEP in kiosk mode.  We are looking forward to creating kiosk mode environments for Mac and Chromebook also, but that requires extra work to create an installation that will be accepted in the Apple Store and Chromebook Store.

The iTEP uses Flash to record audio in the Speaking section.  One advantage Chrome has over Internet Explorer is that it comes with Flash built-in.  When using Internet Explorer or the new Edge browser on Windows, Flash needs to be installed on the computer separately and we recommend keeping the version of Flash current for proper functionality.  Other browsers might work fine for non secure iTEP Core tests, but if you are administering Plus tests, stay away from Firefox and Safari.  We are slowly moving away from the use of Flash in our tests, but it’s still going to be around for a while until we are able to fully test browser internal capabilities of recording audio.

Overall, secure tests are best run on Windows PCs whether Internet Explorer or Chrome is used.  Non secure tests will work well on Windows, Macs, and Chromebooks as long as the internet connection is strong.  With the phasing out of Internet Explorer in Windows, Chrome will probably end up being the preferred browser for running the iTEP, but we will continue to try to make the iTEP work in a variety of browsers giving test centers as many options as possible.

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