Ways to Let the Good Guys Win

I recently attended a Caveon webinar that was as entertaining as it was informative. Dr. John Fremer, Caveon President, Caveon Consulting Services, and Dr. Jarret M. Dyer of the College of DuPage discussed ways that examinees cheat and how a well-planned security process can provide a defense against those cheats.

The examinees may not have known much about their subject areas, but they were endlessly inventive as they tried to cheat their way to an unearned, but excellent, score.

One embedded her exam crib sheet in a henna tattoo. Another wore a ring with an LCD screen, complemented by a camera in a matching earing. One examinee dutifully turned in a (broken) cell phone prior to an exam only to retain his actual cell for use during the exam. Parents and teachers provided support through voice and text, and twins served as each other’s proxies via a bathroom “switch out.”

As usual, there were the traditional cheats as well: one proxy test taker had multiple passports under a variety of names, one had a covert camera in a pen, and another simply took screen shots of each exam question, either to share or to sell.

Each cheater probably felt like he or she was doing no harm, just gaining an advantage. Of course, the harm was real.  The costs of developing an exam are nontrivial and each cheater chips away at an exam’s reliability and validity. And, as John and Jarret’s examples show, there are countless ways to cheat, and technology is adding to those ways constantly. It can feel like the good guys, the ones who provide psychometrically sound exams, are doomed to chase always-changing cheating techniques.

The good news is that there are ways to deter, detect, and mitigate many of the threats to your testing program. For example, secure item development–including the use of DOMC items and item expansion, defined protocols for use of subject matter experts, program security audits, and carefully crafted policies can deter cheaters.

Detection can promote exam security as well. Professional training for administrators and proctors, based on the ATP and NCTA’s 2015 Proctoring Best Practices guide, web patrol, and a tip line can help in the detection of cheating during an exam. Data forensics and security investigations can help detect problems once an exam has been administered. Even something as simple as attaching a photo of the examinee to a test score can make a difference.

In addition, your program’s response to a potential cheating incident matters. It is important to have clear and strong rules, consistency in program responses, and a no-exception rule when cheating has been confirmed.

If you have read this far, you are probably thinking: “My gosh! How can I do it all?” The good news is that there are four easy ways to get started:

  1. Study for, and take, the Certified Exam Security Professional (CESP) exam; you will be surprised at how much you learn.
  2. Schedule a Caveon Security Audit to evaluate your program’s processes from development to post administration, identify areas where your program is strong and where challenges exist, and learn ways to improve, including the development of a security incidence response plan. Once your audit is completed, pursue a Caveon Seal of Excellence for your organization, to illustrate to your stakeholders you are serious about test security.
  3. Check out the Caveon webinar series – the sessions are free, informative, useful, and entertaining.

Recently, administrators for the high-stakes Class 12 exams in Bihar were embarrassed. They had assured the public that exam security was increased and the exams were reliable, but a television investigation found that the top score for political science thought that the test was about cooking and called it Prodigal Science; the top science student said the most reactive element in the periodic table was aluminum and could not describe an electron or proton. Proxies had taken their exams – just two of the many cheats found.

A well-planned security process can provide a defense against those cheats, protecting your program assets, reputation, and budget. Caveon can help you let the good guys win.

If you missed the webinar mentioned above, don’t worry. You can still see it by clicking on the link below.

Caveon Webinar Series – Test Cheaters Say the Darnedest Things! – 072016  based on the recently published Test Proctors Share All: Stories From The Frontlines of Testing by Jarret M. Dyer, College of DuPage


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