Risk Management: Protecting Exams

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Risk management is a key component of doing business in any industry. If a business manager were to neglect risk management while running an amusement park, the results could be catastrophic. Similarly, financial managers must be keenly aware of the risks to financial assets and must take steps to minimize the “downside.” But what about testing/credentialing program managers? What risks are associated with creating and deploying tests, and how can they be minimized?



Make no mistake — high-stakes tests (i.e. those that are relied on to make important decisions) provide incentives for a few unscrupulous individuals to steal and distribute the test content and for others to acquire and use that content. In other words, the mere act of using a “test as a test” introduces the concomitant risk that certain examinees will resort to deception to “beat” the test.



What’s at risk? First and foremost, the reputation of your organization and its credentials. “Qualification of the unqualified,” as witnessed in several recent examples, is a prescription for cynicism about a program’s goals and, eventually, its irrelevance.



Beyond that, intellectual property is at risk, that is, the content of the tests themselves. Unanticipated cost, of course, is the most familiar way to summarize what is jeopardized by a failure to anticipate and manage risk. For testing programs, therefore, the costs associated with test theft and various forms of cheating can be roughly summarized as follows:



·                     Public relations and marketing costs


o        Loss of program reputation/credibility


·                     Economic costs


o        Loss of testing revenue and other related revenue streams resulting from the loss of program reputation/credibility


·                     Measurement costs


o        Loss of test measurement reliability and test utility


·                     Opportunity costs


o        Dealing with emergencies at the expense of other activities


·                     Replacement costs


o        Based only on the time and expense involved in creating such tests. For many testing programs such as Wechsler, the SAT and others, the value of test content can equal thousands o

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