These days, candidates are taking some interesting measures to cheat. Unfortunately, the question isn’t if a candidate will cheat, it’s when. 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 cheating.
Candidate cheating may occur in various ways. Test-takers could gain advance access to pirated test content before the test or copy answers directly from another test-taker during the exam. Although we have ways to address this with item and option scrambling, additional security measures can (and should) be taken to mitigate cheating. We are implementing more innovative security initiatives including ongoing operational measures and data forensics. In this blog, we will discuss the more traditional test security measures we can take to reduce cheating.
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.
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.
Now that we've discussed more traditional and physical ways to mitigate cheating, stay tuned for part two where we will discuss the latest innovative data forensics techniques which work to solve these problems "behind the scenes."