posted on May 07, 2020 09:02
In response to the closure of many secure testing centers, some examination programs have made the transition to “remote-proctored” administration. In brief, remote proctoring allows examination candidates to take a test outside of a test center, in an environment such as their home, office, or at school. In general, exam proctors use the examinee’s webcam, speakers, and microphone to verify the candidate’s identity, communicate the administration procedures with the candidate, and ensure (to the extent possible) that the candidate is not accessing unauthorized materials. Typically, remote proctors monitor more than one testing session concurrently.
Cheating and the NPTE
The NPTE is a high-stakes exam: candidates who pass have completed one critical step in obtaining a credential to practice physical therapy and have demonstrated the requisite knowledge and skills to safely practice physical therapy. Although only a small number of NPTE candidates attempt to cheat on the examination, the consequences of cheating are enormous from a cost and public protection perspective.
Enhancing test security often comes with a tradeoff in terms of examinee convenience. The NPTE is no exception. In 2009, the NPTE experienced a substantial exam security incident that prompted a group of physical therapy community stakeholders at the 2011 NPTE Summit to recommend the adoption of fixed date testing and more stringent eligibility policies. Stakeholders represented at the NPTE Summit included members of state physical therapy boards, APTA, CAPTE, and physical therapy educators.
Although fixed date testing and other security measures, such as drastically reducing the re-use of items across test forms, have decreased the incidence of apparent cheating dramatically, FSBPT and Prometric still see attempts to cheat on the NPTE. In recent years, for example, candidates have attempted to sneak materials in or out of a Prometric test center, access unauthorized items while on breaks, or post recalled content to the internet.
Given this experience, FSBPT is unable to state with confidence that scores from a remote-proctored administration would be as trustworthy as scores from an in-person administration of the NPTE. Further, allowing NPTE content to be available in an uncontrolled environment increases the risk of item harvesting dramatically. There is no way to ensure each candidate’s testing environment is secure.
Legal and Fairness to All Candidates
We must also consider fairness and legal issues. At this time, we do not administer the NPTE outside of the US and Canada. If we allow candidates outside the United States to access the exam through remote proctoring, we would likely not have the protections that US and Canadian copyright law affords. The NPTE also provides a number of testing accommodations to candidates who require them. We would need to ensure that any system we used was capable of administering the NPTE with standard accommodations or that an alternate plan is in place.
Fairness concerns are also relevant when we consider whether all candidates will be equally able to access the NPTE if it is remote-proctored. Candidates must be able to access a minimal level of technology—a stable and secure internet connection, a webcam or mobile device that meets acceptable video standards, and a place to take the exam that is relatively free of distractions. And FSBPT would need policies in place that would address instances where we approved an administration, but it ultimately did not meet the standards for a secure administration: what happens if the testing environment is interrupted by a family member, friend, or co-worker? What happens if the candidate’s internet connection goes down or they lose a video connection?
Practical Challenges to Remote Proctoring
From a practical perspective, remote proctoring is unlikely to be a realistic solution to candidate displacements in the near term. Transitioning the NPTE to a remote delivery platform would require gathering input from stakeholders, contracting with a delivery provider, and ironing out a host of technical details such as ensuring the representation of graphic items is accurate, the timing is comparable, and the delivery platform works well on many devices. We would also need to work out administration scripts for things like identification verification and protocols for responding to examination security violations. Even working with our peers and delivery partners that would allow us to make use of existing scripts, protocols, and systems, these issues would take a great deal of time to work out to the extent suitable for a high-stakes test.
Because remote proctoring is not a “flip the switch” solution, resource allocation is another practical consideration. Right now, FSBPT is devoting a great deal of resources to working with Prometric to get as many candidates scheduled in existing testing centers as possible. In our judgment, taking resources away from that effort, both from FSBPT’s side as well as Prometric’s side, is unlikely to yield positive results.