Top 5 ways people are cheating in online assessments

Sep 1, 2019 | assessment, Recruiting | 0 comments

Cheating on tests is a global phenomenon and it starts fairly early – usually during our academic years. Why do people cheat on tests?  The pressure to achieve, succeed and perform is deeply ingrained in our society as a means towards a better way of life. If the stakes are high enough then there is an opportunity to cheat. 

Online pre-employment assessments as a recruiting tool

Why is this relevant to the workplace? Well, as the demand for top talent has increased so have the various methodologies used to assess and select candidates. Assessments – once catering to academia – have found application in the everyday business world. Today there are many online assessment options – be that cognitive, coding, psychometric or soft skills – and companies increasingly rely on them as indicators of candidate performance and fit.

As our technological capabilities have advanced, so have the tools used to handle the recruitment process making it possible to bend physical barriers while opening up the available talent pool. Online administered pre-employment assessments have now become a norm allowing companies to have a more in-depth understanding of a candidate’s abilities prior to employment helping to better assess the potential fit for a specific role or the culture of the company.

“Unproctored Internet testing (UIT) has risen out of the need for tests to be available anytime, anywhere, and to reduce the cost of administering and proctoring tests on organizational premises.” (Tippins 2009)  (1)

So what makes online pre-employment assessments an attractive option for companies looking to hire talent? Here are some reasons:

  • Ease of use – most assessments are now administered online making them an easy solution for both candidates and companies;
  • Ability to screen more candidates – as the assessment can be taken by numerous candidates from literally anywhere with an internet connection;
  • Objectivity – the recruitment process becomes more transparent, objective and bias-free as results can be used to compare candidates ;
  • Time efficiency – grading and scoring is automatic, making it easy to see results immediately;
  • Cost effectiveness – there is no need for physical presence or actual physical proctoring for the assessment to take place.

Will people cheat online?

Online unproctored assessments do have their disadvantages. The obvious concern is: but won’t people cheat on a remote unproctored online pre-employment assessment?  The answer is yes, the cheating possibility is there. In 1973 American sociologist Donald Cressey developed what is known as the fraud triangle which has three elements: pressure to cheat, opportunity to cheat, and rationalization; the absence of proctoring and the high stakes of a situation represent such factors that could be conducive to cheating. (2) 

Cheating statistics

Let’s have a look at cheating statistics numbers. When investigating the frequency of e-cheating in college students a study found that an overwhelming 40% had engaged in some form of e-cheating in a given year. (Stronger et. al 2013) (1) What happens after college? Evidence based on research of people cheating on online administered tests varies from 7-50%. ( Arthur et al. 2010) ( 2)

Top 5 ways of cheating

When it comes to cheating there are ample strategies that can be used and candidates can be very resourceful. Just to name a few:

  1. Cheating by proxy – it is not uncommon to ask a friend or even pay someone else to take the assessment for you (a number of available online sites suggest that there is a small industry built around that).
  2. Use of external resources and aids – depending on the type of skill tested, use of internet, calculators, dictionaries can be used during a test taking process.
  3. External help while taking the assessment – a candidate can ask someone to take the test with them and assist them where possible.
  4. Foreknowledge of the assessment questions – either by paying to get the questions from online services or from candidates that have already taken the test.
  5. Technical manipulation – from tampering with the assessment’s timers to requesting new login credentials after having seen or recorder the assessment questions.

Ways of mitigating cheating 

Even if cheating doesn’t occur 50% of the time as some research suggests, – someone looking to hire will want to know if they are actually recruiting a talent or a fraud. So this bears the question – are there ways to mitigate the possibility of cheating on online pre-employment assessments? As technology is evolving, so are the methods that can be used in order to safeguard the integrity of an online remotely administered assessment. These include:

  1. Webcam proctoring – small video snippets taken during the assessment taking process,  in order to ensure that the candidate is the person that actually took the assessment.
  2. Sound bites – sound bites can help understand if there was someone helping the candidate during the process.
  3. Assessment speed – the timed character of tests can help limit cheating efforts because it does not allow for enough time to search for the answers. (2)
  4. Content interchangeability – questions regarding the themes tested do not come in a predefined order but are interchangeable each time the assessment is administered.
  5. Question/answer variation – a given problem may have the same data points but each time the questions asked may be completely different making it hard to memorize the information and pass it on as there is no one possible answer.
  6. Computer Adaptive Testing – through the use of questions adapted to the candidate’s skill level, it becomes unlikely for two candidates to have a similar experience. (1)


Can you cheat an online proctored exam?

Just a quick search online and you can find an array of cheating solutions designed to help you beat whatever system comes along. However elaborate the cheating method though,  it is still within a company’s best interest to select the right person for the job – checking the candidate’s integrity during a selected assessment may help serve as a simple “knock-out” selection criterion of a person who might not deserve to be in the process.
Cheating will not go away in the foreseeable future, so make sure your assessment vendor has included mitigation measures in their product.



  1. How Secure are Unproctored Pre-Employment Tests? Analysis of Inconsistent Test Scores. Kantrowitz,Tracy M, . Dainis, Amanda M. ( 2014)  Article Journal of Business and Psychology. 
  2. Cheating on Unproctored Internet Intelligence Tests: Strategies and Effects, Wim Bloemers, Ajan Oud, Karen Van Da.m ( 2016) Article Personnel Assessment and Decisions: Vol. 2,: Iss 1, Article 
  3. Meta-Analysis of Test Score in Proctored and Unproctored Ability Assessments. Steger, Diana; Schoeders, Ulrich; Gnambs, Timo ( 2018) Article European Journal of Psychological Assessment.

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Lydia Morazzani

Lydia is the CMO at Bryq and holds a B.Sc. in Economics from Brown and an MBA from ALBA. She loves to analyze problems and get to the bottom of them.