11 Tips to help prevent cheating and ensure test security

Headshot JuliePosted by Julie Delazyn

With the summer behind us, it’s officially fall, and that means schools, colleges and universities have launched into a new academic year.

In this time of tests and exams, the security of test results is crucial to the validity of test scores. Today, I’d like to introduce 11 tips to help prevent cheating and ensure assessment security.

1. Screening tests — A small pre-screening can be administered to prevent people from taking an assessment for which they are not yet prepared.

2. Candidate agreements — Candidate agreements or examination honor codes are codes of conduct that a participant must agree to before they start an assessment . Candidate agreements generally are phrased in a personal manner ; the participant agrees by clicking on an ―OK‖ or ―Yes‖ button to the code of conduct for the exam

3. Limiting content exposure/leakage — In order to limit the amount of question content being shown to a participant at any given time, consider using question-by-question templates. These present questions one at a time to participants so that exam content is not completely exposed on screen.

4. Screening participants who achieve perfect scores — Many organizations will automatically investigate participants who achieve perfect scores on an assessment. Perfect scores are rare events, and could be attributed to a test-taker having had access to answer keys. The Questionmark Score List Report provides a fast and easy way to identify participants who obtain 100% on their assessments. An organization can then conduct an investigation of these participants to ensure that no suspicious behavior had occurred.

5. Verifying expected IP addresses — If assessments are to be taken from a specific location, often the IP address of the computer in that location will be known. Verifying expected IP addresses is a useful way to screen whether participants somehow took an assessment from an unauthorized location.

6. Reviewing time to finish information — The overall time it takes for a participant to complete an assessment can be a useful way to screen for suspicious behavior. If a participant takes a very short time to complete an assessment yet achieves a high score, this could be an indication that they cheated in some way.

7. Using Trojan horse or stealth items — Trojan horse or stealth items can be used to help detect whether a participant has memorized the answer key. Stealth items are inserted into an assessment and look just like the other questions, but they are purposely keyed incorrectly and one of the distracters is marked as the correct answer.

8. Post information that cheater prevention tactics are used — Inform participants that cheater -detection tactics are regularly employed. This can help to deter the low – motivation cheaters.

9. Proper seating arrangements for participants — Implementing a seating plan where participants are equally spaced, with limited ability to see another participant‘s screen/paper, is an import strategy.

10. Using unique make-up exams — When offering a make-up exam, make sure to administer it in the same strict proctored environment as the scheduled exam. Also, having another test form available specifically for make-up exams can lessen the risks of cheating and exposure for the actual large-scale exam.

11. Using more constructed response questions — Constructed response questions, like essay or short answer questions, provide less opportunity for participants to cheat because they require them to produce unique answers to questions.

If you’d like more details about these and other tips on ensuring the security and defensibility of your assessments you can download our white paper, “ Delivering Assessments Safely and Securely.”

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