Inspecting the security aspects of online entrance exams!

With the passage of time and enhanced technology, the traditional pen and paper based exam is getting replaced with online examination i.e. computer-based testing (CBT). Numerous organizations and institutions across the world have taken up the process of online entrance examination. However, the risks factor associated with hacking, cheating in the exam, and the test delivery procedures always hang exposed. Thus, this article will largely examine the security considerations connected with online entrance exams and will present some suggestions to enhance the security of such tests.

As a matter of fact, online entrance exams give an effective method to hold exams with reduced administrative cost. The majority of the entrance exams such as educational Institute exams, recruitment exams, and certification exams are now being held online. However, online entrance exam process needs to defeat the malpractices or illegal access to the information. Therefore, we should be more concerned about the security aspects during the online exams i.e. in simple words ‘Test Security’!

Online exam system has proved beneficial for both Examiner as well as Examinees

Nowadays, the top renowned institutes have begun to use the format of online examination, starting from registration of application to the online mode of payment. The various entrance exams that are being conducted online include the likes of Common Admission Test (CAT), Management Aptitude Test (MAT), JEE Main, BITSAT, VITEEE, and AIPGMEE amongst many other state or national level exams. Over the past few years, multiple factors have helped in developing the reputation of online exam.

The online exam eases the task of administration, instant display of results, improved identification and authentication, and much more. The advantages of the online exam include the pattern of MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) which is easy-to-use for preparing questions and evaluating results. Also, the examinees are able to change the answer with just a single click unlike in offline wherein it is difficult to change the answer once circled in OMR Sheet. Moreover, online exams do not require much expense as it reduces the cost of printing of question papers.

Moreover, mock tests are made available online for the candidates to get into the groove of practicing the online exam pattern. The online exams’ results are checked by a machine which ensures high-level accuracy. Furthermore, it offers flexibility to handle end to end process of the pattern of question paper till the processing of result. The online exams enable every student to receive random questions having the same exam pattern. Unlimited number of candidates can appear for the exam from different locations, hence the cost incurred is low.

Most importantly, the online exam can be organized in auto surveillance mode where web camera is connected to the computer; the system can take images of the student appearing for the exam at the same moment randomly. This enables to keep an eye on the student during exams.

Now, coming to the reality check, let us inspect the flip side of the security aspect of online entrance exams.

Probably, the offline leaked papers incidents urged the education authorities to turn from offline exams to online exams, for instance- the case of leaked paper of M. Phil, Ph.D. entrance exam and the case of leaked paper of Telangana EAMCET II 2016. Unfortunately, this change of mode hasn’t really helped as it was expected. Despite of all the beneficial aspects, a number of questions in the matter of administration standards, control over the testing processes, and security have been raised. Even though the Local Area Network (LAN) is supposed to make these entrance exams more secure, such exams still come across a lot of wrongdoings. Not to forget, the online exam can have limitations for subjective tests like drawing and diagrams etc.

In respect to some serious related issues, many incidents have already taken place and still continue to occur. Some of the incidents are as mentioned below-

To start with, as per the last month investigation by the Special Task Force, the UP Police Recruitment Board exam was canceled due to paper leak. These gangs are making a huge amount of money by ‘rigging’ most online examinations by leaking question papers as well as solving them through computers on remote access. These gangs have found a crack code in online entrance/recruitment exams. Adding more to such reports, AIIMS entrance exam (2017) paper for MBBS course was allegedly leaked on 28th May. Back in 2016, the Railway Recruitment Control Board (RRB) exam was rescheduled due to paper leak wherein 5.6M candidates appeared for the exam. RRB is the world’s biggest online exam, recorded in Guinness Book of World Records.

All the above-mentioned incidents reveal that the online exams haven’t been adopted well and the whole process is still lacking important security attributes. The education departments are still vulnerable to become the victims of the online hacking and malpractices. So, it’s time to realize that some serious actions are needed to be taken to make the entrance exam process more secure.

To curb the issues, security measures such as Safe Exam Browser for iOS and windows have been released to reduce the flaws of online entrance exams. SEB for example opens a web browser without search bar, a pre-configured web page gets loaded and locks into a single app kiosk mode. This kiosk mode is made to provide a high level of security. Students are unable to switch to other apps or access other sites or communicate with other students during an examination. Everything else is blocked!

Image credit: ePravesh.com

In the near future it is expected that the authorities might come up with an approach that includes the examinee’s fingerprint scan to control the wrong conduct during the online exams. In order to get additional security, the approach could put off the examinees from having someone else appearing for the exam on his/her behalf. Likewise, a multimodal biometric approach shall be used that includes a combination of fingerprint and mouse technique. The main aim of the approach is to restrict the malpractices during the exam.

Internet tests, particularly when unprotected, are more exposed to piracy and data hacks. The organizations and universities are more worried than ever about preserving the security of the received data from applicants but also protecting the online stored test materials. The security threats are to be reduced on urgent basis.

The need of the hour is that the officials come up with the solution such as enhanced Security Control system in the Online Exam which is based on group cryptography with an e-monitoring scheme. The cryptography enhances security control for the online exam process and authentication. The authorities need to improve the infrastructure and initiate strict measures to ensure the fair functioning of online entrance exams in the years to come.

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