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How Common is Test Fraud

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Test fraud is the term for any activity that violates the rules of the assessment. It consists of cheating in assessments to secure a better score or stealing the content of the test to sell on to future candidates. But how big a problem is it?

This question isn’t an easy one to answer. For all kinds of reasons, it’s hard to measure the prevalence of cheating and content theft. Test fraud is ultimately an act of secrecy. It leaves little evidence behind it. There are significant variations across types of assessments, countries and cultures. And test sponsors are often tempted to play it down out of concern for their reputation.

Despite these challenges, there are two principal places where valuable data is available:

  1. Surveys of test-takers. People aren’t always honest in answering surveys, but these do provide useful data points.
  2. Statistical analysis which helps identify likely amounts of cheating.

This paper explores each of these areas and summarizes what we can learn from them.

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