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attached file : AAPBS article_enewsletter_GRE_at_home_safety_RayN_May2021.docx

Feel Safe While Taking the GRE® General Test at Home

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused millions of students to rethink their higher education plans. But while students pursuing a foreign degree may have suffered a setback in the short term, aspirations for better job prospects, cultural experiences and new life opportunities continue to attract students. As nations begin undergoing mass COVID-vaccination campaigns, institutions worldwide should expect an influx of international applicants, causing a spike in the global education landscape. To avoid losing out on an offer of admission to their desired school, students interested in studying abroad must plan ahead, ensure they meet program requirements, and complete and score well on a standardized admissions test to give them the edge.

A standardized test is a requirement for admissions to many graduate programs abroad and a high score on a well-accepted and credible test can help one stand out among other students. Moreover, the process of preparing for a standardized test also helps prepare one for graduate-level coursework. The GRE® General Test, for example, measures a student’s critical thinking skills and assists graduate admissions committees worldwide in determining which applicants are best suited for their programs. 

The test assesses students’ verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to determine their academic preparedness for graduate-level study, including STEM and business programs. To maintain confidence in the GRE test’s utility by top-tier programs and universities, the test sustains a trusted level of integrity.

For years, ETS — the company that develops and administers the GRE test — has prioritized test security by implementing the highest standards in test design, delivery and posttest analysis. The content and administration of the GRE General Test are developed by experts with fraud prevention in mind so that test takers and institutional score users can feel confident in the integrity and validity of GRE scores.

When the pandemic closed test centers worldwide, a ubiquitous demand by prospective graduate students for a virtual GRE test solution surfaced since critical admission deadlines were still looming. In response to this demand, ETS was the first in the industry to deliver a remotely proctored test solution in collaboration with industry leader, ProctorU®, to make the GRE General Test available to test takers from the safety of their homes. With test centers open in the region, students have the option to test at a center or at home — wherever they think they’ll do their best.

But how does ETS ensure that people are provided with a convenient, flexible and safe option for testing in the privacy of their homes without cheating the system? 
For this, ETS has extensive experience modernizing assessment formats and developed a robust security mechanism to deal with any nefarious activities intended to game the system. The ETS Office of Testing Integrity is constantly addressing attempts by those trying to gain unfair advantages and maintains test security and integrity through real-time human monitoring supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, security investigations, audits and dedicated score validity-assurance practices. As such, ETS has been successful in invalidating the scores of those who attempt improper testing behaviors and is therefore confident in score validity worldwide. Here are some examples of GRE at home test security measures applied by ETS: 

Identity Verification
Test takers’ identities are verified prior to their taking the exam by the proctor. Specifically, test takers’ photos are matched against their official, government-issued identification. AI is used to ensure that the same test taker remains in their seat during the entirety of the exam and to guard from a second person entering the room. What’s more, ETS uses voice biometrics to match a test taker’s voice to recordings on file to prevent cheating and identify potential impersonation cases.

Environmental Scanning
Remote proctors conduct thorough reviews of testing spaces prior to an exam session using a webcam to ensure test takers are alone and without any devices or materials that can be used for cheating. ProctorU staff diligently monitor the live connection for unusual or suspicious behavior. The exam session is also available for ETS experts to watch live or as a recording should any questions arise about the test administration and require review. Additionally, proctors scan test takers’ devices for software and browsers left open or operating on the computer to ensure that unpermitted programs are not actively running in the background during the exam session.

Artificial Intelligence
Proctors are supported by AI and process data that continuously scans for irregularities, reinforcing and advancing the proctor’s oversight. The proctor has full visual access of both a test taker’s screen and the test taker themselves via webcam. Immediate test cancellation can occur if the proctor observes such behaviors as the test taker attempting to gain an unfair advantage, opening a new browser, the use of unpermitted software or devices, or communication with others occurs during the test. Test takers who violate ETS security standards may have their scores withheld, canceled, and/or will be banned from taking any ETS test in the future.

Process Data Analysis
Experts in the ETS Research & Development division collect and analyze all testing activity and process data from each test session to identify patterns or deviations that may indicate suspicious behavior. This data is critical to maintaining test reliability and understanding test-taker behavior that enables ETS to continue to employ regular updates to its privacy and security processes and technology.

Since the launch of the a -home tests more than nine months ago, hundreds of thousands of test takers globally have registered for ETS’s at home assessments. As students continue to seek advanced degrees, the GRE test remains a pivotal step in their educational and professional journeys. The GRE tests at home follow the same examination procedures as in-person testing centers, and any endeavor to manipulate results, including fraudulent activity, is immediately detected, investigated and redressed to inspire confidence in the credibility of GRE scores among test takers and institutions worldwide. 

Ray Nicosia is the Executive Director of the Office of Testing Integrity at ETS.™ETS and GRE are registered trademarks of ETS in the United States and other countries.


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