ETS’ first global chief security officer speaks to Careers360 about TOEFL, GRE, and the challenges to creating the right test taking environment.
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Atul Krishna | December 12, 2022 | 05:03 PM IST
NEW DELHI: ETS, a global testing service based in the United States, which is in charge of conducting Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), has appointed a new global chief security officer, Wallace Dalrymple. This is the first time that the company, best known for its English language proficiency test, has set up a global chief security officer.
Dalrymple spoke to Careers360 about his role, the challenges to securing tests such as TOEFL, preventing impersonation and why his first priority is India. For context, tens of lakhs of Indians take the TOEFL each year to prove their English proficiency for studying or working in English-speaking countries. Edited excerpts below.
Q. What necessitated the creation of your role as the first global chief security officer?
A. As you mentioned, I am the first chief security officer in the history of this organisation and what that points to is our commitment to test security and the integrity of our test scores. I was brought in by ETS to show their commitment to the security and integrity of the test paper scores. My first trip is to India and it shows the importance of coming to India which is my number-one priority. To identify and understand the factors that could impact our test assessment. So, the organisation has made the security commitment and I have made the commitment to talk to the local teams on the ground and to understand
Q. Why is India a priority?
A. One factor is the growth of the number of test-takers in India which is a top priority and also because India takes test assessment so seriously. Test assessment is also the number one priority of ETS and that is why I have come here to understand the test taking environment, by talking to people, and understanding if they have
When I looked at my top 100-day plan, it was to come out to look at the market within India, especially with regard to TOEFL and GRE.
Q. Is there anything that is of immediate priority or concern?
A. I haven’t identified any particular areas of concern. It’s more coming out and making sure that we provide our services. So, we are a mission-driven organisation and our priority is providing fair and equitable tests. My top priority is test score integrity. So, for the honest test taker, my priority is to provide a level playing field. All of our security controls goes to making sure that we understand the Indian demographic and how important TOEFL
and GRE are.
Q. Is ETS bringing anything new or reinforcing what is already there?
A. From a business perspective, India is a very high-growth area. We continue to see high volumes of test takers for both TOEFL and GRE tests. That being said, we have come out here to understand the test-taking environment and we have also come out to bring additional resources from a security perspective to support business offices all across India. We will have some more professionals added to the team here to help support the growing environment.
Q. When you say additional resources do you also mean technological resources in addition to personnel?
A. Yes, absolutely. We spend tens of millions of dollars on security. A lot of times that security for the test-taker is a feature they don’t have to see but is built into the test. So, they don’t have a bad user experience. So, it is really an investment in technology in the sense that it is bringing together people, processes and technology to provide an optimum test-taking environment.
Q. What technologies are you focussing on?
A. I’m fortunate to work with ETS which is dedicated towards their product. I have financial support and leadership support. We use emerging technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligence(AI) and machine learning (ML). We continue to be on the leading edge of those types of technologies.
Q. Could you give an example of how something like machine learning is helping assessment?
A. What we put together is a test-security framework based on preventive policy. One of the main focuses is identity. So, knowing who the test-takers are using various technologies like facial recognition, or voice recognition. So, we leverage these technologies to help protect the test taker and help seamless identification easier so we can track the person and understand how they can leverage our other tests such as GRE or TOEFL. So, customer experience is our top priority along with security and we have built those into our solutions.
Q. Cheating, understandably, is a concern. What are the common cheating techniques that you are working against?
A. High security is a global challenge. It is not anything specific to India. There is only one challenge really and that is if someone else has taken the test for the person, that is impersonation. This is happening across the world. It’s one of those things that, as you can imagine, every time we try to mitigate a threat, a new threat comes up.
Q. What happens when the testing centres themselves aid in cheating like the scandal in Gujarat?
A. A lot of times what we do is mitigating and understanding that risk. We audit our test centres and this is something that happens on a regular basis and sometimes we tell the test centre we are coming and sometimes we don’t tell the test centre that we are coming. We want to make sure the test score integrity is about honesty and transparency. We also help them understand best practices. So, we share information about what we know and they share information about what they are seeing so that we can come together to
work as partners.
Q. How does this audit go about?
A. We regularly audit test centres and we come in and help them look at their controls across their physical environment and that could be cameras, biometrics, their own environment. We see if anything needs to be worked on and we will ensure that we give them the information to make it better because no one is perfect and security is a very hard thing to do. At the end of the day, it comes down to the test taker and making sure they are successful.
Q. It is being reported that ETS will be bidding for providing consultancy services to NCERT’s Parakh? Is this true?
A. We do bid on these types of projects but there are not a lot of details to share as of yet. We have 75 years of test assessment experience and those practices in technology. With that, we bring a lot of wealth in information. So, we continue to work with governments and build a long-term successful relationship.
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