What’s the big deal with sharing a few test questions?

It’s easy to understand the pressure that you, the test taker, face when you take a high stakes test. It’s also easy to see why you might want to discuss the test with others. As an example, consider one student’s request for help on the DAT (Dental Admissions Test), posted on August 16, 2007: “For those who took the DAT, can you guys help me out and post some of the question that you remember from the exam?” After a bit of harassment for making such a blatant request, the would-be cheater finally wrote, “k my bad, …” (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/archive/index.php/t-436557.html)

My advice to you, as you prepare to take your high stakes test, is to shy away from any individuals who want you to share test questions or who try to sell you “remembered questions.” Thirteen students from UCLA have been implicated in question stealing and sharing. The American Dental Association has found “their names next to ‘remembered questions.'” “As a result of an investigation last year, the UCLA students face having their passing scores from a 2006 exam session voided and being barred until 2009 from retaking the test, according to documents.” The students have filed a lawsuit stating that “they have suffered personal and professional humiliation because of the allegations and that their careers and plans for further specialized study are in jeopardy.” http://www.latimes.com/features/health/nutrition/la-me-dental23jan23,1,2797664.story?coll=la-health-nutrition-news

To my knowledge, all high stakes testing programs will require you to agree to a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement before you take the test. Generally you will agree if you violate your agreement and share the test questions with others that the testing program may exercise certain remedies, such as cancelling your score or even banning you from testing. You may also be required to pay the development costs of the exam or be prosecuted under the Trade Secrets Act. As an example, consider the following excerpt from the ADA (American Dental Association) website.

“Examinees cannot disclose (in whole or in part) any test questions or answers to anyone during or after the test, whether orally, in writing, on Internet chat rooms or blogs, or otherwise. The Dental Admission Test is a secure test, protected by U.S. copyright laws. Any unauthorized disclosure of the test’s contents could result in civil liability, criminal penalties, and/or cancellation of test scores.” http://www.ada.org/prof/ed/testing/dat/dat_examinee_guide_2008.pdf

In addition to agreeing to keep the test questions confidential, you will likely agree to not use any stolen or shared test content. By way of example, the ADA Examinee Guide states, “You will not give, receive, or obtain any form of unauthorized assistance prior to or during the test or break periods. By way of example, you will not use or share unreleased test content.” If you breach this agreement or are found guilty of unethical conduct, the testing program may apply penalties, including the cancellation of your test score which may result in the revocation of your license or your expulsion from your selected educational program. A finding of unethical conduct could follow you for several years. You really do not want that.

If you feel that you need help in preparing to take your test, you are not alone. The ADA reports that 46% of those who take the DAT enroll in some test preparation course. Of those individuals, 92% take the course from a private corporation. This is where you need to be a very, very careful. You do not, under any circumstance, want to be involved with an unethical test preparation course or cram school. Gregg Colton stated, “Preparatory schools that are traditionally not licensed or regulated are for the most part corrupt. The school’s sole existence is dedicated to the theft and resale of active examination items. There have been numerous documented incidents of cram schools stealing examination material for almost every occupational or professional licensing exam and certification.” (http://www.ipmaac.org/conf/98/colton.pdf) Let me emphasize this point: If the cram school is raided and your name is found, your standing may be in jeopardy.

Here are some warning signs that you are enrolled in a cram school (Adapted from Gregg Colton’s article, previously cited.). The course may:

  1. Emphasize “acing the test” rather than refreshing the subject matter which you should have already mastered.
  2. Emphasize the resemblance of their practice questions to the actual test questions.
  3. Solicit you to share examination items with course instructors.
  4. Start class by asking if anyone in the room is affiliated with the District Attorney’s office, Law Enforcement or other State official.
  5. Focus on memorizing test questions and answers and not provide real instruction.
  6. Prohibit you from
    1. taking notes,
    2. removing materials from the room,
    3. bringing briefcases, jackets, purses and other such items into the “classroom”
  7. Recruit you to work for them by taking tests and remembering test questions.
  8. Teach you how to smuggle “study aids” into the testing event.

Lastly, you may feel that it is alright to purchase test preparation materials from the Internet. In addition to the reasons that I cited above, you should be very selective if you do this because, contrary to their claims, many of these websites do not offer any substantive help. They are just operated by scammers who prey upon the desperate. You might be tempted to purchase “remembered questions” from somebody on eBay or through e-mail. Don’t do that. You risk losing your money for nothing of value, or you risk being caught in unethical conduct. Testing programs are getting wise to the fact that high-quality braindumps are available and they will take countermeasures (At least they will, if they follow my advice) which will allow them to detect you.

As an example that countermeasures are being implemented, I quote from http://testbusters.net/ “Microsoft® and CompTIA® have gotten real smart to the brain dump scene, and use it to their advantage to make more money from those of us that use brain dumps. They know we are not memorizing the complete question and answer, thus they use those questions and just change a few words here and there, and ‘Bingo’, a fail, and thus we line their pockets! Questions are reworded every 30 days in some cases!”

Truly, honesty is the best policy. I wish you luck as you prepare to take your test.

Dennis Maynes

Chief Scientist, Caveon Test Security

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