Medical education has gone online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Formative assessment is essential to facilitate the learning process in medical education. However, various challenges arise during online assessment, which include reliability, when done without monitoring and practical concerns like Internet connectivity issues. This study was done to assess the medical students' perceptions of the reliability, usefulness, and practical challenges of online tests. One hundred first-year undergraduate medical students taking up online classes and tests in the subject of physiology were enrolled in this study. A questionnaire with items regarding practical challenges, reliability, and usefulness of the online tests, in general, and about different types of online assessment methods, in particular, were sent to the students online. Each item was rated on a five-point Likert scale, and the responses were analyzed anonymously. A large percentage of students used mobile phones (81.4%) to undertake online tests. Although most students (73.2%; P < 0.001) felt that online tests helped them substantially in learning the subject, network connectivity issues were considered to be a matter of serious concern (85.5%, P < 0.001). Among the assessment methods used, viva voce by video conferencing was thought to be most reliable (83%, P < 0.001). Multiple-choice question-based assessment when done online was felt to be more practically feasible with faster feedback than classroom assessment. The results of the study suggest that medical students find online formative assessments helpful for their learning, despite their concerns about reliability and practical challenges.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; formative assessment; medical education; online tests; unproctored.