Assessment of knowledge is a very important step for any person in order to pursue further with his or her studies or work. It may be conducted both in the places of a person’s studies or at special centres that are called assessment centres. These types of establishments help to evaluate skills or competencies of employees or students. On the one hand, assessment centres have many strong points, whereas, on the other hand, there are certain disadvantages in their work. This essay is an attempt to analyse both strengths and limitations of such centres based on the academic literature.
Many scholars tried to analyse the notion of an assessment centre from various perspectives (Woodruffe 2000; Fletcher 1991; Kleinmann, Kuptsch & Koller 1996). Some of them even argued that it is not a place or location but rather an event (Kleinmann, Kuptsch & Koller 1996). The scholars agreed that such centre is simultaneously a beneficial and costly place. According to their research, the application of assessment centre technology is mainly used in HR area during the selection of potential employees. Usually, it would be a graduate from the university or college. They also argue about the external and internal recruitment. The former deals with senior level employees, while the latter deals with the internal promotion in career development within a company.
Some of the authors also tried to compare assessment centres with development centres (Ballantyne & Povah 1995). The main difference between them is that assessment centres are about the end of the process, which is about evaluating the acquired knowledge and skills of current employees. On the contrary, development centres work on the identification of potential strengths or weaknesses in the process of hiring, thus being more involved in the start of the process. One of the peculiarities of an assessment centre is to focus on self-development and learning. It is not a process of studying where a person gains knowledge in order to get a diploma as it is the case in some other places. The assessment centre provides a person with an opportunity to desire learning him or herself merely while assessing his/her gained knowledge and skills.
The other studies regarding assessment centres relate to their procedures and general evaluation of the centres by attendees. In order to understand whether the centre is successful or not, there are some evaluation papers and reports developed that help to improve their work. For example, the centre’s feedback, diagnosis of weaknesses and strengths based on individual trainings and different educational programs, and development of assessment centre tools for organizational management and planning (Boehm 1985).
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Another study deals with transparency in the centre regarding the presentation of certain studies (Kleinmann, Kuptsch & Koller 1996). The result of this research demonstrates the significance of qualitative work of assessment centres. The participants who were clearly instructed on the requirements of a certain task before its accomplishment succeeded better as compared to those who did not receive precise instructions. Thus, provision of exceptionally qualitative administration and personnel makes assessment centres advantageous, and, vice versa, poor administrative support puts limits to their work.
In spite of the fact that there are different types and aims of assessment centres, there are still advantages and disadvantages (or limitations) based on the general analysis of the aforementioned academic literature and personal practical experience.
The advantages of the assessment centres are as follows:
1. Selection of a candidate, his or her training, and further job promotion.
2. The possibility of discovering both weaknesses and strengths of a candidate by him or herself.
3. The possibility of a candidate to improve his or her job by increasing strengths or eliminating weaknesses.
4. The possibility of neutral evaluation, which makes it more important for a candidate, because he or she has an opportunity to be judged while communicating with various experts.
5. Depending on the task, a person has an opportunity to demonstrate his/her potential, which was not noticed before.
The main limitations of assessment centres are as follows:
1. The centre itself is very costly to sustain.
2. Time consumption as in some cases it takes much time to evaluate participants.
3. It is easy to hire highly experienced managers that should evaluate the candidates.
4. The possibility that evaluators will be biased.
5. The possibility of not receiving proper feedback by high rank managers who interview the candidates, because they may not simply have enough free time to prepare the evaluations.
The aforementioned points were connected with assessment centres that work mainly for Human Resource purposes. It is also important to analyse advantages and disadvantages of language knowledge assessment centres, e.g. TOEFL, IELTS or GRE centre. These are computer-based test centres that evaluate the knowledge of English as a second language for foreigners who apply to study at English-speaking universities.
Compared to assessment centres that are used for the HR purposes, the advantages of a language centre can switch with its disadvantages, in particular the matter of costs. Students are motivated to take the exam and pass it, since is very expensive to take one of those tests. Besides, the number of students willing to apply for the US, Canadian or UK programs is steadily increasing. Thus, it is not very costly to rent a comparatively small room, put computers there, hire an administrator who also works as the coordinator of the centre, and send him or her programs via the Internet. Moreover, they can easily pay the admin’s salary not only due to the high activeness of the applicants but also because of the extra costs from those students who should pass the test once more after they failed.
Another nuance should be noted as an advantage of such assessment centre. There is no need for highly experienced or senior level managers to come to each centre and interview every prospective student, because everything works electronically. Students take the exam and send their essays and oral parts of the tests that are then evaluated in the organization.