Saturday, May 08, 2010


Early every year national exam results are released. We have become familiar with the joy and disappointment that attend these releases. The seriousness of exams is best symbolized by the media saturation at this time and when cheating is unearthed. Exam fraud has become the uglier flip side that reminds us how critical exams have become in modern Kenyan society. All manner of tricks are conjured up and applied to obtain exam content.

An exam’s credibility is proportional to the security applied at every stage. An exam that does not ensure that candidates are who they say they are and that their performance is based solely on their own efforts is worthless and derided by all.

It is now evident that the lifecycle process of examinations from formulation to exam results has become reliant on technology. Computers, servers, networks, sms messages and mobile phones are used at each stage. Technology therefore provides a risk that can contaminate the whole process. To compound this problem is the fact that many people are involved in each phase.

Content theft is the most popular method of exam fraud. This is where attacks on computers or exam setting centres are conducted so as to steal as much of the test content as possible. Due to the number of people involved in the process, exam content can be, and is usually, stolen by internal and external fraudsters. It is therefore prudent to create test items in a secure environment.

By using appropriate workflow management controls it is possible to track exam content through the development process. These controls can also be used to implement role-based access rights where exam setters have limited access to the content. These workflow controls can also be designed to allow as few individuals as possible to have access to the final examination that resides in a server/computer.

Another popular method of exam fraud is proxy testing where the exam taker gains an unfair advantage by using someone else to take their exam for them. This can be prevented by using biometrics to identify and authenticate exam takers.

Apart from implementing workflow controls to prevent content theft, forensic analysis software can be used to detect pass rates, unusual patterns in scores and other aspects. Analysis of exam results is vital in identifying anomalies and reducing the likelihood of examination fraud.

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