Are Proctors Deterrents?
Proctoring has been used for security purposes for over 1,500 years, yet our understanding of its impact is cursory. Read on to learn about proctoring’s effectiveness in addressing test threats—You might be surprised to discover where proctors excel, and where they may need extra support.
Understanding how proctors affect the quality of test security efforts during test administration is not as straightforward as it may seem. Given that testing programs have been using proctors to monitor high-stakes exams for more than 1,500 years (since the beginning of the civil service examinations of Imperial China) and that proctors are considered by many to be the most critical security component of test administrations, it is shocking how little we know about what proctors really do with regards to test security.
Earlier this year, proctors (sometimes referred to as test administrators) played a significant role in the widely-reported college admissions scandal. Proctors either participated directly in helping students cheat, or were bribed to turn a blind eye. At least one of the proctors involved has been indicted. In contrast to the implications based on the scandal, I have no doubt that the vast majority of proctors who monitor tests in-person or online fulfill their responsibilities with honesty and dedication. Proctors still play an important role in the security of test administration.
That said, it must be acknowledged that there are inherent risks involved with using proctors that are generally low-paid, or even volunteers. These individuals are usually proctoring on a part-time basis and fulfilling other administrative responsibilities beyond test security. They may not be well-trained in all the skills necessary for the job, and are rarely chosen specifically for their vigilance, commitment to the cause, or skillset in the tricky task of dealing with belligerent test-takers who are caught cheating. For those of us in the testing field, this creates a complicated dilemma—by utilizing proctors for test security purposes, we are also introducing test security risks, such as…
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