Data from more than 3 million online exams show that more than 6 percent of proctored exams contain evidence of attempted or actual cheating.

Proctored exams show increased cheating rates


Data from more than 3 million online exams show that more than 6 percent of proctored exams contain evidence of attempted or actual cheating

A new report has revealed exam data showing that the rates of possible and actual violations of test rules increased in 2021 compared to 2020–and 2020 itself had much higher levels of test rule violations compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The report comes from ProctorU, the online exam security and proctoring service of Meazure Learning.

Three million exams were able to be analyzed in The 2021 Exam Integrity Report to determine how the metrics had changed from 2020, as well as from 2019 and early 2020 before the pandemic started. The data from those 3 million remotely-delivered exams in 2021 span more than 1,000 colleges and universities and from numerous professional testing and credentialing providers. 

On the ProctorU proctoring platform, three different types of exam activities that break or would break the rules of the test provider are measured. The most noteworthy metric is confirmed breaches – incidents where trained proctors believe evidence exists that a test-taker violated test rules in a way that may have secured an unfair advantage. These are incidents where academic misconduct likely occurred, though all determinations of misconduct are made by the school or test provider.  

In the 15 months before the pandemic, just 0.48 percent of proctored exams contained confirmed breach events. In 2020, that surged to 3.9 percent. In 2021, the confirmed breach rate was 6.6 percent – more than 13x the pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, more than 200,000 exam sessions proctored by ProctorU contained evidence of misconduct.  

“The level of confirmable violations of test rules that we’re seeing, incidents of what we would call provable cheating, is obscenely high – exponentially higher than anything we’d seen before the pandemic,” said Dr. Ashley Norris, Chief Compliance Officer at Meazure Learning. “When we see that more than one in every 15 students taking a remote exam is engaging in conduct that can be considered cheating, that’s a significant problem.

Laura Ascione