Are Your Exams Secure?

April 23, 2014 Kristen Hicks

You’ve seen the scenario in countless movies and TV shows: some kids discover the questions for a big exam in advance and face the moral quandary of whether or not to cheat. The ideal for educators is that students never have that option in the first place.

How Students Cheat

We know that students cheat. The numbers can be surprising on the subject, with over 60% of students admitting to cheating in one online poll. While this is not a new problem in academia, the methods for cheating have evolved alongside technology.

For many of the most common methods of cheating, exam security can easily be tightened by choosing a secure computer-based testing solution and limiting the other technology students are able to access during an exam.

Some common cheating methods include the following:

  1. Plagiarizing from resources found online.
  2. Saving notes to a mobile device to view during the test.
  3. Using a mobile device to browse the Internet during a test to find answers.
  4.  Taking photos of the test to post online for future test takers.
  5.  Hacking into the teacher’s account in a learning management system (LMS) to access the questions in advance or change the grades after the fact.

While most of these are pretty self-explanatory, that last one’s a little more high-tech. Students can actually find plenty of resources online that discuss how to hack into a teacher’s account in several more popular Learning Management Systems. A quick Google search will show you how easy it can be for students to take advantage of lax LMS security for testing. Since it’s not the main function of an LMS, exam security in that application is not the high priority it is in software designed specifically for test taking.

How Offline Computer-Based Testing Limits Cheating

Computer-based testing software is designed with exam security at the forefront. That means the designers are vigilant about building a program that can’t be hacked into by students in advance, locks down students’ computers during the test so they can’t access any programs or pages outside of the test itself, and helps detect and report any cheating attempts.

All of this can be accomplished while allowing some flexibility in how a test is administered. Whether you’re using a computer lab, student laptop testing, or even trying out secure iPad testing, the level of security remains constant.

As long as you only allow one type of device for test taking, you can be sure that students won’t have Internet access or the photo capabilities required to cheat in the aforementioned ways. The complex, high-level security programming used in ExamSoft will take care of the hacking concerns that come with LMS security systems as well.

While technology has been a boon to the cheaters of the world, it can also be used to make cheating harder than ever.


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