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Foreign language anxiety and oral performance: Differences between high- vs. US-China Foreign Language, 10 5 , Removing or reducing the testing window also defeats the original advantage of convenience to the test taker. Electronic distribution of test files leads to quick and easy technological ways of capturing the content. Since the late s and continuing to the present time, computerized tests in the form of test files are typically sent from a server residing at the offices of the testing program or a test administration contractor of the program to a server at a testing center.

All the files, including the test questions, scoring rules, answer keys, relevant graphical, audio and video files, and other components of the test, are usually encrypted and included. The files may be sent a few hours to a few days before the particular test is scheduled to be taken. Pirates often collude with a testing center to access the testing center server, capture the file, decrypt it if necessary, and put it into a format that can be easily sold on the Internet. This type of theft is particularly devastating because the complete pool of items supporting the forms for an operational exam is stolen.

As tests are created today, most of the steps the items and tests proceed through are in electronic or digital format. Managing access to those servers is the responsibility of the testing program. However many testing programs do not have the experience or knowledge to manage user access effectively. Employees and contractors, including administrators, item writers, reviewers, psychometricians, and many others, have access to most if not all of the items, tests, or other important information. With the growing sophistication of database systems and capable hackers who have the goal of penetrating such systems, most testing programs find it difficult to keep up.

They often do not have up-to-date information security systems or sufficient control over access to the testing data to prevent attacks. Even employees or contractors who have left the employ of the organizations often retain access rights to the testing databases long after they have gone. Protecting testing data certainly has to start at the source.

Every TBT program has to give high priority to protecting the data that exists under its direct control. Computerized adaptive tests select questions from the same pool of items when each new examinee takes the test. This results in both security advantages and disadvantages. If a question is psychometrically better than another for a set of students, it may be selected more often than other questions and therefore becomes overexposed compared to other questions.

The increased frequency becomes apparent and such questions are then stolen and shared more often in casual or Internet discussions as a result. Such overexposure may lead to disclosure and to unfair advantage for those test takers who have access to information about the question.


Any overexposure of these items is particularly destructive because the items affected, by definition, are the best, most useful items. With technology-based tests it is possible to determine that the test taker has answered enough questions to pass or fail the test. Every instance of item presentation is an instance of overexposure. Most TBT engines have incorporated a feature of marking an item for later review.

This is similar to what a test taker is able to do if given a paper-and-pencil test, which is to move from page to page at will and review any question as often as desired. The security risk lies in the fact that the test taker is able to track and control a particular subset of questions which he or she can memorize in a more organized and efficient way, say, at the end of an exam.

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If these questions are reviewed and memorized at the end of an exam it is much easier to leave the testing center and recall the items. With the advent of computerized testing in the late s and early s came the testing center model for technology-based tests. The first large-scale world-wide introduction began in Novell, Inc.

Computer-Based Testing and the Internet: Issues and Advances | Wiley

That decision placed those testing centers under the direction of its training partners. In a fairly short time period each training center had a testing center as well. This particular franchised model still exists today and serves as a way for most IT certification, and many non-IT, testing programs to distribute tests internationally. Today, there are several similar networks in place with a total of many thousands of locations. Combined they covered the United States very well, and other countries more sparsely. While it was necessary at the time to use training centers as testing centers, the arrangement unfortunately contained an inherent conflict of interest: training companies had a business interest in how well their students or others performed on the tests.

The situation caused some testing centers to use instructors as proctors, helping out during the test when needed. At the most extreme level, the worst testing centers actually colluded in many aspects of test theft, including allowing cheating, proxy test taking, and stealing the test content Maynes, Another security problem with the testing center model, particularly the franchised model, lies with the proctors.

In general these individuals are lowerpaid, are part-time, and have received minimal or even no training. These proctors are generally unmotivated to closely monitor test takers and detect cheating or theft of questions. Many recent public breaches have been because proctors have assisted in the dishonest behavior. Even if the proctor is honest, lack of training and motivation make it difficult to confront a person who is suspected of cheating and deal effectively with the problem.

This problem with proctoring is not specific to testing center channels where technology-based tests are administered, but has been a long-standing issue as well in large-scale educational testing with paper-and-pencil tests Cizek, With new technology aiding in the creating of very good fake IDs, it is very difficult for center administrators or proctors to recognize the difference. This situation would allow individuals to take tests for others even when the proctor follows proper procedures. The benefits of the Internet have encouraged testing programs to administer high-stakes tests widely across the Internet without proper security in place.

This is usually done to extend the reach of the exam, providing the ability to easily attract and impact a very large number of individuals. For example, some organizations specializing in pre-employment screening tests have provided these exams almost indiscriminately over the web. The ease of distribution has encouraged organizations to administer tests over the Internet with no supervision or ability to authenticate the test taker Tippens et al.

These tests have important employment consequences for the participant because they are used to screen applicants for a small number of jobs. Those applicants with higher test scores move to the next level in the hiring process. There is evidence that these tests are being stolen, cheating is happening, and the lack of security is being exploited.

It is clear that the introduction of technology for test administration has also changed the nature of the security risks. It is important that the reader understand the risks associated with technology in order to choose between and implement the solutions that are available.

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These are presented in a later section. No field of high-stakes testing is more immune than another when considering these risks. Using technology has not introduced any new overall category of security problems. Piracy and cheating remain the two main categories of security problems whether the tests are paper-based or technology-based. Cheating is defined for this chapter as any effort that produces a score higher than what is deserved either for oneself or others. Test theft occurs for the purpose of sharing with or selling to others who will then use the information to cheat.

It is important to note that cheating is not necessarily done by the test taker, or with his or her awareness. Many cheating incidents occur and are managed by others, particularly in education. These people may be teachers, principals, or other officials. In addition, many test takers may be unaware that they are using pre-knowledge of actual test questions or that using such pre-knowledge is actually cheating.

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It is useful to subdivide the two categories of cheating and theft into subcategories of general methods of cheating and test theft. I have done so in Tables 3. Table 3. In some testing sectors it is routine to steal an entire test file including all item text, other resources e. The thieves penetrate IT security procedures through weak user access policies and procedures, and by decrypting if the files are encrypted the stolen files.

This method is the most dangerous type of theft because it provides the exact content of the questions and the answers.