Tradition Hoodwinked

At Caveon, we search all areas of the Internet for our clients’ secure test items, which include the often overlooked parts of the web written in other languages. It will be obvious to anyone why the knowledge of other languages is crucial in patrolling the entire World Wide Web. But it isn’t always obvious that knowing other cultures is essential in scouring the web for hints of copyright infringement,

For instance, in Asia, the people regard testing as something more than just a certification of one’s knowledge in a given subject. In Asia, testing is literally a way of life. From a very young age, South Korean students are taught to live and die by tests. They rise through the educational and career systems mostly via tests, the results of which often establish a person’s worth in society. Most students spend several years studying and preparing for major tests like the SUNEUNG (Korea’s College Aptitude Test) or TOEFL (English exam). The average high school student in South Korea sleeps 5.5 hours a night—those short nights are the result of extended hours spent studying and not playing games, like World of Warcraft.

Because the testing culture is so prominent in Asia, after students take a given exam they usually continue to talk and write about their testing experiences. These short narratives are called “examination memoirs”—brief descriptions of what it was like to take the test, how difficult/easy the test was, problem questions, etc. Students often share their examination memoirs with the peers, both in person and through online communities. These examination journals are usually well-intended and harmless—they’re usually just words of encouragement, study advice, or important details about the test-taking process. Sometimes, however, examination memoirs include proprietary test material, like lists of verbatim questions and answers seen on tests.

This is where examination memoirs can get problematic for schools and testing institutions. It can be very easy for Korean students to find lists of real test questions before they take the exam on testing message boards or blogs, skewing the test results and sometimes undermining the value of the test itself. In this case, a wonderful South Korean tradition has created new opportunities to cheat on important tests via the Internet.

Examination memoirs are often the biggest threat to exam security on the Internet in South Korea; but if we approached web patrol the same way throughout all areas of the Internet—moreover, if we didn’t understand this unique cultural tradition in Korea—our web patrol efforts in the Korean language would be inadequate, and we would likely overlook much of the proprietary material on the web in Korean. This is why it’s important for us to not only seek web patrollers who understand the language, but web patrollers whose understanding of the culture opens the door to new insights concerning test security.


Christie Zervos

Director of Operations, Caveon Test Security

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