What the Common Cold and Test Security Have in Common

Uh, oh. You feel it coming on. The sore throat, the headache, the aches and pains: all symptoms associated with the dreaded common cold. You decide to head this cold off at the pass and make an appointment to see your physician. Maybe there’s something she can give you to prevent this cold from turning into a full-blown upper respiratory infection.

It turns out, symptoms for the common cold are not that different from the test threats your testing program experiences. Similar to cold symptoms, test security threats have their own way of showing you indications of program sickness. You may see your exam’s pass rate start to increase, a smattering of your test items show up on the Internet, or you begin receiving calls from test takers saying they’ve seen irregular test taking activities.

And like your common cold, test threats don’t go away unless they are treated.

Let’s go back to the doctor visit. When your doctor sees you for your appointment, she is likely going to take multiple measures to gain a sense of what ails you. She will take your heart rate and blood pressure, look down your throat and in your ears, check your eyes, etc. The point is… your doctor is doing a thorough scan, collecting data to pinpoint the problem and provide the right treatment so you can get better quickly.

Oh, and by the way, you do have an upper respiratory infection.

Back to our test security problem. When you start to see unusual patterns in your testing program that are likely the result of maleficence, you, like the doctor, start to analyze these anomalies to detect foul play. You may decide to do an intense review of the internet to determine how many websites have actual test content and how many of your exams are out there. But, you won’t stop there. You will also do some type of forensic analysis of your test response data to see if the published test questions are impacting test results. You may then start to look at item replacement strategies, such as replacing sections of the exposed tests, so that it trips up those test takers who’ve used stolen test questions to prepare for their exam. You are gathering data from multiple sources to triangulate the problem, eliminate maleficence, and prevent further sickness to your program.

Your medical doctor may give you a Z-Pak to get rid of that nasty infection. As your test security doctor, I’m going to recommend you take a healthy dose of Vitamin C (Combination). Combine your test security analyses, results, and strategies to help promote and maintain good testing program health. You’ll rest easier knowing you’ve done a thorough job of identifying and managing test security problems and you won’t have to remember to take any pills.

Jamie Mulkey

Vice President of Client Services, Caveon Test Security