Conference on Testing Security Roundup

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By: Dr. Mac Adkins – CEO/Founder

Recently, I participated in the Conference on Testing Security hosted by the University of Wisconsin Madison. I went as an attendee and not as an exhibitor or speaker (like usual) which gave me the opportunity to attend sessions. One fact was obvious: when it comes to testing security, there is not a one size fits all approach. 

testing security

Some of the attendees at the conference were from large IT corporations such as Cisco and Microsoft which provide high-stakes certification exams. These corporations invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in continuous item-bank development. It is paramount for these organizations that the content of the exams is not exposed to the public. If the content is compromised, the validity of their certification could be called into question. Protecting the test is the primary concern for testing security to these organizations.

Other attendees from the conference represented the higher education sector. Good practices do exist of professors utilizing item pools provided by publishers or creating their own. However, often times they do not spend enough time in exam preparation.   Stories abound of the same exams being used for years with copies being available in folders at fraternity houses. Yet oddly enough, when that very exam is administered it is often proctored by the instructor, testing center or a proctoring service.  Therefore, in higher education, it seems there is more concern with testing integrity than test item security. 

One issue of concern to both corporations and universities is the matter of test-taker authentication. Corporations must ensure the person who takes the test is the person who is granted the certification. The federal government is also very concerned about test-taker identity. They must verify the person to whom they are awarding federal financial aid is the person who is taking the college course and exams for the course. 

The opening keynote was provided by Paul Bjerke of Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions. He stated that there is an “epidemic of synthetic identities.” The ease with which false IDs can be created and used for an imposter to take an assessment is alarming. Bjerke estimates that fraudulent identity activity generates over 450 billion dollars per year.

Another speaker, Ardeshir Grranpayeh of the University of Cambridge, reported on over 100 years of research on testing integrity. His conclusion was, “As long as you have high stakes testing, you will have cheating. Our job is to manage it as best we can.” 

The technology and tactics used by test takers and test publishers alike become more sophisticated year after year. At SmarterServices we remain diligent to provide assessment services that foster ethical testing activity. But even with all our efforts, it seems that we may just be keeping honest people honest. Cheaters gonna cheat.  Do you agree?

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