Exam Security and Cheating The ARE

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    Jared NCARB

    Michael,

    We will be happy to address the concerns you note regarding how online proctoring security works. That being said, will we share all the aspects? Certainly not, as that would undermine the security as a whole. Similar to security in other scenarios, full security is a combination of what you see, what you may know about, and what you do not.

    To address the public reprimands from 2019, that sanction was only in place for a one year period. Your assertion that no other action was taken by the jurisdictional licensing board is inaccurate. Licenses were revoked, individuals careers were impacted. You can not find an NCARB hosted public record of this as the individuals' names were removed after the one-year period.

    NCARB does maintain a disciplinary database for use by the jurisdictional licensing boards - this is not public. Actions taken by NCARB and/or jurisdictional boards are reported to this database to ensure all licensing boards have transparency into one's professional record.

    Yes, tracking down and managing content disclosure is a sad outcome of a very small handful of candidates acting both unethically and unprofessionally. Your assistance in pointing out indiscretions is appreciated.

    The challenges of supporting an online proctoring option are real. By being responsive to candidate concerns regarding testing onsite during a pandemic as well as attempting to address access for many who do not live in more urban areas, NCARB embarked on establishing a solution that maintains the critical aspects of validity, reliability, fairness, and defensibility. Unfortunately, not all decisions to ensure these aspects are going to result in changes that will be perceived as candidate friendly.

    NCARB continues to work to provide licensing boards products and services to support their efforts to protect the public. We acknowledge that change in licensure programs causes stress. We must balance access with fairness and we are listening to the many stakeholders impacted.

     

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    Richard Balkins

    Jared, I don't mind having a conversation with you on the subject area provide we safeguard exam security and integrity. I wouldn't want to be the only one conversing with you but I can use Zoom as well but if we have a number of folks on the Zoom session at once (but not too many for practical reasons because its really good for up to about a couple dozen from my experience. I know there is a plan for something on Oct. 7th but I don't think that setting would allow to converse in any real detail anything I would want to say and the more people asking questions at one time, the more terse my questions or comments have to be which can easily be lost in the noise of repetition statements which says the same thing but nothing new like a protest chant repetition. It becomes noise but no dialogue or conversation to move the discussion forward and the steps forward because we can rant about no scratch paper for 24/7 for 10 years but that doesn't serve any purpose if you don't move the conversation beyond a broken record.

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    Richard Balkins

    Michael, I agree with the concerns and as a matter of fact, we can require no clocks in the room. Those examples that shows up on Amazon and even those by Zetronix which you sould have to have in a pocket in the first place, it can be required that all pockets on all shirts worn and dress shirts that maybe worn over the shirts. In addition, make sure on camera and recorded that all pockets are empty. This would be requiring the candidate to prove those pockets are empty. It should not require anything beyond emptying of pockets. Additionally, it would be of prudence that when viewing the room to look at behind the monitor and computer to look for any kind of video capture cards type hook up such as video feed from a video card or motherboard to a plugin card in a plugin slot on the motherboard before going to a monitor screen. Additionally, looking for external video capture devices. Look them up on Amazon and look at how they look and hook up. Proctors should train staff to look for these kinds of devices. Also look for camera like devices in the room, eyeglasses/sunglasses with cameras, and other devices which may have a hidden camera like clocks. Also look for microphone like devices. Obviously this would be among the first steps in getting ready for online proctoring aside from test software issues and other issues pointed out. These live proctoring sessions like the webcam feed shall be recorded by the proctor service and reviewed for exam irregularities by an assortment of staff including IT professionals familiar with these kinds of devices that examinees may use that might not be initially identified. So even if the examinee manages to proceed to the exam and all, any sort of irregularities could cause candidates exams to be invalidated after the exam within a short period of time during exam session video review. Hidden cameras need to be in appropriate position to adequately see the monitor. They might not be able to be properly positioned to see the monitor and still be hidden and a thorough scan of the examinee's room in remote proctoring is crucial. Also a webcam recording of how the computer is hooked up. Cables from computer to external monitor should go straight to the monitor. External video capture devices have two video connectors (HDMIs or Display Port) and also a usb cable. Only adapter that should exist are HDMI to DVI adapters or DVI to VGA (or VGA to DVI) adapters. On a laptop, only a usb mouse and power support should be plugging into it other than a external webcam  which would be the webcam being used if it is better resolution than the on-board webcam which again is fixed and only looks at the examinee. Proctors should be (within reason) to deny proctoring a candidate if their room is too cluttered with items that may make certifying the room to meeting proctoring standards. 

    To our ARE examinees,

    If examinees want to remote proctoring, start with an empty room or clear out a room until it is empty and THEN put only ONE table with the computer being used. This table should be up close to a wall. There should be a 18" space between the computer and the wall or otherwise sufficient to allow room lighting behind the monitor and computer so that you can show behind the the monitor and computer for inspection as well as to show there is no one and that no one can be behind the computer. You then have a chair to use for the exam that is compliant with proctoring. Otherwise the room should have NOTHING else in it. You should have a Wifi unit located somewhere in an adjacent room or on a room directly above or below the floor the exam room is located on. Remote proctoring situation is NOT for everyone's situation. You have to make accommodation of your home space to be able to meet proctoring standards. If you can't then you must either wait on exams until you can or go to testing centers. Less is more. In this sense, less stuff  you have in the room, the more you meet the remote proctoring standards. 

    You will want to have a reliable internet connection and if connected by Wifi, to have a strong Wifi connection that won't disconnect. Therefore, it would be advisable to have have Wifi router or access point within 10-20 feet so that you won't have issues of accessing the Wifi and have rock solid Wifi connection. 

    Your employer maybe able to accommodate or not so consider these options as well if you don't have any place at home that you can adequately set up for testing. I know it isn't going to be for everyone and that it is about accommodation for some people. It does not replace test centers and going to a test center maybe your best option in your own situation. 

    Implementation, at first, might not be perfect but I hope WE can find a way to make it better and address concerns. Skepticism of remote proctoring by some is justifiable concern but NCARB needs to be committed to addressing flaws in implementation as quickly as possible and having the conversation is important so we can see if something is overlooked because doing so makes the implementation better. While I have subtle difference of opinions, I agree with Michael Riscica in the overall points he's making. 

     

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    Elif Bayram

    M.

    There are positives and negatives in almost everything in life but we should be respectful for the opinion of the majority, as we (still) live in a democratic society. As all other institutions, NCARB is also not exempt of criticism, and I believe Jared NCARB would agree with me here. I think we all need constructive criticism to get better. Michael and Richard are voicing their concerns over some ramifications of this new system. Which, as I said, an indispensable exercise of pluralistic democracy. Shutting them down would be very concerning regarding their civil rights. Voicing possible concerns don't mean they will absolutely happen but warning the responsible folks that they might is beneficial to all of us. And I am sure NCARB is listening and taking all of these into considerations. 

    Me and a lot of person I know have spent or spending a lot of time, money and physical & mental health to pass these very hard exams. They are precious to us and we wanna keep the title as respectful as it is. So M I am sure you would respect that too. If you even passed one exam, you know how precious it is and hearing someone achieving same result with non of the troubles you have gone through would make you upset too. So I am reading this as Michael and Richard are trying to contribute to bettering this new system, not gate-keeping. To be honest if you look at the pass rates, that gate is already pretty tight, no third party/outsider can do it worse in my opinion.

    Side note: Before you look up, I will say. I am also currently helping people (paid/unpaid) to pass their exams, similar to what Michael and all other exam prep material providers doing. I am getting kind emails from many people on daily basis telling me that how thankful they are. I sent those emails to a lot of people when I was studying myself. A lot of people who have passed many years ago helped me, by coming back here and answering my questions in this forum. Again the benefits of living in a pluralistic society. I can not thank them enough. I passed mostly because of great suggestions and answers that I heard here in this group and on other forums. So banishing people from joining in discussion would lower the chances of people passing tests, hence it would contribute to the gate-keeping issue you mentioned. 

    Also, as you know, NCARB doesn't provide more than 4-5 example questions and a long list of books to read for this exams. Thankfully we have people who have taken responsibility and started these businesses to help ARE test takers. I used almost all of the practice questions in the market after reading all the books NCARB told me to, to pass these 6 exams and I failed 4 times until I finish the 6. I don't understand why people who have created a business around this "need" should be banished from this forum..? We all are shopping groceries or going restaurants when we get hungry right? It is a need. And an entire financial sector developed around it. Not just to take "advantage" of our hunger and turn it into profit with an evil agenda but mostly just simply filling the need and turning it into profit. After all people spend time and effort that has to be compensated so they can also meet their needs, right? This is what capitalism/free market is and this country built over it. But again, in a democracy, you are absolutely free to not shop from them and grow your own food if you want, just can't say I want all groceries and restaurants removed from my alley. 

    Elif Bayram,

    arequestions.com

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    Robin Kuc

    Nice analysis, Elif Bayram.  Until reading Michael's post, I was completely unaware of the 2009 scandal.  This information creates two concerns for me (and possibly many others):

    1. Thus far -- and based on several previous missteps on the part of NCARB's decision-making going back a number of years -- I do not yet have confidence in NCARB's ability to enforce rigid security measures within private residences.
    2. In the event that a major breach should occur, all candidates could potentially be "punished" by a shutdown such as the 90 day shutdown Michael mentioned from 2009.  The prospect of this happening, on top of the COVID shutdown, would be a complete and utter disaster for so many.

    There is a sense that this rollout is being rushed (despite protestations to the contrary), and the lack of any truly meaningful communication or dialogue between NCARB and the 2189 petitioners merely compounds that feeling.

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    Michael Riscica

    M, 

    I will not take your post seriously because you are Anonymous. I use my real name and take ownership of the words I write and refuse to interact with people who do not do the same. 

    Your profile says you have only been a member of this group since today.  

    In the name of safety and security, I'd like to encourage NCARB to no longer allow people to post on this forum anonymously or be allowed to use it without having an active NCARB record. 

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    Richard Balkins

    M., 

    The very idea and point of architectural licensing process by definition and purpose is a little bit of gatekeeping. It IS the point. What is the gatekeeping about? The gatekeeping of any professional licensing program of any occupation is to limit those who are allowed to use a professional title and/or practice a particular profession by requiring those individuals to demonstrate through the three E's in bold: education, experience, and examination the MINIMUM level of competency required to professionally practice said licensed profession in order to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare from the consequences of incompetent designs by people without any sort of adequate competency to design any occupied structure which can seriously cost a lot of lives. Our concerns are namely human lives and not the lives of random insects but still.

    That's the basic purpose in a nutshell. If someone cheats on the exam, that person failed to demonstrate at least one of the three E's in bold in the previous paragraph. This alone raises questions about the person's integrity and fitness to a profession. Even the AIBD takes the validity of the CPBD (a voluntary certification credential) certification and takes the validity the certification exam and exam integrity seriously. We value the licensure process of architects that licensed architects are not required to take the CPBD exam in order to get CPBD certification credentials (which is voluntary). If the ARE is undermined then it can undermine recognition of the licensure process of architects. The undermining impacts a LOT more than just recognitions between different credentialling programs. Cheating on the exam and other forms of fraud like lying on the AXP hours and academic dishonesty and obtaining a degree without properly earning it.... undermines the whole profession of architecture and related professions like residential designers/building designers. It undermines the title and practice laws so much so that the state legislature may even end repeal architectural licensing. They have that power to do so and can do so by sunsetting it. 

    People like Michael Riscica has worked very hard for his license and to the best of my knowledge has earned it. A lot of others have, too. I want the exam and licensure to be valid as I would the CPBD certification. If it isn't, what's the point of licensing. 

    I point out methods that people may use to cheat on exams so NCARB's staff and the proctoring services are better prepared so we have acceptable measures to detect cheating or means and methods that people may use to expose confidential exam content. So, not only to be aware of methods and the lengths that some people will go to to cheat or expose confidential exam content but also possible ways to detect and address. 

    Why? If NCARB and their proctors are prepared well for online proctoring, it will help make remote proctoring a valid means of exam delivery of the ARE. I appreciate Michael R.'s skepticism because the goal is validity and safeguard measures. While most of you will be follow the rules and not cheat or disclose confidential exam content, which I commend all of you who do but we know there are a relatively small number of individuals that don't have honor, ethics, or integrity.

    Ultimately, NCARB makes the decisions regarding the exam and oversees the proctors proctoring the ARE exam. I don't expect NCARB to follow all of Michael's or my suggestions and/or concerns. If they partially implement/address our suggestions & concerns that results in making the exam better and valid, great but it is about giving them an opportunity to make the exam better. It isn't about limiting the number of people licensed to a specified number. That is not the case. At least in the past 50 years, it is pretty clear that licensing boards are not controlling number of architects licensed because if they were, there would be a lot less people licensed because fewer competitors to the supply drives up price and more money into the pockets of the competitors. In fact, they were a lot more effective at keeping the number of licensed architects in the first 50 years of licensing from 1919 to 1969. In some states, the starting year is earlier but still you do the count of those licensed back then and it was much less.

    In Oregon, there were less than say 1250 architects licensed from the year 1919 to 1969. There are around 10x more people licensed between 1969 and 2019 then the previous 50 years. The availability of the ARE exams and number of testing opportunities have contributed to that increased number of licensed architects. 

    It is in the best interest of not only the candidates but the profession that the exam and license process to be valid.

     

     

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    Richard Balkins

    While I am not as skeptical as Michael R. about remote proctoring but I appreciate his voicing of concerns because flaws in implementation of proctoring any exam puts the validity of such exams at risk and it isn't really about the delivery of the exam but about having a well thought out process. The skepticism is really more about NCARB then it is about the actual delivery method of remote proctoring. 

    As fast as NCARB is implementing remote proctoring, it concerns Michael R. and I recognize the concerns as valid. It is not about the remote proctoring which in and of itself is a non-issue but about concerns regarding potential botching of the implementations because each delivery model brings its own unique challenges. We don't want to compromise the validity of the exam. 

    We don't want a situation where if NCARB botches the remote proctoring that people who take the exam by remote would have those exam divisions that were passed by remote proctoring to be rejected by individual state boards which many state board do have the authority to do so. It maybe unheard of but the state boards can reject the ARE exam divisions that were remotely proctored to the license candidate. They can do that even if it seems unfair. 

    We don't want that situation to happen. Reasonable exam security needs to be in place for both methods of proctoring (remote or test-center based).

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