While some aspects of the education landscape may fade away with the pandemic, the opportunity for students to choose how to take their admissions tests is here to stay. The progression of at home testing has signaled some to rightfully ask, how are testing organizations maintaining test security?
Lejo Oommen, Managing Director of ETS India, provides insights into how ETS is continuing its industry-leading security practices with the evolution of remote testing.
What does ETS do to deter cheating?
For 64 years, ETS has staffed a dedicated Office of Testing Integrity (OTI) made up of investigators, experts and analysts who ensure the validity and integrity of our exams and whose work it is to defend those test takers who test honestly. In coordination with highly trained proctors, AI technologies and data analysis, the team works to investigate and analyze scores and testing sessions that are suspected of having been earned or conducted unfairly and, as a result, cancel test scores if evidence exists.
With the dawn of remote testing, what are some examples of ways in which students attempt to cheat?
For as long as testing has been around, we have seen the ways that test takers have attempted to cheat on our exams and how their methods have evolved. When we were the first to market with our at home solutions in March 2020, we knew that our test security measures would need to continue to be rigorous. We continue to spend tens of millions of dollars each year investing in the latest technology to ensure we are keeping pace with the new and sophisticated ways we know test takers attempt to cheat now that test delivery is digitized and delivered nearly everywhere. We have seen examples of test takers’ attempts to cheat using remote access software, proxy testing, cellphones to send and receive messages, as well as a combination of these and other cheating techniques. Our OTI team is made up of leading experts on test security and will continue to remain ahead of the curve in ensuring those test takers who attempt to cheat are caught.
What actions does ETS take when cheating is identified?
ETS has and continues to take cheating on our assessments seriously, employing several security and evaluation tactics. When ETS has evidence suggesting that a test taker’s scores may have been earned unfairly — a violation of our testing policy — OTI can hold scores from being released to further evaluate the testing session and score earned to determine if those scores should be canceled. In some cases, ETS cancels scores even when test scores are released to test takers and/or institutions if there is evidence collected post-release that determines that score was earned fraudulently. In the most extreme cases, ETS bans test takers who are in violation of our testing policies to maintain the integrity and validity of our tests and the scores they produce.
Why is it important to test fairly?
The vast majority of the millions of students who have taken ETS’s assessments test fairly and honestly — and with good reason. Doing so sets them up for success. Preparing for — and taking — a standardized assessment is practice for the numerous tests that students will take during their undergraduate and graduate careers. Not only does testing fairly enable students to stand out to admissions officers by demonstrating what they know and can do, but it provides them with an authentic measure of their abilities at a given time. Having a sense of those abilities enables them to plan ahead, such as working to refine certain skills or learning how to better prepare themselves for a future test. In contrast, the alternative presents a spectrum of consequences. Students who attempt to find workarounds for tests like TOEFL® and GRE® are setting themselves up to be unprepared for the rigor of higher education. In addition, they are risking their personal information and/or finances when entrusting bad actors and organizations who offer “testing services” and don’t follow through with their marketing gimmicks. What’s worse, students caught cheating could jeopardize their college/university enrollment status should universities decide to revoke an offer of admission after being alerted of a score cancellation from ETS, which could trigger a domino effect of unfavorable repercussions.
The simple answer? Testing fairly shows one’s best, authentic self in the admissions process — which is something to be proud of.
How does ETS envision the future of test security?
Even before the rise of remote testing, test security was a fluid, iterative part of the end-to-end test administration process. It’s something that evolves over time, and as an organization with a mission to provide fair and valid assessments for all learners, we’re fully committed to remaining an industry leader in security infrastructure to protect the test takers who test honorably, and to continue providing stakeholders around the world the valid scores they need to make important decisions. How do we do that? By remaining several steps ahead of the latest trends, technologies and issues facing test security. And we’re making significant investments to do just that so that we can catch even the most minute forms of cheating. We know that the future of remote testing hinges on the ability to provide valid, reliable scores, and as such, we’re holding ourselves to the highest standards — those that our stakeholders expect and those that we expect of ourselves.
For more information on TOEFL test security, visit https://www.ets.org/toefl/score-users/about/security/.
For more information on GRE test security, visit https://www.ets.org/gre/institutions/about/security/.