From saving time and money to providing great flexibility, online exams and tests offer several benefits that make them an integral part of educational, training, and recruitment processes.
But, despite the numerous benefits, educational institutions and businesses must face the fact that online tests are not immune to cheating.
And, with online exams, some of the ways learners cheat may be different than that in traditional exams.
To cope with new ways of cheating, you need better cheating prevention measures.
In this blog post, you’ll find just that. You’ll learn how to prevent cheating in online exams using top anti-cheating software and effective cheating prevention strategies.
But before you start learning about the tips for preventing cheating, let’s quickly look at the various ways exam takers cheat in exams.
Common Ways Exam Takers Cheat in Exams
Learners, especially school and college students, can have many cheating tricks up their sleeves, some ordinary and others more creative. Here they are:
Copying Answers From Others
This is an age-old way of cheating. The exam taker simply copies the answers of a person sitting next to them. This method is especially effective if the other person obliges and makes it easy for the exam taker to see their answers.
Looking up Answers Online
Almost everyone has access to mobile devices and the internet today. A quick Google search can reveal the answer to a question as long as it is not a mathematical or problem-solving question (even that’s possible in some cases!).
Using this cheating method can be very easy for an exam taker if they’re taking an online exam and can switch tabs. They can easily avoid the invigilator’s eye.
Accessing Leaked Questions
Whether it’s a periodic school test or a high-stakes assessment, there’s always a possibility of the exam questions getting leaked. For example, you’ll be surprised to know that a Bar exam in Canada was canceled due to exam leakage.
Test takers who can access leaked questions can easily ace the test by memorizing the answers or creating a cheat sheet to use during the exam.
Chances of exam leakage are particularly high when you conduct the exam in batches or give exam takers the flexibility to take the exam at their convenience. Those who have taken the exam can provide the questions to their friends.
Sneaking in a Cheat Sheet
Learners may decide to create a cheat sheet to keep on their person during the exam even if they don’t have access to leaked questions. They may create notes for the most important topics in their course or for the topics they’re weak in.
Using a Video Conferencing Platform
Using video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom or Google Meet, exam takers can easily share their screen with a friend to show them the exam questions and get assistance via text messages on the same platform or their phone.
Exam takers may also use remote desktop software, such as TeamViewer, to let their friends operate their system remotely and take the exam in their place.
Exam takers may use their smartphones to cheat in various ways, such as:
- Keeping notes on their phone
- Taking photos of the questions to send to their friends
- Getting answers from friends via texting
- Using mobile education websites or apps to get automated or real-person answers
- Communicating with friends via a mini Bluetooth earpiece
Learners may have a friend take the exam in their name. For this, they may use fake or rigged identity proofs to clear the authentication carried out by the invigilator.
For remote exams featuring webcam authentication, learners may use a different strategy where they sit for the authentication but then have the friend answer the questions.
So, those were some of the most frequently used offline as well as online exam cheating tricks. Now let’s look at how you can cope with these cheating techniques.
How to Prevent Cheating in Online Exams
Here are the different measures and strategies to ensure you conduct a fair and credible assessment using online testing.
1. Enable Proctoring
By enabling proctoring, you can monitor exam takers during the exam via screen sharing and their webcam and microphone. Here’s how this works:
- As soon as exam takers submit their tracking information, they get pop-ups asking for screen share, camera, and microphone permissions.
- The exam taker is allowed to take the exam only if they grant these permissions.
- Once the exam taker submits the responses, the instructor conducting the exam can check their report to view screenshots, a screen recording, and an audio/video recording of the exam taker.
- The instructor can use these images and videos to check if the exam taker used any unfair means to answer questions.
2. Disable Tab/Browser Switching
Disabling tab switching prevents exam takers from looking up answers by switching tabs or browsers. Here’s how this works:
- If the exam taker tries to switch tabs, they get a message warning them not to switch tabs to avoid auto-submission.
- The attempt to switch tabs also triggers a countdown that the exam taker must stop, forcing them to return immediately to the exam tab.
- If the exam taker doesn’t return to the exam tab before the timer runs out, the exam gets auto-submitted.
3. Randomize Question Order
Online tests are often used in a classroom setting. Because of this, learners may sit close to one another, making it possible to see the screen of another test taker. Randomizing the question order can reduce copying by ensuring two test-takers sitting side by side don’t get the same order of questions.
4. Shuffle Answers Options
Shuffling the answer options within a question can keep learners from copying answers when asking multiple-choice, true/false, or checkbox questions. Learners may also attempt to create an answer key to pass on to other students. Answer shuffling renders answer keys useless.
5. Use Question Pooling
In this anti-cheating technique, the instructor creates a (preferably large) question bank/pool and uses it to present a different set of questions to each learner.
Ideally, such a question bank must contain at least twice as many questions as there are to be in the exam. The more questions included in the bank, the better pooling will work.
For example, let’s say a teacher wants to create a test containing twenty questions. The teacher creates a bank of 100 questions, from which twenty will be used. Each student gets twenty questions in the exam, but not the same twenty.
If you create a large enough question pool, answer copying becomes virtually impossible with this method.
Pro Tip #1: Question pooling and question/answer shuffling are also very useful if you allow more than one test attempt since these methods let you present learners with a different test each time.
Pro Tip #2: In case you’re running short on good questions to include in your question bank, you can try asking the same questions in a different format. For example, top online exam maker tools let you create questions in formats such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, matching, hotspot, essay, order-the-list, and many more.
Watch: Question Types for Online Learning & Assessment
Unauthorized Access Prevention
6. Use Privacy & Security Controls
You can make your online tests private to prevent them from being accessible via search engines. You can also make your tests password-protected or grant access via secure, individualized logins to a virtual classroom.
Watch: How to Create & Use a Virtual Classroom
Set unique passwords and instruct exam takers not to share their login credentials with anyone under any circumstance. To reduce the possibility of someone guessing a password, include at least one number and an uppercase letter, especially if you’re using common words in the passwords.
7. Ask for Exam-Taker-Specific Information That You Can Verify
Ask exam takers to provide information about themselves, such as name, email, address, phone number, or any other personal information (with a custom question). You can then use this information to verify their identity.
You can also set up an authentication system where the exam taker will have to authenticate the email address and phone number they provide via one-time-passwords.
Another thing you can do is ask the exam taker to turn on their webcam to get their picture taken before they can access the exam. You can then compare this picture with their authorized photograph to check for a case of impersonation.
8. Require a Student or Employee ID Number
Since student or employee ID numbers are unique, this is another means of identification. No two learners have the same ID number. Based on whom you are testing, you can also use your license ID or any other ID number here.
9. Disable Copying/Printing
If you’re conducting your exam in batches or enabling exam takers to take it at their convenience, you must disable copying and printing of exam content so that exam takers can’t leak questions to those who haven’t taken the exam yet.
Pro Tip: It’s best to present only one question per page if you’re conducting the exam in an exam center. Doing so will make it harder for exam takers to take snapshots of the questions to send to their friends if they’ve managed to sneak in their phones.
10. Enable IP-Based Security
You can make your exam more secure by configuring IP security settings using anti-cheating software for exam creation. You can:
- Make your exam available only to those connected to the internet under the IP address ranges you specify
- Block reattempts from the same IP address even if different devices or email addresses are used to access the exam
Exam Availability Settings
11. Set an Exam Availability Time Frame
By defining exam availability date(s)/time frame, you can ensure that everyone takes the exam at roughly the same time. Exam takers who don’t take the exam within the defined time frame will receive a message that the assessment has expired.
Even if they get the questions from the learners who’ve taken the exam, the latecomers can’t benefit from them since the exam has expired.
Besides setting an availability time frame, also make sure you disable reattempting so that exam takers aren’t able to correct their mistakes by logging in again.
12. Add Time Limits
Although setting a time limit can introduce stress for the test takers, it can also keep them focused on the task. If the exam takers know they have limited time, they are less likely to spend a lot of time looking for answers.
You can set a time limit for the entire test or separate time limits for each question, whatever works best for your test. Just make sure you provide enough time for the test takers to complete the assessment.
For student assessments, even open-book tests can be timed. If a student knows the material in their book well enough, finding information in the text within a time limit is a reasonable task.
Watch: How to Create a Timed Exam
13. Use a One-Question-per-Page Format With No Backtracking
Set up your exam in a way that exam takers can only see one question at a time and must submit a final answer then and there. This way, exam takers will have less flexibility to implement any cheating techniques they may have been planning to use.
For example, let’s say an exam taker is using some advanced tech to communicate with their friends during the exam. If you configure your exam the above way, the exam taker won’t be able to provide the entire question set to their friends at once, reducing the effectiveness of the cheating technique.
Other Cheating Prevention Strategies
14. Don’t Reveal the Correct Answers Too Soon
Many instructors provide the correct answers to the questions at the end of the test or even after each question, even if all exam takers aren’t taking the exam at the same time. This isn’t a good idea for the same reason you must disable copying and printing for such exams.
Plus, if you want learners to learn the answers through studying course material, you should only display whether an answer is right or wrong. If an answer is marked incorrect, but no answer is revealed, learners may be more motivated to study the course materials to find the right answer and fix their errors.
15. Ask Video-Response Questions
It can be very hard to cheat at video-response questions where you ask the exam taker to answer an open-ended question by recording a video in real time.
Even if an exam taker gets the answer from somewhere, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to quickly memorize the answer and then answer believably, especially if there’s a time limit involved.
Watch: How to Create a Video-Response Question
16. Ask Higher-Order Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are harder to cheat at since they generally require the exam taker to compose a detailed answer. Also, the prospect of the evaluator comparing answers may deter the exam taker from copying them from another exam taker sitting next to them.
But your open-ended questions also mustn’t be the kind whose answers can be found with a quick google search or a peek into a book.
You must ask questions that require the exam taker to have in-depth knowledge of the course and present their opinions and analysis in detail.
17. Enable Save & Resume
When you’re conducting a remote exam or test, you may hear from some test takers that their computer crashed or they lost internet connectivity during the exam. While this could be true, it could also be a ploy to secure a reattempt to cheat.
The best exam software provide a save & resume option. Enabling save & resume will let the exam taker continue from where they left off so that they can’t correct their answers via a reattempt.
Watch: How to Choose the Best Exam Software
18. Ask for the Seat Number
Many classrooms or corporate training rooms have seat numbers assigned to each workstation. You can find exam takers’ seat numbers and compare the results of two people who sat next to each other to check if one of them has copied the answers.
19. Explicitly State the Rules and Test Instructions
You don’t want a situation where the exam taker claims ignorance on being caught cheating. To avoid such scenarios, you must give clear instructions on what is permitted during the exam, what is not, and what resources or websites are acceptable.
20. Create an Honor Code
Establishing an academic honor code can be a very effective way to motivate students to avoid cheating even when under pressure. You can even go so far as to ask exam takers to write an integrity pledge like “I pledge not to cheat during this assignment” or “I pledge that this is my original work.”
An honor code can make students feel like they’re part of a special community of learning-focused individuals. Such a system may also encourage students to report any academic dishonesty they notice to ensure a level playing field.
So, that was our list of cheating prevention methods. You can refer to it anytime you’re wondering, “how to stop cheating on tests” or “how do online exams prevent cheating?” Now let’s take a super-quick look at how you can conduct a secure, cheating-free online exam.
How to Create & Conduct a Secure Exam Online
Here’s the process for creating online exams and tests in six simple steps.
Step 1: Pick a template or start building from scratch
Step 2: Create questions or import them from a question library
Step 3: Configure scoring, time limits & other exam settings
Watch: How to Automate Exam Scoring & Grading
Step 4: Enable security and anti-cheating settings
Step 5: Automate and manage certification
Step 6: Share the exam via a secure link or a virtual classroom
Watch: How to Share an Exam
Easily Conduct Cheating-Free Exams
By now, you must have a good idea of how to prevent cheating in online exams. Each cheating prevention method mentioned above offers a level of security that can individually reduce cheating in online tests.
Using multiple ones in a single test will bring the possibility of cheating down to a minimum, whether you’re teaching students, training employees, or assessing candidates as part of your recruitment process.
Implementing these techniques and tips for preventing cheating is a breeze if you use an excellent online exam platform to build and conduct your exams.
ProProfs offers 100+ settings for exam security and customization and an easy-to-use interface. It also comes with a comprehensive resources library featuring 1 million+ ready-to-use and customizable questions covering almost every subject and topic, making secure testing easier than ever.
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