Postcards from COTS – Wish You Were Here

Written by Jamie Mulkey, Vice President Client Services

October 10, 2014

I’ve just returned from the first annual Conference on Test Security (COTS) conference, at ACT’s Headquarters in Iowa City, Iowa.  All I can sayCOTS Iowa is, WOW! I wish you'd been there! This intimate conference of just under 200 attendees brought together the best of test security – both theoretical research perspectives and application of best practices.

What made this conference so great?

  • Test security all the time – the focus was on test security. Period. Attendees came because they wanted to learn more about test security and bring best practices back to their organizations. People were willing to share!
  • Threats to test validity – many sessions discussed the fact that what we as testing professionals are most concerned about is valid test results. All these strategies and processes we put in place are in the name of test score validity.
  • Small conference size – with 180 attendees, it made it easy for everyone to network and develop new contacts so they now had a resource if test security issues came up in their respective environments.
  • Welcoming data forensic scientists – having morphed from a conference on the detection of test fraud and irregularities using statistical analysis, it was wonderful to feel welcomed by this scientific community.
  • Emerging test security threats – we saw the latest in test cheating paraphernalia and the use of devices and protocols to detect these gadgets. We learned about creating test security plans, strategies for conducting investigations, and how to calculate Return on Investment (ROI) for our test security initiatives.
  • Variety of formats – the diversity of plenary sessions, breakouts, and poster sessions lent to the variety of gaining and assimilating conference information.
  • Test security gets professional! – The Certified Exam Security Professional program was showcased. Many are excited for its release in early 2015.

Sound enticing? Here are quotes from some of the attendees:

“It was helpful to gain knowledge about the past, present and future of test security, receive best practices for conducting investigations and learn about emerging security threats.  Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to learn from experts in the field.”

“It was refreshing to unite with this burgeoning Test Security Community as it comes together for the advancing exchange of ideas, thoughts and philosophies all in a supportive environment of betterment toward our mutual common goal of valid results – regardless of the arena or scope of the exam.”

“The sessions offered at this year’s COTS spanned so many topics for Test Security operations, from building a test security plan to investigation techniques and auditing test center plans. All were so informative with practical steps to help implement or add to your own processes and practices. An invaluable experience!”

“There was a good balance between new methods of detection and practical sessions on what to do. I even found the poster sessions on the last day to be surprisingly useful.

There were so many very useful and interesting sessions it's hard to single out any. Overall, it was just great to see what issues others are confronting, which is probably what most people attend conferences for in the first place.”

Next year’s conference will be held at Kansas University, in Lawrence, Kansas. Don’t let the destination fool you. If you have any interest in test security, you won’t want to miss COTS. Otherwise, you might be getting postcards from Kansas – Wish you were here!

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