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How ETS Protects the Integrity of the GRE Tests

Prevention. Detection. Communication.

ETS has developed and continues to refine its three-pronged approach of prevention, detection and communication over its 70-year history as the world's largest nonprofit educational measurement and research organization. Many of the test security practices pioneered by ETS have become the industry standard and have been adopted by other companies and organizations around the world.

The ETS Office of Testing Integrity constantly monitors testing, investigates security issues, conducts unannounced audits and works to ensure score validity worldwide. ETS spends over $50 million annually on security for at home testing, test center operations, test-taker identification and monitoring, internet security, proctor and supervisor training, final score reporting, and post-testing analytics.
 

Here are some of the many ways the GRE General Test is protected from fraudulent activity from test design through the score reporting process.
 

Using the highest standards to create and deliver test content

The content, question types, design and delivery of the GRE General Test are all developed with fraud prevention in mind. ETS creates a significant number of new test questions each year to reduce the risk of memorization and cheating, and utilizes a sophisticated proprietary content rotation and delivery design to reduce the possibility that predictability could influence a score. In addition, ETS Office of Testing Integrity team members search online daily for the illegal sharing of ETS-owned proprietary test content.
 

Using human monitoring and AI technology for at home testing

For the GRE General Test at home, ETS is employing multiple best-in-class security measures that rely on both real-time human monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to see and respond to hard-to-detect incidents:

  • Live proctors will ensure constant vigilance, including confirming the test taker's identity and scanning their home environment before testing begins, flagging any suspicious activity, and intervening if necessary.
  • AI technology — such as facial recognition, gaze tracking and video recording of the entire session — will guard against malicious activity. Examples of test-taker activities that AI will flag as possible cheating incidents include attempts to impersonate another test taker, opening a new browser, running unpermitted software and using unpermitted objects, such as a cell phone during the test administration and breaks.

Before the test begins, photos are taken of the information within the ID document and of the test taker. The proctor verifies the identification document is current, valid and acceptable, and then uses facial recognition to compare the ID document with the person sitting at the computer. Artificial intelligence is then used to randomly verify the test taker matches the identification document multiple times throughout the test.
 

Establishing secure test centers

Test administrations occur at Prometric® test administration sites as well as test administration sites certified by ETS. Each test center undergoes a rigorous screening process to determine if the facilities meet security and technical requirements and to obtain verifiable references.

ETS uses the same internet security protocols as those used by major financial institutions for their secure transmissions. These include state-of-the-art encryption for essential communications and detection software that alerts us if a transmission is altered or disrupted.

At the beginning of each test administration, the test software automatically closes all non-GRE windows or applications, locks the desktop so the test taker cannot switch to any other task, and logs incidences of any applications that try to open during the test.

Internet delivery ensures that test content can only be accessed during the actual test administration.

ETS uses unannounced visits and sends secret shoppers to test sites to observe and ensure that the highest standards are being applied and maintained in testing environments around the world.
 

Ensuring the training of test center administrators

Test center staff are thoroughly trained by ETS and are required to pass a certification exam to demonstrate their knowledge of test delivery policy, practices and procedures before they can serve as a Test Center Administrator. Training includes the following security-related topics:

  • identification requirements
  • check-in procedures on the day of the test
  • security of test data and computers used for testing
  • test center layout

Instituting and enforcing test-taker rules and requirements

ETS utilizes some of the most extensive and proven measures to ensure security on test day:

  • Using trained at home proctors and test administrators as well as AI technology and electronic surveillance for test monitoring
  • Adding new technologies such as wanding, mobile phone scrambling and other techniques (select locations)
  • Collecting handwriting samples, signature samples and photographs at test centers
  • Adhering to strict ID requirements, appropriate for each country
  • After checking into the test session, test takers:
    • Are prohibited from bringing items into the testing area that could be used as a testing aid or to collect, share or collaborate on test content.
    • Have no access to personal items such as books, electronic devices, handbags and backpacks.
    • Must display their photograph on the table in the assigned computer station at a test center once the test has started and again upon return from break. This allows the Test Center Supervisor to compare it to the test taker's picture that is presented on the computer screen, as necessary.

Maintaining the quality of scoring and score reporting

GRE raters receive GRE Analytical Writing responses from test takers worldwide via an online network for evaluation. They are typically college and university faculty who have undergone training and certification to become GRE raters.

Many strategies are used to ensure that all GRE raters use the same scoring standard, including:

  • GRE raters must pass a calibration test demonstrating accurate scoring at the beginning of each session to score operational essays.
  • Rater accuracy is tested during operational scoring by interspersing previously scored essays into the set of unscored essays. Previously scored essays are not identified as such.
  • Scoring leaders monitor GRE raters' performance throughout the scoring session by reviewing their scores on operational essays, validity essays and calibration test results, and by monitoring score distributions. GRE raters who cannot score accurately on a consistent basis, even after retraining, are dismissed.

See the Guide to the Use of GRE® Scores (PDF) to read more about how ETS scores the GRE General Test.

Another way ETS ensures the integrity of scores is through the security measures implemented for the paper score reports. Official score reports are printed on purple paper and sent directly from ETS to the institutions or organizations designated by the test taker.

ETS uses a secure paper for official GRE score reports that includes the following features:

  • chain-link watermark on the back of the paper, which is visible when held at a 45-degree angle. This is the easiest, most obvious method of verifying the authenticity of an official score report.
  • Full Chemical Sensitive VOID on the face of the paper. The word "VOID" is continuously repeated on an angle throughout the entire face of the document. "VOID" is produced in multiple languages when activated by a bleach, hyporide or ink eradicator.
  • In addition, GRE score reports include the words "ETS® Security Guard" in the upper right-hand corner, printed with a special heat-sensitive ink for security. To activate this security feature, recipients can apply heat to the text, either by rubbing it or blowing on it, and the ETS® Security Guard text will disappear. This feature will not work if the score report has been photocopied.
  • Laser Lock on the face of the paper. This makes it difficult to remove toner from laser- or ion-printed documents.
  • Laid lines on the back of the paper. Evenly spaced lines in a specially formulated grey ink, these laid lines make alteration by cutting and pasting difficult.

Even with the most stringent security prevention measures in place, fraudulent activity can occur. To ensure the integrity of GRE test scores, the ETS Office of Testing Integrity takes seriously and thoroughly investigates all reported incidents of fraud.

When ETS has reason to suspect that scores are not valid, ETS conducts a security review, which may include photographic review, handwriting analysis and score analysis.

ETS closely monitors all test administrations and tracks all security incidents.

  • For the GRE General Test at home, monitoring of the test is conducted using live remote proctors and artificial intelligence technology by ProctorU®, the leading proctoring solution for online testing.
  • For test centers, if it is determined that the test center does not meet ETS standards and it fails to correct the issue, it is closed. ETS also conducts random unannounced inspections of test centers as well as site visits to centers where concerns have been raised through supervisor reports, tips or test-taker complaints. ETS works with national law enforcement agencies to prosecute professional impersonation rings.

Statistical analysis methods are used to help assure valid scores. The ETS Statistical Analysis team monitors score trends by test center, country and region, and reports any suspicious anomalies to the ETS Office of Testing Integrity for review. Some of the activities this team performs include:

  • using software to detect significant changes in scores for repeat test takers
  • reviewing system-generated irregularity reports after each administration
  • maintaining site historical performance data to identify any deficiencies that need to be addressed
  • auditing sites continually

Essay responses on the GRE Analytical Writing section are reviewed by ETS essay-similarity-detection software to detect essay responses that may have been borrowed in whole or in part from elsewhere or prepared by another person.

ETS works very closely with the institutions and agencies we serve around the world. We inform institutions when scores have been canceled, and every concern an institution reports regarding test results is investigated.

In a world where the motivation and capability to commit academic and admissions cheating is on the rise, ETS continues to adapt best practices and create new technologies to prevent and detect breaches of test security.

ETS is committed to giving you results you can trust.

If you need to verify that the scores you received match the scores in the ETS database, please refer to the ETS® Data Manager . For new users requesting access to the ETS Data Manager, it will take 7–10 business days to process your request.

If you have security concerns about an individual test score that you have received, please complete the Score Inquiry Form (PDF) and submit it to the ETS Office of Testing Integrity at communicatetestsecurity@ets.org.

Completing this form will provide helpful information to assist in our score review process and help us to respond to your request in a timely manner.