Maintaining the GRE exam’s security has been a decade-long endeavor. The ETS testing industry has undergone significant transformation as testing has moved from paper and pencil to computer-based, and from test center to at-home. With this evolution comes the need to think about security in new and different ways, and ETS is doing everything possible, and then some, to stay ahead of those who try to cheat and undermine the GRE exam‘s integrity.
As complex as the field of test security can be, here are five things you may not know (but should) about test security at the ETS:
For the past 64 years, ETS has maintained a dedicated OTI office comprised of investigators, experts, and analysts whose job it is to defend those test-takers who test honestly. The team works with highly trained proctors, AI technologies, and data analysis to analyse scores and testing sessions that are suspected of being earned or conducted unfairly and, as a result, cancel test scores if evidence warrants it. ETS’ OTI office recognises the need to do more to combat cheating around the world as an industry leader in the space.
ETS has spent billions of dollars over the last six decades on test security and technology infrastructure, investing tens of millions of dollars each year. ETS intends to invest tens of millions of dollars more in the coming months to expand its technological capabilities and improve test security measures in order to detect even the most minor forms of cheating. These capabilities and technologies includes, but are not limited to: continued remote access software (RAS), prevention using ETS proprietary expertise and capabilities coupled with new, integrated technologies to sustain world-class security measures; enhancing machine learning models to detect dishonest test-taking behaviours at a high rate; and the development of new and refinement of existing statistical evolution models that support ongoing efforts. The investments they make are in addition to their stringent security protocols and quality control procedures in place to investigate issues, cancel scores, and hold individuals accountable who violates ETS’ testing policies.
When ETS has evidence that a test taker’s scores were earned unfairly – a violation of their testing policy – the OTI has the authority to withhold the scores from being released in order to further evaluate the testing session and the score earned in order to determine whether those scores should be cancelled. In some cases, this means cancelling scores even after they have been released to test takers or institutions if evidence is gathered after the fact that the scores were earned unfairly. In the most severe cases, ETS suspends test takers who violate their testing policies.
Cheating is an industry-wide problem that has been highlighted by the recent boom in the remote testing industry. Although it is not commonly discussed in the education sector, they owe it to their stakeholders to keep them informed of what they are seeing, how they are addressing concerns, and their future plans. They understand that test security is the most important pillar of the end-to-end testing process because it ensures that scores are valid, reliable, and trustworthy. As the industry leader in test security and remote testing, ETS takes this responsibility seriously because they have to protect test takers who are taking the tests honestly.
They are equally dedicated to serving institutions all over the world that rely on scores to make high-stakes decisions. Unreliable scores have implications for unprepared students who are unable to meet the rigours of their higher education programs, as well as for hard-earned institutional reputations. Score cancellations are a sign of good testing organisation enforcement, and the absence of such cancellations should cause institutions and stakeholders to pause.
With the new delivery model of at-home testing, ETS has seen more than a 200% increase in score cancellations across both TOEFL and GRE test administrations combined in the second year of their at-home testing (FY21) compared to the first year (FY20). Although this increase has occurred, this does not mean that they have waned their vigilance. In fact, quite the opposite is true, which is evidenced by their ability to identify the fraudulent activity and cancel scores after thorough analysis and investigations have taken place. While there are more attempts at cheating by default, more scores are being canceled.
ETS has observed test takers attempting to cheat by using remote access software, proxy testing, cellphones to send and receive messages, and a combination of these and other cheating techniques. Their OTI team is comprised of leading experts in test security, and they will continue to stay ahead of the curve in catching and discouraging test-takers who attempt to cheat on their assessments.
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