Securing Test Centers. What can be done?

In the past 12-18 months, certification vendors have begun to implement security measures in their testing environments. These measures are in place to prevent proxy test takers and other individuals from taking advantage of the end-user certification exam process. Many test centers in the United States are required to follow the requirements of the highest level of security possible. As an example, Cisco has taken a step in the right direction by implementing photo identification of all exam candidates before they are allowed to take an exam. In Mobile, Alabama, Mobile Technical Institute, a certification exam provider and learning center, attempts to not only meet the exam security requirements of IT certification vendors, but security requirements of the medical and government agencies such as the TSA when admitting any exam candidate. At home in Mobile this high level of security prevents MTI from being prone to the exploitation other test centers may encounter. This does not, however, solve the worldwide braindump distribution issue that often occurs at the test center level.

As an example of increasing exam security, Microsoft could implement measures that identify an individual physically sitting at a location by simply utilizing the Microsoft Certified Professional ID Card that is sent to every certified individual. This could most easily be likened to an individual sitting in front of a slot machine in a casino where the casino is keeping track of the players winnings and “players club” points and would require Microsoft to make a simple investment. Card readers at every console where tests are presented so this seems to be an unlikely procedure to be deployed in the immediate future. This would allow individuals to not only leave the terminal in a secured state; it would also prevent proctors and other candidates from illegally accessing the terminals. Personally, we believe that no test center should be allowed physical access to the actual computer presenting the exam. These computers should be on a terminal type set-up where there is just a mouse, keyboard, card reader, and monitor. Furthermore, USB access could be seen as a flaw despite whatever policies may be in place locally on a machine if a candidate was given access to that machine – even under surveillance.

Since you are the expert test takers, we would greatly appreciate your input on what is viewed in your favorite test center (other than the exam of course). Look for Part 2 of this blog where we’ll discuss with test proctors their views on how security in the test center could be improved.

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