In the wake of a recent cheating episode, the SAT and ACT exams will now require students to upload or mail in a photograph when they sign up for an exam. This photo will be printed on their admissions ticket, and on the roster at the test center. On test day, proctors will compare each test-taker’s photo ID with the photo provided at signup.

These changes, which school administrators had been advocating for years, will go into effect beginning this fall. In addition, test-takers will be required to identify their high school, and their school will non-optionally receive their score – and the photo of the student who took the test.

The hope is that this will make it easier for people who know the students involved to spot “suspicious” scores. Fraudulent test-takers impersonating other students can travel outside their home areas, where presumably they won’t be as easily recognized as imposters.

Test-takers must also specify their gender and date of birth. Hopefully this will make it harder for opposite-sex imposters to take the test for students with “gender neutral” names, as happened in this most recent incident. Further, each test-taker will be asked to certify his or her identity, and to acknowledge the possibility of prosecution for impersonation.

And in what is perhaps the most significant change impacting legitimate test-takers, students will no longer be able to register for the test the day they take it. Students whose names don’t appear on the roster at the test center, or whose identification is insufficient or suspect, will not be allowed to sit for the exam.

But while all these measures will make it harder to impersonate another student, they cannot address other forms of cheating, such as sharing answers or copying. Indeed, it is likely that these kinds of cheating are far more prevalent than the comparatively rare instance of impersonation.

For example, the College Board (which administers the SAT) investigates about 2,500 suspicious scores annually – a tiny percentage of the 2+ million scores – and “withholds” approximately 1,000 from being sent to colleges. The testing services themselves do not directly accuse students of cheating. A sophisticated algorithm is used to look for patterns among the incorrect answers of students sitting next to each other. A big jump in scores from a previous test also raises a red flag.

So how can learning analytics help curb cheating on these high-stakes exams? Here are two ways I can think of:

One: By improving awareness of students’ true capabilities

Tutors, teachers, training centers and schools that work with learning analytics to improve student performance will have a good idea about each student’s strengths and weaknesses. As tutors and teachers help students practice and assess their performance, they’ll be better informed about the range a student’s score is likely to fall into. A significant jump above the success achieved in practice testing, whether on a section of the test or on the exam as a whole, could be indicative of a problem.

Two: By improving students’ confidence and performance

Kids presumably cheat on college entrance exams because there is so much pressure on them to succeed. Many undoubtedly feel that they’re not able to achieve enough based on their own abilities.

But what is the “best score” a given student can attain on the SAT or ACT? The purpose of learning analytics is to provide insight into specific strengths and weaknesses, so students can focus their energy on the right areas to maximize their success.

With the support of learning analytics, it’s possible that more students will develop confidence in their own abilities, and thus have less fear and doubt about standing behind their own score.

Did you ever consider, or witness, cheating on the SAT, ACT, PSAT or other standardized test? Please comment and join the discussion on this topic.

Featured image courtesy of karrierebibel.de.

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