My previous post offered three tips on making your assessments more secure and preventing cheating. Here are four more. You will find additional information about this in “Delivering Assessments Safely and Securely,” and I’ll be mentioning other security tips in my future posts. I hope you will respond with your own ideas about avoiding the problem of cheating on tests.
Screening participants who achieve perfect scores
Given the rarity of achieving perfect scores on assessments, consider doing some investigating when you see perfect scores. Many organizations do this automatically. This might interview the exam proctor and do other checks to ensure no suspicious behavior has occurred.
Verifying expected IP addresses
If you are administering an assessment at a specific location, you will likely be able to obtain the IP address of the computer being used. You can then tell whether participants took the assessment there or at an unauthorized location.
Using Trojan horse or stealth items
Use Trojan horse or stealth items to help detect whether a participant has memorized the answer key. Stealth items look just like the other questions, but they are purposely keyed incorrectly. You can include these items are generally included as non-scored items on the assessment. They will help you detect if a participant is simply memorizing content and keyed correct answers, since they will likely choose alternatives that they have memorized. Participants with overall reasonable assessment scores who got the stealth items “correct” might have memorized the answer key.
Reveal that cheater prevention tactics are used
Informing participants that reviews are regularly conducted to identify cheaters is a simple way to decrease the temptation to cheat. You don’t need to provide details about the sort of reviews you conduct, but do let participants know that cheater-detection tactics are regularly employed.
Last week I wrote about tips for protecting intellectual property. It’s equally important keep people from cheating on tests, so here are three pointers on that subject. I’ll be following this up with more tips in future posts. Leave me your comments; we can always add to lists like these!
Consider givinig a small pre-screening test to prevent people from taking an assessment that is beyond their current ability level. If a participant can‘t answer a certain number of these questions correctly they will not be allowed to see the remainder of the assessment. When the time does come for them to take the test, they will not have already seen its content.
Candidate agreements or examination honor codes require a participant’s agreement before they start an assessment, say by clicking on an “OK “ or “Yes” button after reading the exam’s code of conduct.
The code might say something like this: “I agree to answer the questions on this assessment without obtaining assistance from another person or via electronic means. I agree to not to share my answers with anyone during or after the exam. I further agree to not memorize or otherwise steal the intellectual property contained in this exam. I accept that if any of these conditions are violated, my exam results will be set to a zero, I will not be able to retake the exam for a period of 10 years, and I may be charged with a crime under regional laws.”
Here are some topics you might want to cover in a candidate agreement:
- The test vendor will have the option to terminate the assessment if suspicious behavior is detected
- The candidate must abide by the rules of the test center, organization, or program
- The candidate will not provide false ID or false papers
- The candidate cannot take the test on behalf of someone else
- The candidate will not engage in cheating in any form
- The candidate will not help others cheat by disclosing information about the assessment
- The candidate will not use aids that are not allowed
- The candidate will not solicit someone else to take the test
- The candidate will not cause a disturbance in the testing center
- The candidate will not tamper with the test center in any way
- The candidate will not share information
Limiting content exposure/leakage
In order to limit the amount of question content being shown to a participant at any given time, think about using question-by-question templates. These present questions one at a time to participants so that exam content is not completely exposed on screen. Participants who may intend to take pictures of the exam content or otherwise steal intellectual property will not be able to do so all at once.
There are many fine resources for learning how to prevent cheating. Two of thes are books by Dr. Gregory Cizek: Cheating on Tests: How to Do It, Detect It and Prevent It and Detecting and Preventing Classroom Cheating: Promoting Integrity in Assessment.
There’s also our white paper: “Delivering Assessments Safely and Securely,” and of course this blog! Watch for more security tips in my future posts.