Online Test Security Still Needs Attention, Says ACT Report

A new ACT report shows that while many states have increased their use of computerized assessments, there have been few updates to state laws to correspond with the rising number of new ways to cheat created by the testing format.

The report, The End of Erasures: Updating Test Security Laws and Policies for Computerized Testing, found that of the 16 states that administer at least one computer-based exam, there was no uniformity concerning the specifics and directions of test security procedures.  Delaware and Oregon were found to be the only two states that listed security laws specific to computer-based testing.

“There’s an urgent need for states to create and adopt clear and comprehensive regulations that reflect the changing role of technology in assessments,” said Wayne Camara, ACT senior vice president of research. “Administering assessments digitally offers the potential to minimize many test security risks, but other types of risks may often emerge.”

While computer-based testing does offer more security in administration than paper testing allows, there are also a number of new issues concerning cheating that need to be addressed.

Computer testing is becoming increasingly popular across the nation.  The ACT college readiness exam was administered this past spring to thousands of students in a digital format, the the first time a national undergraduate college admission exam was administered online.  An official launch of the digital version is set for spring 2015 and is expected to expand for statewide and district-wide tests in spring 2016.

The report offers ways to update regulations in order to adapt current policies to include computer-based testing, and discussed the main areas that should be focused on for the updated assessments, which includes creating log-ins for each student to control test access; limiting the amount of time the test window stays open to limit hacking and cheating; using visual barriers between student workstations; and offering testing manuals to each administrator that clearly outline test security information.

A two-day conference was held on ACT’s campus in Iowa City earlier this month as the first standalone international conference to touch upon all aspects of testing security.  Experts from the industry discussed security strategies and ways to discourage cheating to promote fair testing.

“ACT and others in the assessment industry are working hard to stay ahead of those who want to gain an unfair advantage,” said Rachel Watkins Schoenig, ACT assistant vice president for test security. “This conference is an amazing opportunity for test security experts from around the globe to share innovative ideas and best practices that ensure score validity and maintain a level playing field for all examinees.”