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Four Measures that Improve Test Security

July 11, 2019

As testing professionals, there are some fundamental ways we can catch and prohibit cheating and in this two part blog series, we will discuss some of the ways we mitigate candidate misconduct to preserve the value of your certification program while maintaining a positive test taker experience.

Candidate misconduct may occur in various ways. Test-takers could gain advanced access to pirated test content before the test, copy answers directly from another test-taker during the exam, or use proxy test takers. Additional security measures, from traditional operational measures to innovative, high tech solutions, can (and should) be taken to mitigate candidate misconduct. 

Provide Proctor/Test Center Administrator (TCA) Training and Regular Walkthroughs

The primary responsibility of a TCA is to maintain and ensure the integrity and security of our client’s exams and examination content. At PSI, we enable our TCAs to achieve this by providing them with the knowledge and tools to deter candidate misconduct and to detect attempts by candidates to engage in it.

Test Security Measures to Mitigate Candidate Cheating

Prior to entry into the testing room, TCAs should be trained to perform thorough checks of candidates to ensure that no unapproved items are taken into the testing room. Ensuring candidates’ pockets are emptied, wrist and ankle areas visually reviewed for any materials, and all candidate belongings are secured in a locker before entering the testing room allows the test administrator to prevent several security threats before an exam is started.

In addition to video surveillance, TCAs can complete walkthroughs of the testing room can be throughout the duration of the exam – every 10 minutes is a good rule of thumb. The physical presence of the TCA reinforces the active monitoring to candidates. We also recommend positioning TCAs outside of the testing room at the check-in/check-out station for active monitoring of the testing room through viewing windows and/or through a live stream of all video surveillance cameras on a monitor stationed there.

Use Seat Mapping

Within a testing center, all candidates should be assigned a seat by the TCA. Control over seat assignment allows a TCA to prevent candidates who know one another and/or are taking the same examination from seating immediately next to one another.

It’s standard for test centers to have individual testing carrels with physical barriers separating candidates, but adding additional physical separation between individuals taking the same examination reduces the threat of candidate collusion and misconduct.

Have a Strong Cheating Policy and Make it Known

Along with these security measures, it's important to develop a certification exam policy and communicate this to candidates so that they are aware of the security procedures the program has in place. This communication should happen early and often. From the program’s website to the multiple touch points with candidates, expectations should be outlined, and should clearly state what the consequences are for cheating. A policy must have teeth so that its enforcement is taken seriously; a strong and holistic exam policy is one of the best deterrence tools that a certification program possesses. It’s one of the few variables that are completely in our control. The quality of the policy and its accessibility will, over time, help to engineer behavior modification. Greater deterrence and less cheating lead to more compliance with certification test-taking policies.

Embrace Biometric Security

As online proctoring grows in the certification space, organizations are seeing improvements in both exam security, convenience, and the test taker experience. While allowing for these optimizations, to provide the most secure environment, the ideal remote exam proctoring system must authenticate the identity of the test taker, monitor real-time exam conditions, and lock down the testing computer from performing any task other than taking the examination. 

Using the Lock Down Browser Feature, the test taker’s workstation can be locked down, which prevents any access and communications to external resources. This system lock down also prevents test takers from copying and distributing test content. A certifying body can also use the recorded test session as proof of exam integrity, assuring the certification program holds the expected value.

To prevent proxy test takers, artificial intelligence can be applied to enhance online proctoring security through pattern recognition (detecting a pattern of specific behaviors showcasing the acts of cheating that the human brain can’t), and biometric security measures like eye movement detection and facial recognition to help verify test taker identity as well is identify additional faces in a testing environment.

Stay tuned for part two where we will discuss the latest innovative data forensics techniques which work to solve these problems "behind the scenes."



Kevin Jolly is the Director of Global Quality, Training, and Security at PSI.