Prometric offers a service called "Data Forensics" to its clients, which provides an analysis of items and exams to detect and flag abnormalities in the test process. Data forensics looks to identify unusual response patterns, unexpected candidate behavior (e.g. ending the test early, requesting frequent breaks, skipping large numbers of items, spending an inordinate amount of time on selected items) and sudden performance improvements (both localized and universal) which can all be indicators of a potential security concern that can be investigated by a thorough review of the various files generated during a test event. Prometric maintains an extensive amount of data on each test event, including the time spent on each item, the frequency with which responses were changed and the number, time, and duration of all breaks.
Certification and licensure exams are an increasingly important measure of an individual's skills and abilities. The results of these exams are used by managers for employment decisions and by government agencies and the general public when seeking qualified professionals. The value placed on testing has resulted in various threats to the security and validity of the process. Data Forensics is only one of several actions Prometric has established to safeguard exams and thereby protect the general public.
Prometric has been using biometric identity management systems throughout our global Professional Licensure and Certification test center network since 2006. Our biometric systems are an advanced means of verifying a candidate's identity when he/she arrives at our test center to take an exam. Prometric's biometric identity management system consists of a fingerprint reader, a device for reading the digital information on a driver's license, passport, or similar identification document, and a scanner for recording the human-readable information on the front of the driver's license or other authorized document. The fingerprint reader captures an image of a fingerprint that is used to monitor and control the movement of the candidate in and out of the test room. The fingerprint can also be compared electronically to a central database to ensure that the candidate did not test under a different name previously. This same system is also used to verify the identity of the test center administrators on duty and to monitor proctoring behavior during each day's testing activity.
Most exams assess an individual's knowledge through multiple choice questions. These items are extremely valuable and will be a critical element of tests for many years, but they may also be susceptible to 'cheating' (the sharing of potential test questions with another candidate) and 'item harvesting' (the coordinated attempt to collect a large number of test questions and then distribute them for a profit). Supplementing these knowledge, or 'recall', items with performance-based items (tasks that are representative of the activities a candidate might be expected to perform 'on the job') can improve the overall value of the exam while making it virtually impossible to pass the test without a thorough understanding of the material.
A Boston Globe article recently stated that there were 1,000 "confirmed" incidences of cheating among 200,000 test attempts administered by one of Prometric's competitors. This is a rate of 00.5 – or a half of one percent. We'd like to point out that the same story could have reported the facts differently; That is to say that 99.5% of tests are valid and reliable measures of individual skills and abilities.
There are many factors that come into play in the provision of secure exams and testing experiences, and Prometric has been first to implement many of them on a widespread basis.