Equation editor item type

Technology-enhanced items are assessment items (questions) that utilize technology to improve the interaction of a test question in digital assessment, over and above what is possible with paper.  Tech-enhanced items can improve examinee engagement (important with K12 assessment), assess complex concepts with higher fidelity, improve precision/reliability, and enhance face validity/sellability. 

To some extent, the last word is the key one; tech-enhanced items simply look sexier and therefore make an assessment platform easier to sell, even if they don’t actually improve assessment.  I’d argue that there are also technology-enabled items, which are distinct, as discussed below.

What is the goal of technology enhanced items?

The goal is to improve assessment, by increasing things like reliability/precision, validity, and fidelity. However, there are a number of TEIs that is actually designed more for sales purposes than psychometric purposes. So, how to know if TEIs improve assessment?  That, of course, is an empirical question that is best answered with an experiment.  But let me suggest one metric address this question: how far does the item go beyond just reformulating a traditional item format to use current user-interface technology?  I would define the reformulating of traditional format to be a fake TEI while going beyond would define a true TEI.

An alternative nomenclature might be to call the reformulations technology-enhanced items and the true tech usage to be technology-enabled items (Almond et al, 2010; Bryant, 2017), as they would not be possible without technology.

A great example of this is the relationship between a traditional multiple response item and certain types of drag and drop items.  There are a number of different ways that drag and drop items can be created, but for now, let’s use the example of a format that asks the examinee to drag text statements into a box. 

An example of this is K12 assessment items from PARCC that ask the student to read a passage, then ask questions about it.

drag drop sequence

The item is scored with integers from 0 to K where K is the number of correct statements; the integers are often then used to implement the generalized partial credit model for final scoring.  This would be true regardless of whether the item was presented as multiple response vs. drag and drop. The multiple response item, of course, could just as easily be delivered via paper and pencil. Converting it to drag and drop enhances the item with technology, but the interaction of the student with the item, psychometrically, remains the same.

Some True TEIs, or Technology Enabled Items

Of course, the past decade or so has witnessed stronger innovation in item formats. Gamified assessments change how the interaction of person and item is approached, though this is arguably not as relevant for high stakes assessment due to concerns of validity. There are also simulation items. For example, a test for a construction crane operator might provide an interface with crane controls and ask the examinee to complete a tasks. Even at the K-12 level there can be such items, such as the simulation of a science experiment where the student is given various test tubes or other instruments on the screen.

Both of these approaches are extremely powerful but have a major disadvantage: cost. They are typically custom-designed. In the case of the crane operator exam or even the science experiment, you would need to hire software developers to create this simulation. There are now some simulation-development ecosystems that make this process more efficient, but the items still involve custom authoring and custom scoring algorithms.

To address this shortcoming, there is a new generation of self-authored item types that are true TEIs. By “self-authored” I mean that a science teacher would be able to create these items themselves, just like they would a multiple choice item. The amount of technology leveraged is somewhere between a multiple choice item and a custom-designed simulation, providing a compromise of reduced cost but still increasing the engagement for the examinee. A major advantage of this approach is that the items do not need custom scoring algorithms, and instead are typically scored via point integers, which enables the use of polytomous item response theory.

Are we at least moving forward?  Not always!

There is always pushback against technology, and in this topic the counterexample is the gridded item type.  It actually goes in reverse of innovation, because it doesn’t take a traditional format and reformulate it for current UI. It actually ignores the capabilities of current UI (actually, UI for the past 20+ years) and is therefore a step backward. With that item type, students are presented a bubble sheet from a 1960s style paper exam, on a computer screen, and asked to fill in the bubbles by clicking on them rather than using a pencil on paper.

Another example is the EBSR item type from the artist formerly known as PARCC. It was a new item type that intended to assess deeper understanding, but it did not use any tech-enhancement or -enablement, instead asking two traditional questions in a linked manner. As any psychometrician can tell you, this approach ignored basic assumptions of psychometrics, so you can guess the quality of measurement that it put out.

How can I implement TEIs?

It takes very little software development expertise to develop a platform that supports multiple choice items. An item like the graphing one above, though, takes substantial investment. So there are relatively few platforms that can support these, especially with best practices like workflow item review or item response theory. 

parcc ebsr items

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of US States working together to develop educational assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards.  This is a daunting task, and PARCC is doing an admirable job, especially with their focus on utilizing technology.  However, one of the new item types has a serious psychometric fault that deserves a caveat with regards to scoring and validation.

What is an Evidence-Based Selected-­Response (EBSR) question?

The item type is an “Evidence-Based Selected-­Response” (PARCC EBSR) item format, commonly called a Part A/B item or Two-Part item.  The goal of this format is to delve deeper into student understanding, and award credit for deeper knowledge while minimizing the impact of guessing.  This is obviously an appropriate goal for assessment.  To do so, the item is presented as two parts to the student, where the first part asks a simple question and the second part asks for supporting evidence to their answer in Part A.  Students must answer Part A correctly to receive credit on Part B.  As described on the PARCC website:

In order to receive full credit for this item, students must choose two supporting facts that support the adjective chosen for Part A. Unlike tests in the past, students may not guess on Part A and receive credit; they will only receive credit for the details they’ve chosen to support Part A.

How EBSR items are scored

While this makes sense in theory, it leads to problem in data analysis, especially if using Item Response Theory (IRT). Obviously, this violates the fundamental assumption of IRT: local independence (items are not dependent on each other).  So when working with a client of mine, we decided to combine it into one multi-point question, which matches the theoretical approach PARCC EBSR items are taking.  The goal was to calibrate the item with Muraki’s Generalized Partial Credit Model (GPCM), which is the standard approach used to analyze polytomous items in K12 assessment (learn more here).  The GPCM tries to order students based on the points they earn: 0 point students tend to have the lowest ability, 1 point students of moderate ability, and 2 point students are of the highest ability.  Should be obvious, right?  Nope.

The first thing we noticed was that some point levels had very small sample sizes.  Suppose that Part A is 1 point and Part B is 1 point (select two evidence pieces but must get both).  Most students will get 0 points or 2 points.  Not many will receive 1 point.  We thought about it, and realized that the only way to earn 1 point is to guess Part A but select no correct evidence or only select one evidence point.  This leads to issues with the GPCM.

Using the Generalized Partial Credit Model

Even when there was sufficient N at each level, we found that the GPCM had terrible fit statistics, meaning that the item was not performing according to the model described above.  So I ran  Iteman, our classical analysis software, to obtain quantile plots that approximate the polytomous IRFs without imposing the GPCM modeling.  I found that in the 0-2 point items tend to have the issue where not many students get 1 point, and moreover the line for them is relatively flat.  The GPCM assumes that it is relatively bell-shaped.  So the GPCM is looking for where the drop-offs are in the bell shape, crossing with adjacent CRFs – the thresholds – and they aren’t there.  The GPCM would blow up, usually not even estimating thresholds in correct ordering.


So I tried to think of this from a test development perspective.  How do students get 1 point on these PARCC EBSR items?  The only way to do so is to get Part A right but not Part B.  Given that Part B is the reason for Part A, this means this group is students who answer Part A correctly but don’t know the reason, which means they are guessing.  It is then no surprise that the data for 1-point students is in a flat line – it’s just like the c parameter in the 3PL.  So the GPCM will have an extremely tough time estimating threshold parameters.

Why EBSR items don’t work

From a psychometric perspective, point levels are supposed to represent different levels of ability.  A 1-point student should be higher ability than a 0-point student on this item, and a 2-point student of higher ability than a 1-point student.  This seems obvious and intuitive.  But this item, by definition, violates the idea that a 1-point student should have higher ability than a 0-point student.  The only way to get 1 point is to guess the first part – and therefore not know the answer and are no different than the 0-point examinees whatsoever.  So of course the 1-point results look funky here.

The items were calibrated as two separate dichotomous items rather than one polytomous item, and the statistics turned out much better.  This still violates the IRT assumption but at least produces usable IRT parameters that can score students.  Nevertheless, I think the scoring of these items needs to be revisited so that the algorithm produces data which is able to be calibrated in IRT.

The entire goal of test items is to provide data points used to measure students; if the Evidence-Based Selected-­Response item type is not providing usable data, then it is not worth using, no matter how good it seems in theory!


Scaling is a psychometric term regarding the establishment of a score metric for a test, and it often has two meanings. First, it involves defining the method to operationally scoring the test, establishing an underlying scale on which people are being measured.  A common example is the T-score, which transforms raw scores into a standardized scale with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10, making it easier to compare results across different populations or test forms.  It also refers to score conversions used for reporting scores, especially conversions that are designed to carry specific information.  The latter is typically called scaled scoring.

Examples of Scaling

You have all been exposed to this type of scaling, though you might not have realized it at the time. Most high-stakes tests like the ACT, SAT, GRE, and MCAT are reported on scales that are selected to convey certain information, with the actual numbers selected more or less arbitrarily. The SAT and GRE have historically had a nominal mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100, while the ACT has a nominal mean of 18 and standard deviation of 6. These are actually the same scale, because they are nothing more than a converted z-score (standard or zed score), simply because no examinee wants to receive a score report that says you got a score of -1. The numbers above were arbitrarily selected, and then the score range bounds were selected based on the fact that 99% of the population is within plus or minus three standard deviations. Hence, the SAT and GRE range from 200 to 800 and the ACT ranges from 0 to 36. This leads to the urban legend of receiving 200 points for writing your name correctly on the SAT; again, it feels better for the examinee. A score of 300 might seem like a big number and 100 points above the minimum, but it just means that someone is in the 3rd percentile.

Now, notice that I said “nominal.” I said that because the tests do not actually have those means observed in samples, because the samples have substantial range restriction. Because these tests are only taken by students serious about proceeding to the next level of education, the actual sample is of higher ability than the population. The lower third or so of high school students usually do not bother with the SAT or ACT. So many states will have an observed average ACT of 21 and standard deviation of 4. This is an important issue to consider in developing any test. Consider just how restricted the population of medical school students is; it is a very select group.

How can I select a score scale?


For various reasons, actual observed scores from tests are often not reported, and only converted scores are reported.  If there are multiple forms which are being equated, scaling will hide the fact that the forms differ in difficulty, and in many cases, differ in cutscore.  Scaled scores can facilitate feedback.  They can also help the organization avoid explanations of IRT scoring, which can be a headache to some.

When deciding on the conversion calculations, there are several important questions to consider.

First, do we want to be able to make fine distinctions among examinees? If so, the range should be sufficiently wide. My personal view is that the scale should be at least as wide as the number of items; otherwise you are voluntarily giving up information. This in turn means you are giving up variance, which makes it more difficult to correlate your scaled scores with other variables, like the MCAT is correlated with success in medical school. This, of course, means that you are hampering future research – unless that research is able to revert back to actual observed scores to make sure all information possible is used. For example, supposed a test with 100 items is reported on a 5-point grade scale of A-B-C-D-F. That scale is quite restricted, and therefore difficult to correlate with other variables in research. But you have the option of reporting the grades to students and still using the original scores (0 to 100) for your research.

Along the same lines, we can swing completely in the other direction. For many tests, the purpose of the test is not to make fine distinctions, but only to broadly categorize examinees. The most common example of this is a mastery test, where the examinee is being assessed on their mastery of a certain subject, and the only possible scores are pass and fail. Licensure and certification examinations are an example. An extension of this is the “proficiency categories” used in K-12 testing, where students are classified into four groups: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. This is used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Again, we see the care taken for reporting of low scores; instead of receiving a classification like “nonmastery” or “fail,” the failures are given the more palatable “Below Basic.”

Another issue to consider, which is very important in some settings but irrelevant in others, is vertical scaling. This refers to the chaining of scales across various tests that are at quite different levels. In education, this might involve linking the scales of exams in 8th grade, 10th grade, and 12th grade (graduation), so that student progress can be accurately tracked over time. Obviously, this is of great use in educational research, such as the medical school process. But for a test to award a certification in a medical specialty, it is not relevant because it is really a one-time deal.

Lastly, there are three calculation options: pure linear (ScaledScore = RawScore * Slope + Intercept), standardized conversion (Old Mean/SD to New Mean/SD), and nonlinear approaches like Equipercentile.

Perhaps the most important issue is whether the scores from the test will be criterion-referenced or norm-referenced. Often, this choice will be made for you because it distinctly represents the purpose of your tests. However, it is quite important and usually misunderstood, so I will discuss this in detail.

Criterion-Referenced vs. Norm-Referenced


This is a distinction between the ways test scores are used or interpreted. A criterion-referenced score interpretation means that the score is interpreted with regards to defined content, blueprint, or curriculum (the criterion), and ignores how other examinees perform (Bond, 1996). A classroom assessment is the most common example; students are scored on the percent of items correct, which is taken to imply the percent of the content they have mastered. Conversely, a norm-referenced score interpretation is one where the score provides information about the examinee’s standing in the population, but no absolute (or ostensibly absolute) information regarding their mastery of content. This is often the case with non-educational measurements like personality or psychopathology. There is no defined content which we can use as a basis for some sort of absolute interpretation. Instead, scores are often either z-scores or some linear function of z-scores.  IQ is historically scaled with a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15.

It is important to note that this dichotomy is not a characteristic of the test, but of the test score interpretations. This fact is more apparent when you consider that a single test or test score can have several interpretations, some of which are criterion-referenced and some of which are norm-referenced. We will discuss this deeper when we reach the topic of validity, but consider the following example. A high school graduation exam is designed to be a comprehensive summative assessment of a secondary education. It is therefore specifically designed to cover the curriculum used in schools, and scores are interpreted within that criterion-referenced context. Yet scores from this test could also be used for making acceptance decisions at universities, where scores are only interpreted with respect to their percentile (e.g., accept the top 40%). The scores might even do a fairly decent job at this norm-referenced application. However, this is not what they are designed for, and such score interpretations should be made with caution.

Another important note is the definition of “criterion.” Because most tests with criterion-referenced scores are educational and involve a cutscore, a common misunderstanding is that the cutscore is the criterion. It is still the underlying content or curriculum that is the criterion, because we can have this type of score interpretation without a cutscore. Regardless of whether there is a cutscore for pass/fail, a score on a classroom assessment is still interpreted with regards to mastery of the content.  To further add to the confusion, Industrial/Organizational psychology refers to outcome variables as the criterion; for a pre-employment test, the criterion is typically Job Performance at a later time.

This dichotomy also leads to some interesting thoughts about the nature of your construct. If you have a criterion-referenced score, you are assuming that the construct is concrete enough that anybody can make interpretations regarding it, such as mastering a certain percentage of content. This is why non-concrete constructs like personality tend to be only norm-referenced. There is no agreed-upon blueprint of personality.

Multidimensional Scaling

camera lenses for multidimensional item response theory

An advanced topic worth mentioning is multidimensional scaling (see Davison, 1998). The purpose of multidimensional scaling is similar to factor analysis (a later discussion!) in that it is designed to evaluate the underlying structure of constructs and how they are represented in items. This is therefore useful if you are working with constructs that are brand new, so that little is known about them, and you think they might be multidimensional. This is a pretty small percentage of the tests out there in the world; I encountered the topic in my first year of graduate school – only because I was in a Psychological Scaling course – and have not encountered it since.

Summary of test scaling

Scaling is the process of defining the scale that on which your measurements will take place. It raises fundamental questions about the nature of the construct. Fortunately, in many cases we are dealing with a simple construct that has a well-defined content, like an anatomy course for first-year medical students. Because it is so well-defined, we often take criterion-referenced score interpretations at face value. But as constructs become more complex, like job performance of a first-year resident, it becomes harder to define the scale, and we start to deal more in relatives than absolutes. At the other end of the spectrum are completely ephemeral constructs where researchers still can’t agree on the nature of the construct and we are pretty much limited to z-scores. Intelligence is a good example of this.

Some sources attempt to delineate the scaling of people and items or stimuli as separate things, but this is really impossible as they are so confounded. Especially since people define item statistics (the percent of people that get an item correct) and items define people scores (the percent of items a person gets correct). It is for this reason that item response theory, the most advanced paradigm in measurement theory, was designed to place items and people on the same scale. It is also for this reason that item writing should consider how they are going to be scored and therefore lead to person scores. But because we start writing items long before the test is administered, and the nature of the construct is caught up in the scale, the issues presented here need to be addressed at the very beginning of the test development cycle.

Test preparation for a high-stakes exam can be a daunting task, as obtaining degrees, certifications, and other significant achievements can accelerate your career and present new opportunities to learn in your chosen field of study. It’s a pivotal step towards advancing your career and demonstrating your expertise in a specific field. However, achieving success in your exam requires more than just diligent study: one must also incorporate strategies that can address their unique needs to study effectively. In this article, we will explore ten essential strategies to aid in preparing for your exam.

Also, remember that this test serves an important purpose.  If it is certification/licensure, it is designed to protect the public, ensuring that only qualified professionals work in the field.  If it is a pre-employment test, it is designed to predict job performance and fit in the organization – both to make the organization more efficient, and to help ensure you have the opportunity to be successful.  Tests are not designed to be a personal hurdle to you!

Tips for Test Preparation

  1. Study Early, Study Regularly: To avoid the effects of procrastination, such as stress on the evening before the exam begins, begin your studies as soon as possible. By beginning your studies early, one can thoroughly review the material that will likely be on the exam, as well as identify topics that one may need assistance in reviewing. Also, creating a schedule will ensure thorough review of the material by making “chunks” to ensure the task of studying does not become overwhelming.  Research has shown that strategic test preparation will be more effective. Create a schedule to help manage the process.
  2. student exam help test preparationCreate Organized Notes: Gather your materials, including notes prepared in class, textbooks, and any other helpful materials. If possible, organize your notes by topic, chapter, date, or any other method that will make the material easier for you to understand. Make use of underlining or highlighting relevant sections to facilitate faster review times in the future and to better retain the information you are reviewing.
  3. Understand the Exam Format: Begin by familiarizing yourself with the exam’s format and structure. Understand the types of questions you’ll encounter, such as multiple-choice, essays, or practical demonstrations. Review the blueprints. Knowing what to expect will help you tailor your study plan accordingly and manage your time during the exam.
  4. Focus on Weak Areas: Identify your weaknesses early in the study process and prioritize them. Spend extra time reviewing challenging concepts and seeking clarification from instructors or peers if needed. Don’t neglect these areas in favor of topics you find easier, as they are likely to appear on the exam.
  5. Utilize Memory Aids: Memory aids can be incredibly helpful in associating relevant information with questions. Examples of memory aids include acronyms, such as the oft- promoted “PEMDAS” by teachers in learning the order-of-operations in mathematics, and story-writing to create context for, and/or association with, requisite material, such as the amount(s) and type(s) of force experienced on a particular amusement-park ride by attendees and how the associated formula should be applied.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the rules: Review the candidate handbook and other materials. Exams may differ in structure across varying subjects, incorporating stipulations such as essay-writing, image recognition, or passages to be read with corresponding questions. Familiarizing oneself with the grading weights and general structure of an exam can aid in allocating time to particular sections to study and/or practice for.
  7. Take care of yourself: It is essential that your physical and mental wellbeing is cared for while you are studying. Adequate sleep is essential both for acquiring new information and for reviewing previously-acquired information. Also, it is necessary to eat and drink regularly, and opportunities to do so should be included in your schedule. Exercise may also be beneficial in providing opportunities for relevant material to be reviewed, or as a break from your studies.
  8. Take practice tests: Practice is essential for exam success.  Many high-stakes exams offer a practice test, either through the test sponsor or through a third party, like these MCAT tests with Kaplan. Along with providing a further opportunity to review the content of the exam, practice tests can aid in identifying topics that one may need to further review, as well as increasing confidence for the exam-taker in their ability to pass the exam.  Practice exams simulate the test environment and help identify areas where you need improvement. Focus on both content knowledge and test-taking strategies to build confidence and reduce anxiety on exam day.
  9. Simulate Exam Conditions: To complete your test preparation, try to get as close as possible to the real thing.  Test yourself under a time-limit in a room similar to the exam room. Subtle factors such as room temperature or sound insulation may aid or distract one’s studies, so it may be helpful to simulate taking the exam in a similar environment.  Practice implementing your test-taking strategies, such as process of elimination for multiple-choice questions or managing your time effectively.
  10. Maintain a Positive Attitude: Remaining optimistic can improve one’s perceptions of their efforts, and their performance in the exam. Use mistakes as opportunities to improve oneself, rather than incidents to be recounted in the future. Maintaining an optimistic perspective can also help mitigate stress in the moments before one begins their exam.


Final Thoughts on Test Preparation

In conclusion, by incorporating these strategies into your test preparation routine, you’ll be better equipped to tackle your exam with confidence and competence. Remember that success is not just about how much you know but also how well you prepare. Stay focused, stay disciplined, and trust in your ability to succeed. Good luck!

Online proctoring software refers to platforms that proctor educational or professional assessments (exams or tests) when the proctor is not in the same room as the examinee. This means that it is done with a video stream or recording using a webcam and sometimes an additional device, which are monitored by a human and/or AI. It is also referred to as remote proctoring or invigilation. Online proctoring offers a compelling alternative to in-person proctoring, somewhere in between unproctored at-home tests and tests delivered at an expensive testing center in an office building. This makes it a perfect fit for medium-stakes exams, such as university placement, pre-employment screening, and many types of certification/licensure tests.

The Importance of Online Proctoring Software

Online proctoring software has become essential in maintaining the integrity and fairness of remote examinations. This technology enables educational institutions and certification bodies to administer tests securely, ensuring that the assessment process is free from cheating and other forms of malpractice. By using advanced features such as facial recognition, screen monitoring, and AI-driven behavior analysis, online proctoring software can detect and flag suspicious activities in real time, making it a reliable solution for maintaining academic standards.

Moreover, online proctoring software offers significant convenience and flexibility. Students and professionals can take exams from any location, reducing the need for physical test centers and making it easier for individuals in remote or underserved areas to access educational opportunities. This flexibility not only broadens access to education and certification but also saves time and resources for both test-takers and administrators. Additionally, the data collected during online proctored exams can provide valuable insights into test-taker behavior, helping organizations to refine their testing processes and improve overall assessment quality.

List of Online Proctoring Software Providers

Looking to evaluate potential vendors? Here is a great place to start.

# Name Website Country Proctor Service
1 Aiproctor https://www.aiproctor.com/ USA AI
2 Centre Based Test (CBT) https://www.conductexam.com/center-based-online-test-software/ India Live, Record and Review
3 Class in Pocket classinpocket.com (Website now defunct) India AI
4 Datamatics https://www.datamatics.com/industries/education-technology/proctoring/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
5 DigiProctor https://www.digiproctor.com/ India AI
6 Disamina https://disamina.in/ India AI
7 Examity https://www.examity.com/ USA Live
8 ExamMonitor https://examsoft.com/ USA Record and Review
9 ExamOnline https://examonline.in/remote-proctoring-solution-for-employee-hiring/ India AI, Live
10 Eduswitch https://eduswitch.com/ India AI
11 Examus https://examus.com/ Russia AI, Bring Your Own Proctor, Live
12 EasyProctor https://www.excelsoftcorp.com/products/assessment-and-proctoring-solutions/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
13 HonorLock https://honorlock.com/ USA AI, Record and Review
14 Internet Testing Systems https://www.testsys.com/ USA Bring your own proctor/td>
14 Invigulus https://www.invigulus.com/ USA AI, Live, Record and Review
15 Iris Invigilation https://www.irisinvigilation.com/ Australia AI
16 Mettl https://mettl.com/en/online-remote-proctoring/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
17 MonitorEdu https://monitoredu.com/proctoring/ USA Live
18 OnVUE https://home.pearsonvue.com/Test-takers/OnVUE-online-proctoring.aspx/ USA Live
19 Oxagile https://www.oxagile.com/competence/edtech-solutions/proctoring/ USA AI, Live, Record and Review
20 Parakh https://parakh.online/blog/remote-proctoring-ultimate-solution-for-secure-online-exam/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
21 ProctorFree https://www.proctorfree.com/ USA AI, Live
22 Proctor360 https://proctor360.com/ USA AI, Bring Your Own Proctor, Live, Record and Review
23 ProctorEDU https://proctoredu.com/ Russia AI, Live, Record and Review
24 ProctorExam https://proctorexam.com/ Netherlands Bring Your Own Proctor, Live, Record and Review
25 Proctorio https://proctorio.com/products/online-proctoring/ USA AI, Live
26 Proctortrack https://www.proctortrack.com/ USA AI, Live
27 ProctorU https://www.proctoru.com/ USA AI, Live, Record and Review
28 Proview https://www.proview.io/en/ USA AI, Live
29 PSI Bridge https://www.psionline.com/en-gb/platforms/psi-bridge/ USA Live, Record and Review
30 Respondus Monitor https://web.respondus.com/he/monitor/ USA AI, Live, Record and Review
31 Rosalyn https://www.rosalyn.ai/ USA AI, Live
32 SmarterProctoring https://smarterservices.com/smarterproctoring/ USA AI, Bring Your Own Proctor, Live
33 Sumadi https://sumadi.net/ Honduras AI, Live, Record and Review
34 Suyati https://suyati.com/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
35 TCS iON Remote Assessments https://www.tcsion.com/hub/remote-assessment-marking-internship/ India AI, Live
36 Think Exam https://www.thinkexam.com/remoteproctoring/ India AI, Live
37 uxpertise XP https://uxpertise.ca/en/uxpertise-xp/ Canada AI, Live, Record and Review
38 Proctor AI https://www.visive.ai/solutions/proctor-ai/ India AI, Live, Record and Review
39 Wise Proctor https://www.wiseattend.com/wise-proctor/ USA AI, Record and Review
40 Xobin https://xobin.com/online-remote-proctoring/ India AI
41 Youtestme https://www.youtestme.com/online-proctoring/ Canada AI, Live


Our recommendations for the best online proctoring software

ASC’s online assessment platforms are integrated with some of the leading remote proctoring software providers.

Type Vendors
Live MonitorEDU
AI Constructor, Proctor360, ProctorFree
Record and Review Constructor, Proctor360, ProctorFree
Bring Your Own Proctor Constructor, Proctor360


How do I select an online proctoring software?

First, you need to determine which type of proctoring you need. There are four levels of online proctoring; more detail on this later!

  1. Live: Professional proctors watch in real time
  2. Record and review: Video is recorded, and professional proctors watch later
  3. AI: Video is recorded, and analyzed with AI to look for flags like two faces
  4. Bring your own proctor: Same as the ones above, but YOU need to watch all the videos

There is a trade-off with costs here. Live proctoring with professionals can cost $30 to $100 or more, while AI proctoring can be as little as a few dollars. So, Live is usually used for high-stakes low-volume exams like Certification, while AI is better for low-stakes high-volume exams like university quizzes.

Next, evaluate some vendors to see which group they fall into; note that some vendors can do all of them! Then, ask for some demos so you understand the business processes involved and the UX on the examinee side, both of which could substantially impact the soft costs for your organization. Finally, start negotiating with the vendor you want!

What do I need? Two Distinct Markets

First, I would describe the online proctoring industry as actually falling into two distinct markets, so the first step is to determine which of these fits your organizationlaptop-desk-above

  1. Large scale, lower cost (when large scale), lower security systems designed to be used only as a plugin to major LMS platforms like Blackboard or Canvas. These systems are therefore designed for lower-stakes exams like an Intro to Psychology midterm at a university.
  2. Lower scale, higher cost, higher security systems designed to be used with standalone assessment platforms. These are generally for higher-stakes exams like certification or workforce, or perhaps special use at universities like Admissions and Placement exams.

How to tell the difference? The first type will advertise about easy integration with systems like Blackboard or Canvas as a key feature. They will also often focus on AI review of videos, rather than using real humans. Another key consideration is to look at the existing client base, which is often advertised.

Other ways that online proctoring software can differ

Screen capture: Some online proctoring providers have an option to record/stream the screen as well as the webcam. Some also provide the option to only do this (no webcam) for lower stakes exams.

Mobile phone as the second camera: Some newer platforms provide the option to easily integrate the examinee’s mobile phone as a second camera (third stream, if you include screen capture), which effectively operates as a human proctor. Examinees will be instructed to use the video to show under the table, behind the monitor, etc., before starting the exam. They then might be instructed to stand up the phone 2 meters away with a clear view of the entire room while the test is being delivered. This is in addition to the webcam.

API integrations: Some systems require software developers to set up an API integration with your LMS or assessment platform. Others are more flexible, and you can just log in yourself, upload a list of examinees, and you are all set.

On-Demand vs. Scheduled: Some platforms involve the examinee scheduling a time slot. Others are purely on-demand, and the examinee can show up whenever they are ready. MonitorEDU is a prime example of this: examinees show up at any time, present their ID to a live human, and are then started on the test immediately – no downloads/installs, no system checks, no API integrations, nothing.

What are the types of online proctoring?

There are many types of online proctoring software on the market, spread across dozens of vendors, especially new ones that sought to capitalize on the pandemic which were not involved with assessment before hand. With so many options, how can you more effectively select amongst the types of remote proctoring? There are four types of remote proctoring platforms, which can be adapted to a particular use case, sometimes varying between different tests in a single organization. ASC supports all four types, and partners with 5 different vendors to help provide the best solution to our clients. In descending order of security:

Approach What it entails for you What it entails for the candidate

Live with professional proctors

You register a set of examinees in FastTest, and tell us when they are to take their exams and under what rules.
We provide the relevant information to the proctors.
You send all the necessary information to your examinees.
The most secure of the types of remote proctoring.
Examinee goes to ascproctor.com, where they will initiate a chat with a proctor.
After confirmation of their identity and workspace, they are provided information on how to take the test.
The proctor then watches a video stream from their webcam as well as a phone on the side of the room, ensuring that the environment is secure. They do not see the screen, so your exam content is not exposed. They maintain exam invigilation continuously.
When the examinee is finished, they notify the proctor, and are excused.

Live, bring your own proctor (BYOP)

You upload examinees into FastTest, which will generate links.
You send relevant instructions and the links to examinees.
Your staff logs into the admin portal and awaits examinees.
Videos with AI flagging are available for later review if needed.
Examinee will click on a link, which launches the proctoring software.
An automated system check is performed.
The proctoring is launched.  Proctors ask the examinee to provide identity verification, then launch the test.
Examinee is watched on the webcam and screencast.  AI algorithms help to flag irregular behavior.
Examinee concludes the test

Record and Review (with option for AI)

You upload examinees into FastTest, which will generate links.
You send relevant instructions and the links to examinees.
After examinees take the test, your staff (or ours) logs into review all the videos and report on any issues.  AI will automatically flag irregular behavior, making your reviews more time-efficient.
Examinee will click on a link, which launches the proctoring software.
An automated system check is performed.
The proctoring is launched.  System asks the examinee to provide identity verification, then launch the test.
Examinee is recorded on the webcam and screencast.  AI algorithms help to flag irregular behavior.
Examinee concludes the test

AI only

You upload examinees into FastTest, which will generate links.
You send relevant instructions and the links to examinees.
Videos are stored for 1 month if you need to check any.
Examinee will click on a link, which launches the proctoring software.
An automated system check is performed.
The proctoring is launched.  System asks the examinee to provide identity verification, then launch the test.
Examinee is recorded on the webcam and screencast.  AI algorithms help to flag irregular behavior.
Examinee concludes the test


Some case studies for different types of exams

We’ve worked with all types of remote proctoring software, across many types of assessment:

  • ASC delivers high-stakes certification exams for a number of certification boards, in multiple countries, using the live proctoring with professional proctors. Some of these are available continuously on-demand, while others are on specific days where hundreds of candidates log in.
  • We partnered with a large university in South America, where their admissions exams were delivered using Bring Your Own Proctor, enabling them to drastically reduce costs by utilizing their own staff.
  • We partnered with a private company to provide AI-enhanced record-and-review proctoring for applicants, where ASC staff reviews the results and provides a report to the client.
  • We partner with an organization that delivers civil service exams for a country, and utilizes both unproctored and AI-only proctoring, differing across a range of exam titles.


More security: A better test delivery software

A good testing delivery platform will also come with its own functionality to enhance test security: randomization, automated item generation, computerized adaptive testing, linear-on-the-fly testing, professional item banking, item response theory scoring, scaled scoring, psychometric analytics, equating, lockdown delivery, and more. In the context of online proctoring, perhaps the most salient is the lockdown delivery. In this case, the test will completely take over the examinee’s computer and they can’t use it for anything else until the test is done.

LMS systems rarely include any of this functionality, because they are not needed for a midterm exam of Intro to Psychology. However, most assessments in the world that have real stakes – university admissions, certifications, workforce hiring, etc. – depend heavily on such functionality. It’s not just out of habit or tradition, either. Such methods are considered essential by international standards including AERA/APA/NCMA, ITC, and NCCA.


Want some more information?

Get in touch with us, we’d love to show you a demo or introduce you to partners!

Email solutions@assess.com.



Automated essay scoring (AES) is an important application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to the field of psychometrics and assessment.  In fact, it’s been around far longer than “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” have been buzzwords in the general public!  The field of psychometrics has been doing such groundbreaking work for decades.

So how does AES work, and how can you apply it?



What is automated essay scoring?

The first and most critical thing to know is that there is not an algorithm that “reads” the student essays.  Instead, you need to train an algorithm.  That is, if you are a teacher and don’t want to grade your essays, you can’t just throw them in an essay scoring system.  You have to actually grade the essays (or at least a large sample of them) and then use that data to fit a machine learning algorithm.  Data scientists use the term train the model, which sounds complicated, but if you have ever done simple linear regression, you have experience with training models.


There are three steps for automated essay scoring:

  1. Establish your data set. Begin by gathering a substantial collection of student essays, ensuring a diverse range of topics and writing styles. Each essay should be meticulously graded by human experts to create a reliable and accurate benchmark. This data set forms the foundation of your automated scoring system, providing the necessary examples for the machine learning model to learn from.
  2. Determine the features. Identify the key features that will serve as predictor variables in your model. These features might include grammar, syntax, vocabulary usage, coherence, structure, and argument strength. Carefully selecting these attributes is crucial as they directly impact the model’s ability to assess essays accurately. The goal is to choose features that are indicative of overall writing quality and are relevant to the scoring criteria.
  3. Train the machine learning model. Use the established data set and selected features to train your machine learning model. This involves feeding the graded essays into the model, allowing it to learn the relationship between the features and the assigned grades. Through iterative training and validation processes, the model adjusts its algorithms to improve accuracy. Continuous refinement and testing ensure that the model can reliably score new, unseen essays with a high degree of precision.


Here’s an extremely oversimplified example:

  • You have a set of 100 student essays, which you have scored on a scale of 0 to 5 points.
  • The essay is on Napoleon Bonaparte, and you want students to know certain facts, so you want to give them “credit” in the model if they use words like: Corsica, Consul, Josephine, Emperor, Waterloo, Austerlitz, St. Helena.  You might also add other Features such as Word Count, number of grammar errors, number of spelling errors, etc.
  • You create a map of which students used each of these words, as 0/1 indicator variables.  You can then fit a multiple regression with 7 predictor variables (did they use each of the 7 words) and the 5 point scale as your criterion variable.  You can then use this model to predict each student’s score from just their essay text.


Obviously, this example is too simple to be of use, but the same general idea is done with massive, complex studies.  The establishment of the core features (predictive variables) can be much more complex, and models are going to be much more complex than multiple regression (neural networks, random forests, support vector machines).

Here’s an example of the very start of a data matrix for features, from an actual student essay.  Imagine that you also have data on the final scores, 0 to 5 points.  You can see how this is then a regression situation.

Examinee Word Count i_have best_jump move and_that the_kids well
1 307 0 1 2 0 0 1
2 164 0 0 1 0 0 0
3 348 1 0 1 0 0 0
4 371 0 1 1 0 0 0
5 446 0 0 0 0 0 2
6 364 1 0 0 0 1 1


How do you score the essay?

If they are on paper, then automated essay scoring won’t work unless you have an extremely good software for character recognition that converts it to a digital database of text.  Most likely, you have delivered the exam as an online assessment and already have the database.  If so, your platform should include functionality to manage the scoring process, including multiple custom rubrics.  An example of our  FastTest platform  is provided below.



Some rubrics you might use:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Content
  • Style
  • Supporting arguments
  • Organization
  • Vocabulary / word choice


How do you pick the Features?

This is one of the key research problems.  In some cases, it might be something similar to the Napoleon example.  Suppose you had a complex item on Accounting, where examinees review reports and spreadsheets and need to summarize a few key points.  You might pull out a few key terms as features (mortgage amortization) or numbers (2.375%) and consider them to be Features.  I saw a presentation at Innovations In Testing 2022 that did exactly this.  Think of them as where you are giving the students “points” for using those keywords, though because you are using complex machine learning models, it is not simply giving them a single unit point.  It’s contributing towards a regression-like model with a positive slope.

In other cases, you might not know.  Maybe it is an item on an English test being delivered to English language learners, and you ask them to write about what country they want to visit someday.  You have no idea what they will write about.  But what you can do is tell the algorithm to find the words or terms that are used most often, and try to predict the scores with that.  Maybe words like “jetlag” or “edification” show up in students that tend to get high scores, while words like “clubbing” or “someday” tend to be used by students with lower scores.  The AI might also pick up on spelling errors.  I worked as an essay scorer in grad school, and I can’t tell you how many times I saw kids use “ludacris” (name of an American rap artist) instead of “ludicrous” when trying to describe an argument.  They had literally never seen the word used or spelled correctly.  Maybe the AI model finds to give that a negative weight.   That’s the next section!


How do you train a model?

bart model train

Well, if you are familiar with data science, you know there are TONS of models, and many of them have a bunch of parameterization options.  This is where more research is required.  What model works the best on your particular essay, and doesn’t take 5 days to run on your data set?  That’s for you to figure out.  There is a trade-off between simplicity and accuracy.  Complex models might be accurate but take days to run.  A simpler model might take 2 hours but with a 5% drop in accuracy.  It’s up to you to evaluate.

If you have experience with Python and R, you know that there are many packages which provide this analysis out of the box – it is a matter of selecting a model that works.


How effective is automated essay scoring?

Well, as psychometricians love to say, “it depends.”  You need to do the model fitting research for each prompt and rubric.  It will work better for some than others.  The general consensus in research is that AES algorithms work as well as a second human, and therefore serve very well in that role.  But you shouldn’t use them as the only score; of course, that’s impossible in many cases.

Here’s a graph from some research we did on our algorithm, showing the correlation of human to AES.  The three lines are for the proportion of sample used in the training set; we saw decent results from only 10% in this case!  Some of the models correlated above 0.80 with humans, even though this is a small data set.   We found that the Cubist model took a fraction of the time needed by complex models like Neural Net or Random Forest; in this case it might be sufficiently powerful.


Automated essay scoring results


How can I implement automated essay scoring without writing code from scratch?

There are several products on the market.  Some are standalone, some are integrated with a human-based essay scoring platform.  ASC’s platform for automated essay scoring is SmartMarq; click here to learn more.  It is currently in a standalone approach like you see below, making it extremely easy to use.  It is also in the process of being integrated into our online assessment platform, alongside human scoring, to provide an efficient and easy way of obtaining a second or third rater for QA purposes.

Want to learn more?  Contact us to request a demonstration.


SmartMarq automated essay scoring

AI in Education


Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to address some challenges that education deals with today, through innovation of teaching and learning processes. By applying AI in education technologies, educators can determine student needs more precisely, keep students more engaged, improve learning, and adapt teaching accordingly to boost learning outcomes. A process of utilizing AI in education started off from looking for a substitute for one-on-one tutoring in the 1970s and has been witnessing multiple improvements since then. This article will look at some of the latest AI developments used in education, their potential impact, and drawbacks they possess.

Application of AI

AI robot - AI in Education

Recently, a helping hand of AI technologies has permeated into all aspects of educational process. The research that has been going since 2009 shows that AI has been extensively employed in managing, instructing, and learning sectors. In management, AI tools are used to review and grade student assignments, sometimes they operate even more accurately than educators do. There are some AI-based interactive tools that teachers apply to build and share student knowledge. Learning can be enhanced through customization and personalization of content enabled by new technological systems that leverage machine learning (ML) and adaptability.

Below you may find a list of major educational areas where AI technologies are actively involved and that are worthy of being further developed.

Personalized learning This educational approach tailors learning trajectory to individual student needs and interests. AI algorithms analyze student information (e.g. learning style and performance) to create customized learning paths. Based on student weaknesses and strengths, AI recommends exercises and learning materials.  AI technologies are increasingly pivotal in online learning apps, personalizing education and making it more accessible to a diverse learner base.
Adaptive learning This approach does the same as personalized learning but in real-time stimulating learners to be engaged and motivated. ALEKS is a good example of an adaptive learning program.
Learning courses These are AI-powered online platforms that are designed for eLearning and course management, and enable learners to browse for specific courses and study with their own speed. These platforms offer learning activities in an increasing order of their difficulty aiming at ultimate educational goals. For instance, advanced Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Learning assistants/Teaching robots AI-based assistants can supply support and resources to learners upon request. They can respond to questions, provide personalized feedback, and guide students through learning content. Such virtual assistants might be especially helpful for learners who cannot access offline support.
Adaptive testing This mode of delivering tests means that each examinee will get to respond to specific questions that correspond to their level of expertise based on their previous responses. It is possible due to AI algorithms enabled by ML and psychometric methods, i.e. item response theory (IRT). You can get more information about adaptive testing from Nathan Thompson’s blog post.
Remote proctoring It is a type of software that allows examiners to coordinate an assessment process remotely whilst keeping confidentiality and preventing examinees from cheating. In addition, there can be a virtual proctor who can assist examinees in resolving any issues arisen during the process. The functionality of proctoring software can differ substantially depending on the stakes of exams and preferences of stakeholders. You can read more on this topic from the ASC’s blog here.
Test assembly Automated test assembly (ATA) is a widely used valid and efficient method of test construction based on either classical test theory (CTT) or item response theory (IRT). ATA lets you assemble test forms that are equivalent in terms of content distribution and psychometric statistics in seconds. ASC has designed TestAssembler to minimize a laborious and time-consuming process of form building.
Automated grading Grading student assignments is one of the biggest challenges that educators face. AI-powered grading systems automate this routine work reducing bias and inconsistencies in assessment results and increasing validity. ASC has developed an AI essay scoring system—SmartMarq. If you are interested in automated essay scoring, you should definitely read this post.
Item generation There are often cases when teachers are asked to write a bunch of items for assessment purposes, as if they are not busy with lesson planning and other drudgery. Automated item generation is very helpful in terms of time saving and producing quality items.
Search engine The time of libraries has sunk into oblivion, so now we mostly deal with huge search engines that have been constructed to carry out web searches. AI-powered search engines help us find an abundance of information; search results heavily depend on how we formulate our queries, choose keywords, and navigate between different sites. One of the biggest search engines so far is Google.
Chatbot Last but not least… Chatbots are software applications that employ AI and natural language processing (NLP) to make humanized conversations with people. AI-powered chatbots can provide learners with additional personalized support and resources. ChatGPT can truly be considered as the brightest example of a chatbot today.


Highlights of AI and challenges to address

ai chatbot - AI in Education

Today AI-powered functions revolutionize education, just to name a few: speech recognition, NLP, and emotion detection. AI technologies enable identifying patterns, building algorithms, presenting knowledge, sensing, making and following plans, maintaining true-to-life interactions with people, managing complex learning activities, magnifying human abilities in learning contexts, and supporting learners in accordance with their individual interests and needs. AI allows students to use handwriting, gestures or speech as input while studying or taking a test.

Along with numerous opportunities, AI-evolution brings some risks and challenges that should be profoundly investigated and addressed. While approaching utilization of AI in education, it is important to keep caution and consideration to make sure that it is done in a responsible and ethical way, and not to get caught up in the mainstream since some AI tools consult billions of data available to everyone on the web. Another challenge associated with AI is a variability in its performance: some functions are performed on a superior level (such as identifying patterns in data) but some of them are quite primitive (such as inability to support an in-depth conversation). Even though AI is very powerful, human beings still play a crucial role in verifying AI’s output to avoid plagiarism and falsification of information.



AI is already massively applied in education around the world. With the right guidance and frameworks in place, AI-powered technologies can help build more efficient and equitable learning experiences. Today we have an opportunity to witness how AI- and ML-based approaches contribute to development of individualized, personalized, and adaptive learning.

ASC’s CEO, Dr Thompson, presented several topics on AI at the 2023 ATP Conference in Dallas, TX. If you are interested in utilizing AI-powered services provided by ASC, please do not hesitate to contact us!



Miao, F., Holmes, W., Huang, R., & Zhang, H. (2021). AI and education: A guidance for policymakers. UNESCO.

Niemi, H., Pea, R. D., & Lu, Y. (Eds.). (2022). AI in learning: Designing the future. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-09687-7

gamification in learning and assessment

Gamification in assessment and psychometrics presents new opportunities for ways to improve the quality of exams. While the majority of adults perceive games with caution because of their detrimental effect on youngsters’ minds causing addiction, they can be extremely beneficial for learning and assessment if employed thoughtfully. Gamification does not only provide learners with multiple opportunities to learn in context, but also is instrumental in developing digital literacy skills that are highly necessary in modern times.


What is Gamification?

Gamification means that elements of games, such as point-scoring, team collaboration, competition, and prizes, are incorporated into processes that would not otherwise have them. For example, a software for managing a Sales team might incorporate points for the number of phone calls and emails, splitting the team into two “teams” to compete against each other on those points, and winning a prize at the end of the month. Such ideas can also be incorporated into learning and assessment. A student might get points for each module they complete correctly, and a badge for each test they pass to show mastery of a skill, which are then displayed on their profile in the learning system.


Gamification equals motivation?student exam help

It is a fact that learning is much more effective when learners are motivated. What can motivate learners, you might ask? Engagement comes first—that is the core of learning. Engaged learners grasp knowledge because they are interested in the learning process, the material itself, and they are curious about discovering more. In contrast, unengaged learners wait when a lesson ends.

A traditional educational process usually involves several lessons where students learn one unit, and at the end of this unit, they take a cumulative test that gauges their level of acquisition. This model usually provides minimum of context for learning throughout the unit, so learners are supposed just to learn and memorize things unless they are given a chance to succeed or fail on the test.

Gamification can change this approach. When lessons and tests are gamified, learners obtain an opportunity to learn in context and use their associations and imagination—they become participants of the process, not just executors of instructions. Incorporating AI technology can enhance engagement with personalized learning and real-time feedback.


Gamification: challenges and ways to overcome them

While gamified learning and assessment are very efficacious, they might be challenging for educators in terms of development and implementation. Below you may check some challenges and how they can be tackled.



More work Interactive lessons containing gamified elements demand more time and effort from educators, which is why overwhelmed with other obligations many of them give up and keep up with traditional style of teaching. However, if the whole team sets up the planning and preparations prior to starting a new unit, then there will be less work and less stress, respectively.
Preparation Gamified learning and assessment can be difficult for educators lacking creativity or not having any experience. Senior managers, like heads of departments, should take a leading position here: organize some courses and support their staff.
Distraction When developing gamified learning or assessment, it is important not to get distracted with fancy stuff and keep focused on the targeted learning objectives.
Individual needs Gamified learning and assessment cannot be unified, so educators will have to customize their materials to meet learner needs.


Gamified assessment

Psychometric tests have been evolving over time to provide more benefits to educators and learners, employers and candidates, and other stakeholders. Gamification is the next stage in the evolutionary process after having gained positive feedback from scientists and practitioners.

Gamified assessment is applied by human resources departments in the hiring process like psychometric tests evaluating candidate’s knowledge and skills. However, game-based assessment is quicker and more engaging than aptitude tests due to its user-friendly and interactive format. The latter features are also true for computerized adaptive testing (CAT), and I believe that these two can be complemented by each other to double the benefits provided.

There are several ways to incorporate gamification into assessment. Here are some ideas, but this is by no means exhaustive.



High fidelity items and/or assignments Instead of multiple choice items to ask about a task (e.g., operating a construction crane), create a simulation that is similar to a game.
Badging Candidates win badges for passing exams, which can be displayed places like their LinkedIn profile or email signature.
Points Obviously, most tests have “points” as part of the exam score, but it can be used in other ways, such as how many modules/quizzes you pass per month.
Teams Subdivide a class or other group into teams, and have them compete on other aspects.

Analyzing my personal experience, I remember how I used kahoot.it tool on my Math classes to interact with students and make them more engaged in the formative assessment activities. Students were highly motivated to take such tests because they were rewarding—it felt like competition and sometimes they got sweets. It was fun!



Obviously, gamified learning and assessment require more time and effort from creators than traditional non-gamified ones, but they are worthy. Both educators and learners are likely to benefit from this experience in different ways. If you are ready to apply gamified assessment by employing CAT technologies, our experts are ready to help. Contact us!


lock keyboard test security plan

A test security plan (TSP) is a document that lays out how an assessment organization address security of its intellectual property, to protect the validity of the exam scores.  If a test is compromised, the scores become meaningless, so security is obviously important.  The test security plan helps an organization anticipate test security issues, establish deterrent and detection methods, and plan responses.  It can also include validity threats not security-related, such as how to deal with examinees that have low motivation.  Note that it is not limited to delivery; it can often include topics like how to manage item writers.

Since the first tests were developed 2000 years ago for entry into the civil service of Imperial China, test security has been a concern.  The reason is quite straightforward: most threats to test security are also validity threats. The decisions we make with test scores could therefore be invalid, or at least suboptimal.  It is therefore imperative that organizations that use or develop tests should develop a TSP.

Why do we need a test security plan?

There are several reasons to develop a test security plan.  First, it drives greater security and therefore validity.  The TSP will enhance the legal defensibility of the testing program.  It helps to safeguard the content, which is typically an expensive investment for any organization that develops tests themselves.  If incidents do happen, they can be dealt with more swiftly and effectively.  It helps to manage all the security-related efforts.

The development of such a complex document requires a strong framework.  We advocate a framework with three phases: planning, implementation, and response.  In addition, the TSP should be revised periodically.

Phase 1: Planning

The first step in this phase is to list all potential threats to each assessment program at your organization.  This could include harvesting of test content, preknowledge of test content from past harvesters, copying other examinees, proxy testers, proctor help, and outside help.  Next, these should be rated on axes that are important to the organization; a simple approach would be to rate on potential impact to score validity, cost to the organization, and likelihood of occurrence.  This risk assessment exercise will help the remainder of the framework.

Next, the organization should develop the test security plan.  The first piece is to identify deterrents and procedures to reduce the possibility of issues.  This includes delivery procedures (such as a lockdown browser or proctoring), proctor training manuals, a strong candidate agreement, anonymous reporting pathways, confirmation testing, and candidate identification requirements.  The second piece is to explicitly plan for psychometric forensics. 

This can range from complex collusion indices based on item response theory to simple flags, such as a candidate responding to a certain multiple choice option more than 50% of the time or obtaining a score in the top 10% but in the lowest 10% of time.  The third piece is to establish planned responses.  What will you do if a proctor reports that two candidates were copying each other?  What if someone obtains a high score in an unreasonably short time? 

What if someone obviously did not try to pass the exam, but still sat there for the allotted time?  If a candidate were to lose a job opportunity due to your response, it helps you defensibility to show that the process was established ahead of time with the input of important stakeholders.

Phase 2: Implementation

The second phase is to implement the relevant aspects of the Test Security Plan, such as training all proctors in accordance with the manual and login procedures, setting IP address limits, or ensuring that a new secure testing platform with lockdown is rolled out to all testing locations.  There are generally two approaches.  Proactive approaches attempt to reduce the likelihood of issues in the first place, and reactive methods happen after the test is given.  The reactive methods can be observational, quantitative, or content-focused.  Observational methods include proctor reports or an anonymous tip line.  Quantitative methods include psychometric forensics, for which you will need software like SIFT.  Content-focused methods include automated web crawling.

Both approaches require continuous attention.  You might need to train new proctors several times per year, or update your lockdown browser.  If you use a virtual proctoring service based on record-and-review, flagged candidates must be periodically reviewed.  The reactive methods are similar: incoming anonymous tips or proctor reports must be dealt with at any given time.  The least continuous aspect is some of the psychometric forensics, which depend on a large-scale data analysis; for example, you might gather data from tens of thousands of examinees in a testing window and can only do a complete analysis at that point, which could take several weeks.

Phase 3: Response

The third phase, of course, to put your planned responses into motion if issues are detected.  Some of these could be relatively innocuous; if a proctor is reported as not following procedures, they might need some remedial training, and it’s certainly possible that no security breach occurred.  The more dramatic responses include actions taken against the candidate.  The most lenient is to provide a warning or simply ask them to retake the test.  The most extreme methods include a full invalidation of the score with future sanctions, such as a five-year ban on taking the test again, which could prevent someone from entering a profession for which they spent 8 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in educative preparation.

What does a test security plan mean for me?

It is clear that test security threats are also validity threats, and that the extensive (and expensive!) measures warrant a strategic and proactive approach in many situations.  A framework like the one advocated here will help organizations identify and prioritize threats so that the measures are appropriate for a given program.  Note that the results can be quite different if an organization has multiple programs, from a practice test to an entry level screening test to a promotional test to a professional certification or licensure.

Another important difference between test sponsors/publishers and test consumers.  In the case of an organization that purchases off-the-shelf pre-employment tests, the validity of score interpretations is of more direct concern, while the theft of content might not be an immediate concern.  Conversely, the publisher of such tests has invested heavily in the content and could be massively impacted by theft, while the copying of two examinees in the hiring organization is not of immediate concern.

In summary, there are more security threats, deterrents, procedures, and psychometric forensic methods than can be discussed in one blog post, so the focus here rather on the framework itself.  For starters, start thinking strategically about test security and how it impacts their assessment programs by using the multi-axis rating approach, then begin to develop a Test Security Plan.  The end goal is to improve the health and validity of your assessments.

Want to implement some of the security aspects discussed here, like online delivery lockdown browser, IP address limits, and proctor passwords?

Sign up for a free account in FastTest!

Multistage testing algorithm

Multistage testing (MST) is a type of computerized adaptive testing (CAT).  This means it is an exam delivered on computers which dynamically personalize it for each examinee or student.  Typically, this is done with respect to the difficulty of the questions, by making the exam easier for lower-ability students and harder for high-ability students.  Doing this makes the test shorter and more accurate while providing additional benefits.  This post will provide more information on multistage testing so you can evaluate if it is a good fit for your organization.

Already interested in MST and want to implement it?  Contact us to talk to one of our experts and get access to our powerful online assessment platform, where you can create your own MST and CAT exams in a matter of hours.


What is multistage testing?Multistage testing algorithm

Like CAT, multistage testing adapts the difficulty of the items presented to the student. But while adaptive testing works by adapting each item one by one using item response theory (IRT), multistage works in blocks of items.  That is, CAT will deliver one item, score it, pick a new item, score it, pick a new item, etc.  Multistage testing will deliver a block of items, such as 10, score them, then deliver another block of 10.

The design of a multistage test is often referred to as panels.  There is usually a single routing test or routing stage which starts the exam, and then students are directed to different levels of panels for subsequent stages.  The number of levels is sometimes used to describe the design; the example on the right is a 1-3-3 design.  Unlike CAT, there are only a few potential paths, unless each stage has a pool of available testlets.

As with item-by-item CAT, multistage testing is almost always done using IRT as the psychometric paradigm, selection algorithm, and scoring method.  This is because IRT can score examinees on a common scale regardless of which items they see, which is not possible using classical test theory.

To learn more about MST, I recommend this book.

Why multistage testing?

Item-by-item CAT is not the best fit for all assessments, especially those that naturally tend towards testlets, such as language assessments where there is a reading passage with 3-5 associated questions.

Multistage testing allows you to realize some of the well-known benefits of adaptive testing (see below), with more control over content and exposure.  In addition to controlling content at an examinee level, it also can make it easier to manage item bank usage for the organization.


How do I implement multistage testing?

1. Develop your item banks using items calibrated with item response theory

2. Assemble a test with multiple stages, defining pools of items in each stage as testlets

3. Evaluate the test information functions for each testlet

4. Run simulation studies to validate the delivery algorithm with your predefined testlets

5. Publish for online delivery

Our industry-leading assessment platform manages much of this process for you.  The image to the right shows our test assembly screen where you can evaluate the test information functions for each testlet.

Multistage testing


Benefits of multistage testing

There are a number of benefits to this approach, which are mostly shared with CAT.

  • Shorter exams: because difficulty is targeted, you waste less time
  • Increased security: There are many possible configurations, unlike a linear exam where everyone sees the same set of items
  • Increased engagement: Lower ability students are not discouraged, and high ability students are not bored
  • Control of content: CAT has some content control algorithms, but they are sometimes not sufficient
  • Supports testlets: CAT does not support tests that have testlets, like a reading passage with 5 questions
  • Allows for review: CAT does not usually allow for review (students can go back a question to change an answer), while MST does


Examples of multistage testing

MST is often used in language assessment, which means that it is often used in educational assessment, such as benchmark K-12 exams, university admissions, or language placement/certification.  One of the most famous examples is the Scholastic Aptitude Test from The College Board; it is moving to an MST approach in 2023.

Because of the complexity of item response theory, most organizations that implement MST have a full-time psychometrician on staff.  If your organization does not, we would love to discuss how we can work together.