BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a system for controlling the administration
of remotely-proctored, secure examinations at a remote test station, and a method
for using the system to administer remotely-proctored, secure examinations.
In administering secure, proctored examinations such as the SAT, GRE,
GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, professional qualification examinations, and other such examinations,
much time and effort is spent ensuring the integrity of the examination. First,
the test taker must be properly registered. It is essential that only those persons
who are qualified are registered to take the examination. Second, it is important
to ensure that only persons who are registered are allowed to take the examination.
The integrity of any test is damaged, of course, if tests are taken by persons other
than those who are properly registered. It is also important that the test be properly
proctored to ensure that cheating does not take place. Lastly, the test question
information must be secure from theft, unauthorized access and alteration. All of
the above security measures require significant expense and manpower.
Ensuring the integrity of an examination becomes even more burdensome
when the examination is given at a number of remote sites. It has thus long been
desired to automate the above security measures to allow the efficient, cost-effective
and secure administration of tests at remote locations.
Attempts have been made to achieve some of these goals in related
areas of technology. United States Patent No. 4,486,180, to Riley, discloses a system
for the administration of driver's tests. This patent discloses an automated booth
for taking driver's test, but the system is limited to driver's tests and is not
sufficiently comprehensive and secure to administer a large number of different
standardized tests at a large number of remote test sites.
United States Patent Nos. 5,195,033 and 5,204,813, both to Samph et
al., disclose testing systems in which a central computer is connected to a number
of assessment centers for the administration of tests. However, the systems disclosed
in these patents are insufficient to ensure the verification of test takers and
the security of the test question data.
United States Patent No. 4,764,120, to Griffin et al., discloses a
student response system which centrally processes student response data from a number
of classrooms. However, the system disclosed cannot meet the strict validation,
proctoring and security requirements of most standardized tests.
United States Patent No. 5,218,528, to Wise et al., discloses an automated
voting system in which voters are registered and certified, but it does not provide
a system with sufficient security for test question data.
Document US 5 565 316 discloses a system according to the preamble
of claim 1.
The present inventors have developed the current state of the art
computer network used to deliver computerized standardized examinations. Years of
development time and millions of testing events have proven the existing system
to be a sound and robust method of testing. The current system involves a software
platform which delivers an exam on local networks which are supported world-wide
by a centralized master network. The master network downloads the exams to the testing
centers, and picks up the completed test files after the exam has been completed
by the candidate.
This current network utilizes registration centers which employ registrars
who answer phone requests from candidates and manually enter in personal demographic
information, test selection, and payment information. These registrars schedule
the candidate into a specific testing center location on a specific day and time.
The test centers are comprised of local networks on which the exam
is delivered to the candidate. System administrators employed at the test centers
check-in the scheduled candidate, and confirm the candidates identity by verifying
official forms of identification. Once this is completed, the candidate is seated
at a designated testing station, where the administrator will launch the examination
process. The Administrators proctor the examination event to ensure that the candidate
does not use any supplementary items to cheat on the exam, and are available to
respond to any problems which occur.
Despite its advantages, the current state of the art nonetheless requires
significant manpower to register persons for examinations, to ensure that only registered
persons take the exams, to proctor examinations, and to secure the test question
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
An object of the present invention is therefore to take the current
state of the art test delivery system, and to automate the process to the greatest
extent possible, thus eliminating the need for support personnel at the test site.
Another object of the present invention is to develop a Self-Testing
Kiosk, a remote testing station which integrates the necessary software and hardware
to provide a completely unmanned remote test station. The entire process is then
automated such that a candidate who wishes to take an examination may register,
schedule, and complete the test without the need for any personnel on-site. A testing
center of this type is used to deliver virtually any type of computerized examination.
In accordance with the above objects, a system as defined in claim
1 is provided.
In accordance with another embodiment, the proctoring data is audio/visual
data of the testing event. The proctoring data preferably includes an audio/visual
record of (a) input of test taker biometric data and (b) input of test response
data. The proctoring data preferably further includes a still picture of the test
In yet another embodiment, the system also has a registration station
in addition to the central station and the remote testing station. The registration
station comprises (a) a data processor for processing and verifying registrant data,
(b) storage means for storing data sufficient to verify registrant data, and operably
connected to the processor, (c) a biometric measurement device for inputting registrant
biometric data; and (d) communication means for communicating verified test registration
data, including verified biometric data to the central station.
The registration station and the testing station can either be remote
or proximate to one another. In one embodiment, the registration station and testing
station can be combined in one station.
In another aspect, the invention provides a method for controlling
the administration of remotely proctored, secure examinations at a remote testing
station. The method comprises the steps of (a) storing verified biometric data at
a central station; (b) storing test question data at the central station; (c) measuring
inputting test taker biometric data at the remote testinig station to begin a testing
event; (d) communicating the test taker biometric data to the central station and
comparing the test taker biometric data with the verified biometric data to thereby
verify the test taker data; (e) communicating test question data from the central
station to the remote test station; (f) storing test answer data input in response
to the test question data; (g) recording and storing audio/video proctoring data
of the testing event, assigning the identifier to the proctoring data; (h) ending
the testing event; and (i) validating the testing event by reviewing the proctoring
data for invalidating events. In one embodiment, the method further includes the
step of assigning a unique identifier to the testing event.
In an alternative embodiment, the proctoring data is evaluated and
the testing event validated during the event itself. In that way, the test-taker
can walk away from the event with a validated record of the test score.
In another preferred embodiment, the testing station is a kiosk, or
self-contained unit inaccessible without input of test registration data. A second
communication means for permitting a test taker to communicate with the central
station can be provided inside the kiosk.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the remote testing station
can be a kiosk installed into a public access facility, allowing a candidate complete
a particular exam without any outside assistance. In a further embodiment, the candidate
may register and schedule the examination in the kiosk as well. Registration and
scheduling may also be performed at a separate registration site. Essential to the
registration aspect of the present invention is that the registration results in
the storage of verified biometric data in a central site, in order to later ensure
that only properly registered persons are allowed to take any given test.
The kiosk is preferably a free standing unit which is installed into
an existing building and taps into the building's HVAC, phone, and electrical systems.
Hardware included in the Kiosk allows a candidate to enter registration data, personal
biometric data, and then to receive test question and complete a test in a private,
secure testing station. To minimize any distractions to the candidate, each testing
station preferably incorporates sound isolation features. In a preferred embodiment,
access to each individual testing station is electronically controlled by the automated
Each kiosk is remotely supported by a singular central station. The
network utilizes state of the art telecommunication methods to remotely update and
maintain the local testing networks. Technical support for the remote registration
and testing stations is provided by the central station. The central station may
be used to respond to any candidate problems while completing an exam. Eligibility
based testing, in which only preselected candidates have the right to take a specific
exam, can also be controlled from the central station.
The remote testing station of the system also features a variety of
security measures designed to eliminate the possibility of cheating during the testing
process. First, there is a biometric data measuring device. Devices used in the
system according to the present invention include those which record a candidate's
fingerprint image, retinal image, or hand geometry image, as well as voice recording
and analysis devices. The presently-claimed system also allows test scores to be
validated by the central station. For example, printed score results which contain
the candidate's photo image can be printed on non-alterable, non-reproducible paper,
verified by an official Notary Republic. A unique, seemingly random number produced
by a coding algorithm is assigned to the test response data, and proctoring data
as the test is taken to validate the testing event. Verification and invalidation
can be achieved either during the test, or afterwards.
In summary, the present invention automates the test taker verification,
test delivery, proctoring and test validation processes. It eliminates the need
for on-site personnel to support the system, and provides a secure and private testing
environment. It makes computerized testing much more readily available to the potential
testing candidates, and allows them to register and schedule themselves at a convenient
time. It also allows test-givers, be they employers or qualifying organizations,
to administer secure, verified tests with a minimum of overhead and other expenses.
The objects, features and advantages of the present invention will
be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon review of the Detailed
Description of the Preferred Embodiments which follows, when considered in view
of the attached drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
- Figure 1 is a block diagram of the hardware of the system according to the present
- Figure 2 is a flow diagram of one embodiment of the registration process according
to the present invention.
- Figure 3 is a flow diagram of one embodiment of the test taking process according
to the present invention in which the testing event is verified during the event.
- Figure 4 is a flow diagram of the central site activity during registration
and testing in the embodiment of Figs. 3 and 4.
Figure 1 is a block diagram showing the hardware of a system according
to the present invention for controlling the administration of remotely proctored,
secure examinations at a remote test site. The central station 1 comprises a data
processor 10. A display 11 is provided for allowing personnel to monitor the administration
of tests at remote sites, and the functioning of the system in general. An input
12, such as a keyboard, is provided to allow control, updating and management of
the system. A printer 14 is provided for those embodiments of the invention in which
test results are verified after the testing event and verified test results are
sent to the test taker from central station 1.
Central station 1 is connected to communicate with a registration
site 2. Any appropriate data link can be used to connect the central station 1 with
registration station 2. Registration site 2 includes a data processor 20, connected
to a display 24 and a storage device 23. An input 25, such as a keyboard, card reader,
bar code reader, etc., is provided to allow the input of registrant data, which
is then compared with stored data to determine if the registrant qualifies to be
registered for a particular examination. An optional credit card input 27 may be
provided to allow credit payment for the registration. A biometric measurement device
26 is provided to record biometric data such as an image of candidate's fingerprint,
a retinal image, a voice print, hand geometry, or other biometric data capable of
identifying an individual, including photographs or digital images. As is discussed
below, in the registration process, the verified biometric data is transferred to
and stored by the central station 1 for later comparison with test taker biometric
data, to verify that the test taker has been properly registered for a particular
The remote test site 3 comprises a data processor 30, connected to
be able to communicate with the central station 1. The communication means can be
a modem and a telephone line, an ISDN connection, a satellite link, or some other
appropriate data link. If the connection is broadcast or is a data link over the
internet, then special encoding and decoding software would be necessary to ensure
security of the data transmitted. A storage device 31 is provided for storing data
required for the initiation of the testing event. A display 32 is provided for displaying
test question data received from the central station 1, and an input 33, such as
a touch screen, a keyboard, a pen device, or other input, etc., is provided for
the input of registration data and test response data by the test taker. In an embodiment
where registration data is entered by means of a registration card, a bar code reader
or the like (not shown in Fig. 1) is also provided. A biometric measuring device
34 is provided to allow the test taker to input test taker biometric data. As described
below, the test taker biometric data is communicated to the central station 1 and
compared with the verified biometric data stored in storage device 13 before the
testing event is begun.
Lastly, the remote site 3 has a means for recording and inputting
proctoring data 35. In the preferred embodiment, the proctoring data is an audio/visual
record, particularly, a record of the input of test taker biometric data and the
input of test response data during the testing event. In one example, a video camera
is placed in one corner of a self-sufficient testing kiosk and creates an audio/visual
record of the entire testing event. How the proctoring data is used to validate
or invalidate a testing event is discussed below. In short, however, the proctoring
data may be evaluated during the testing event, after the testing event or both
during and after.
In a preferred embodiment, the remote testing site 3, is a kiosk,
or free standing structure designed to be installed into existing public access
buildings. The kiosk could be in the lobby of a public building in a shopping mall,
or in an airport or train station. The kiosk in this embodiment taps into the host
facility's electrical, phone, and HVAC systems. The registration station 2 may be
remote from or proximate to the kiosk which comprises the remote testing station
3. If registration and testing are performed at the same site, input devices must
be provided both for entering (1) information required for registration, including,
eg., identification information, demographic information, payment information, and
test selection; and (2) information for the testing event, including, eg., registration,
biometric and test response data.
In the Kiosk embodiment, the structure is a free standing, light weight
unit; designed to be installed into open space areas of public access facilities.
It is a semi-permanent enclosure which can be assembled in a short time, and does
not require major build-out modifications to its host facility. Electrical and phone
lines are routed into the unit, as required, from the host facility's infrastructure.
If necessary, the host facility can be used to fulfill any HVAC requirements of
the kiosk. An ancillary HVAC supply can also be utilized if necessary. If a smaller,
more controlled space is available, such as a store unit in a shopping mall, a modified
unit can be installed which achieves the same level of security.
In the Kiosk, the remote testing site 3 can comprise a single testing
station or a plurality of stations. The stations would each be provided with a door
which remains locked at all times, secured with an electronically controlled lock.
The door will unlock only after a test taker has successfully completed registration
and has checked-in using input devices external to the station. Once the test taker
has entered the testing station, the door remains locked from the outside to ensure
security and privacy for the test taker. The door is not locked from the inside,
allowing the candidate to leave at any time, however the lock would create a signal
which would become part of the proctoring data. Any unauthorized opening of the
door during the testing process can, if desired, become an invalidating event which
would end or invalidate the testing event.
Preferably, the walls of the kiosk comprise a sound absorbent material
to provide the test taker with a quiet, undisturbed testing event. 'White-noise'
generators can be implemented if ambient noise from the host facility is a source
of distraction. Speakers located in each test station, driven by a common amplifier,
provide low level sound which masks any distracting noises.
The inside of the kiosk consists of a shelf on which the various required
input devices and display are located. There is shelving provided for the test taker's
personal possessions. Lighting appropriate for computerized testing is installed
in each test station.
A computer such as a personal computer, including the data processor
30 and storage device 31 is preferably held in a locked compartment within the station.
In the preferred embodiment, the device 35 for recording proctoring
data is a video camera used to monitor and record the testing event, is mounted
in one corner of the testing station. The audio/visual recording of the session
is used to document the entry of biometric data and test response data, to record
any problems or abnormalities that may occur during the testing event, and to prevent
the test taker from cheating.
In one embodiment, evaluation of the proctoring data can take place
during the testing event. In this embodiment, the audio/visual proctoring data can
be transmitted to central station 1 and displayed on display 11 so that an administrator
can view the testing event, end or invalidate the event if necessary, or respond
to any problems during the testing event. The audio/visual proctoring data is also
preferably digitally recorded, transmitted to the central station 1 and stored for
use in later validation of the testing event. The device 35 is also used to capture
a still image portrait of the testing candidate. This image will be become part
of the proctoring data and is stored for candidate identification or test validation
The biometric measuring device 34 is selected from a wide variety
of available devices including: fingerprint recording devices that capture a digital
image of candidate's fingerprint; retinal image recording devices, voice print devices,
hand geometry recording devices, and others. As discussed above, the biometric measuring
device 34 can be combined with a camera so that a photograph or digital image becomes
part of the biometric data.
It is desirable to have one input device be a microphone or handset
that can be used by the test taker to communicate with the central station 1. Two-way
video communication is also desirable in certain instances.
The test question data is stored at the central station 1 for security
purposes, and communicated to testing station 3 at an appropriate point in the testing
process, as will be discussed below. The central station 1 also stores the verified
biometric data of the registrants to be used in test taker verification and validation
of the test taker data. Test response data are transmitted to the central station
1 for storage, and, in one embodiment, for later validation of test taker data.
On-line administrators and technicians provide operational and technical
support to the remote testing stations 3 from the central station 1 using whatever
communications method (data, voice, or two way video) necessary to accomplish the
task. All software upgrades and revisions to the system are performed from the central
station 1 using the communications lines connecting the central station 1 with the
registration station 2 and remote testing station 3.
Registration for the test will now be described with reference to
the preferred embodiment shown in the flow chart of Fig. 2.
Upon arrival at the registration station 2, a registrant presents
identification in step 40 which is input in step 41 into processor 20 by means of
input 25. Other qualification information is then requested in step 43 and input
in step 42. Depending on the type of test for which the registrant wishes to be
registered, as input in step 44, either the processor 20 of the registration site,
or the processor 10 of the central station determines whether the registrant is
qualified in step 47. If the test is determined to be an eligibility type test at
step 45, the registrant's data is communicated to the central station before step
47. If the registrant is not qualified, the registration is stopped at step 48.
If the test is not an eligibility test, then the processor 20 of the registration
site 2 is instructed to qualify the registrant of step 47.
If the registrant is qualified, the input of biometric data is requested
in step 49. After the input of biometric data, payment is collected in steps 50,
51 and 52. If payment is by credit, approval needs to be obtained in step 51. If
payment is by cash, then cash or a check is collected in step 52. If the payment
collection is confirmed at step 53, then a testing event is scheduled at step 54,
and the biometric, and other personal data of the registrant is sent to the central
station 1 at step 55. Steps 54 and 55 can also take place in reverse order, if desired.
The scheduling step 54 will also typically include the input of data such as the
preferred time and place at which the registrant desires to take the test. If the
test is scheduled to take place directly after registration at step 56, then the
registrant goes directly to step 62 of the testing event shown in Figure 3. If the
test is taken at a later date, a registration card is printed, or registration number
issued at step 57 and the registration completed at step 58. The registration card,
or number can be used in the check-in process at the start of the testing event
illustrated in Fig. 3. If payment is not collected at step 53, the registration
is ended at step 48.
In an embodiment where the registration station 2 is proximate to,
or integrated with the testing station 2, it is possible for testing to directly
follow registration at the same site, assuming that a testing station 3 is free.
Other registration processes are envisioned as long as they result
in the recordation of verified biometric data, and the communication of the verified
data to the central station 1.
As should be apparent from the flow chart of Fig. 2, the registration
process is entirely, or at least substantially automated.
THE TESTING EVENT
The testing event will be described with reference to the preferred
embodiment of Fig. 3.
The testing process begins, upon arrival of the test taker at the
remote testing station 3, with a request of the test taker to present a registration
card printed during the registration process, or enter a registration number. In
a preferred embodiment, the request for registration card or registration number
stated on the card is made at a display outside of a kiosk in order to open the
door. For this purpose, a display and a card reader are provided outside the kiosk.
Otherwise, the prompt is given on display 32 of the remote testing site 3 and card
information may either be entered by the registrant with input 33, or a special
input, such as accord reader, may be provided for that purpose.
If the card is determined to be valid at step 61, and the test taker
is verified as a valid registrant, then the recording of audio/visual proctoring
data begins at step 62, and the test taker is asked to enter biometric data at step
63. For example, the test taker is asked to face the video camera for the taking
of a still picture or the taker is asked to place his hand or finger in suitable
In this embodiment, if there is an invalidating event while the biometric
data is being measured (step 64) then the testing event is invalidated and the test
stopped. An invalidating event could be, for example, the presence of two persons
in the remote testing station, or an attempt to improperly or fraudulently enter
biometric data. Typically, the types of occurrences or data which would constitute
invalidating events would vary depending on the particular test and level of security
required. The proctoring data may include more than audio/visual data, such as a
signal from an electronic door lock, etc., in which case, an invalidating event
could be an unlocked or opened door signal. If there is no invalidating event, then
the biometric data is communicated to central station 1 in step 65 and compared
at step 66 with verified biometric data stored in the storage device 13.
If the communicated test taker biometric data matches the verified
biometric data corresponding to the proper registrant (step 67), then test question
data is communicated to remote test site 3. Steps 70, 71 and 73 represent the entry
of test response data by the test taker in response to question data displayed in
display 32. If at any point during the entry of test response data an invalidating
event occurs (step 72), as determined by analysis of the proctoring data, then the
testing event is stopped and/or invalidated (step 68). As disclosed above, invalidating
events would include the opening of the kiosk door by the applicant, unauthorized
use of notes or reference materials, or unauthorized communication between the test
taker and someone outside the kiosk.
After all questions have been answered (step 73) the test taker is
given the option of reviewing the questions (step 74), or completing the test (step
76). In step 77 a unique identifier is assigned to the testing event for use in
coordinating test response data and proctoring data for the testing event. Thereafter,
the test response data is communicated to the central station 1 at step 78.
A record of the testing event is then printed for the test taker at
step 79. In one embodiment, because the proctoring data is used to validate the
testing event during the event, a verified test result can be given to the test
taker at step 79.
In another embodiment, the proctoring data is analyzed and the testing
event validated after the event, in which case the test taker is given only a record
of having completed the testing event at step 79, and is given a validated test
result subsequent to the end of the test at step 80, such as by the printing of
an Official Score Report Form.
While not specifically described here, it is also possible to have
the registration take place after the testing event at the same time as or in conjunction
In a further embodiment, two way communication is provided between
the test taker and the central station 1. This two way communication would also
be recorded and stored as proctoring data. Such a communication link allows the
test taker, for example, to request a pause in the testing event for a restroom
break, or to communicate technical problems or questions regarding the system. In
very secure tests, steps 60 through 67 may be required to be repeated after even
an authorized interruption.
A tutorial can also be provided either before, or during the testing
event, to allow the test taker to become familiar with the functioning of the system.
At the conclusion of the testing process, data are transmitted back
to the central station 1. These data would include some or all of the following:
the test response data, audio/visual proctoring data, a still picture of the test
taker, and registration data. If, as described above, the testing event is validated
during the event, the results are then processed and a printed record is produced.
The printed record includes some or all of the following: the test
taker's personal information and qualification data, the still picture of the test
taker as well as any other physical characteristics recorded, the test response
data, the pass/fail status and percentage score. Whether printed at the remote station
3 or at the central station 1, the record is printed onto an Official Score Report
Form which is printed on specially formulated security paper. This security paper
utilizes safeguards to prevent alteration or duplication by the student. The paper
bears a distinctive logo as a watermark and is printed on colored paper.
The record preferably also contains the identifier assigned to the
testing event and the test data. This identifier is preferably a seemingly random
number produced by a unique algorithm. The algorithm utilizes input variables which
are derived from, among other things, the registration and qualification data, the
date and time of the testing event, the test taken, and the response data or score.
Thus, the identifier is unique to the testing event, and can be used to authenticate
a valid score report, thus preventing the test taker, or anyone else, from creating
a falsified report.
In a further embodiment, where the report is generated at the central
station 1, the preliminarily validated report is first mailed to the test taker.
Thereafter, in order to complete validation of the testing event and score, the
candidate must have the document notarized by an Official Notary of the United States.
Instructions on the document inform the notary that they must first verify that
the personal data and picture on the document indeed match the actual person. A
list of acceptable forms of identification is included on the score report. Once
the identity of the test taker has been confirmed, the notary places the official
notarization seal on the document, taking care to overlap part of the seal onto
the test taker picture.
In this embodiment, the score result must then be mailed back to the
central station 1. Once the returned document has been inspected and authenticated
by the central station 1, the test is deemed completely validated. The results are
then relayed to the test taker, and the testing organization responsible for the
In order to better understand the interplay of the central station
and the remote registration/testing sites the steps which may be carried out at
the central station in Figures 2 and 3 are illustrated in Figure 4. Similar method
steps in Figure 4 bear similar reference numerals. Data is received from the registration
site at step 46, and the central site can determine if the registrant is qualified
at step 49. If necessary, the central site may stop registration at step 48. Collection
of payment is verified in step 53, the test is scheduled in step 54 and the biometric
data is received from the registration site at step 55.
If the central site determines that the test is taken now at step
56 then it may begin the recordation of proctoring data for the testing event at
step 62. If the test is not taken directly after registration, a registration card
is printed or a number issued at step 57. In cases where the test is taken at a
time removed from the registration event, the central station's first step is to
determine if the registration card or number entered at the test site is valid at
In embodiments where verification takes place during the testing event,
the central station may then determine if there has been an invalidating event at
steps 64,72, and proceed to stop the testing event at step 68 if there has.
The central station receives, compares and verifies the biometric
data in steps 65-67, and if the data matches, the test data will be communicated
at step 69 to the testing station.
In another contemplated embodiment, the test data already resides
in the storage device 31 of the test site 3. In this embodiment the test data residing
in storage device 31 would be unlocked at step 69 under instructions from the central
In the embodiment shown in Fig. 4, the test taker is permitted to
address queries to the central station at step 80 and receive answers at step 81.
The central station then receives the test response data at step 78, and prints
a record at step 79. As discussed above, the record may also be printed at the remote
test site if the test is validated during the event.
The present system has been illustrated with respect to a few preferred
embodiments, but one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that deletions,
additions, substitutions, and improvements can be made while remaining within the
scope of the present invention, as defined by the appended claims.