How Secure is Your Exam? A Q&A with ICE Exchange Presenter Katie Gottwaldt

Katie Gottwaldt.jpgWhen was the last time you checked in on the security of your organization’s exams? As technology evolves, so do tactics of those trying to thwart efforts to keep tests and intellectual property as secure as possible.

At this year’s ICE Exchange, taking place in Austin, Texas, from Nov. 6-9, Katie Gottwaldt, director of certification for the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), will co-present, “Shop ‘Til You Drop: Secret Shopping Your Test Centers and Proctors” (session #5114). Along with her co-presenters, Gottwaldt will share why you should consider “secret shopping” to ensure your organization is staying ahead of security threats.

We spoke with Gottwaldt to understand why she is passionate about this topic, shifts and trends she’s observed in exam security and what attendees can expect to learn from this session.

Why are you interested in test security and how does it relate to the work you do?

Test security has interested me since the very beginning of my career, as it is a linchpin for making valid, fair decisions based on any assessment. Thwarting candidate cheating and ensuring that our intellectual property is as secure as possible is a top priority in every phase of the exam development process, from question writing to exam delivery. Though test development is just one piece of an organization’s security considerations, it is a significant one since it involves handling a key asset — our exams. Confidence in our examination results and the value of the credential we issue depends on the security and confidentiality of the exam questions and appropriate conduct of our examinees.

Why is this an important topic for those in credentialing to keep top of mind?

Security has been and remains a priority for our industry. Organizations should always plan for and be ready for a breach of security. Security is essentially an arms race between credentialing organizations and the people who profit from theft. With that in mind, organizations should be proactive, not reactive, about implementing new techniques and technology to stay ahead. It’s important that policies and procedures are updated regularly to ensure that proprietary information stays safe. Building in flexibility should also be considered to accommodate any changes in operations that may take place when learning about new security issues.

When it comes to testing security, what changes or shifts have you observed that are essential for those in the industry to be aware of?

The main change I have observed is the way that breaches happen. Dealing with exam content, we see candidates getting craftier, using more technology as it becomes available, and finding loop holes at the test centers themselves to cheat. In the words of my colleague, John Preston, “If you build a better mousetrap, the mouse will earn a PhD.” No matter how many security steps you put into place, someone will find a way around it. We need to be as active and smartly flexible as possible, to allow for changes or adjustments needed to address security concerns as they arise. It seems like many organizations are taking this approach, as one of the positive changes I’ve noticed is organizations dedicating more time and resources toward securing their content.

What are some takeaways attendees can expect to get out of your session?

Attendees will walk away with an understanding of what secret shopping is, why they should consider it, and how to implement it. They’ll also see what kind of results they can expect and some actions they can take with those results.

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