Online English language testing for employment: Is it secure?


Managers and HR professionals have a global workforce at their fingertips – and now nearly 50% of organizations plan to let employees work from home. This makes adopting a secure English language test for employment more important than ever.

An online English test enables organizations to assess candidates’ language proficiency from anywhere in the world, screen more applicants, and standardize the hiring process. They also help HR professionals and managers to save time – ensuring only people with the right language skills advance to the interview stage.

But how can employers be certain these tests are safe? And how easy is it for people to cheat? In this article, we’ll explore a few of the top security concerns we hear, and share what features make online language tests secure.

What is an online English test?

An online English test measures how well a job applicant can communicate in English, focusing on the skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. They also assess a candidate’s specific English for business skills – for example, how clearly someone will be able to communicate on the phone with clients, or understand what is being said during a conference call.

Online tests can be taken in a controlled environment – in a testing center with in-person proctors – but also from a job applicant’s personal computer or mobile phone at home. When tests are taken at home, they can be made more secure using virtual proctors or powerful AI monitoring technology.

Cheating, grading & data security

When many people think of taking a language test, they imagine the traditional way: students in a large testing center scribbling away with pen and paper. There’s no mobile phones allowed, and if test-takers are caught cheating, they’ll be flagged by a proctor walking around the room.

So when managers or HR professionals consider the option of an online English test – taken digitally and often without human supervision – it’s no surprise many have questions about security. Let’s take a look at some common concerns:

Is cheating a problem?

A large number of test takers admit to cheating on their tests. According to research by the International Center for Academic Integrity, 68% of undergraduate students say they’ve cheated on a writing assignment or test, while 43% of graduate students say they have.

But how easy is it to cheat during a Versant test?

The truth is, not very. With Versant, exam cheating is actually quite difficult, and test takers would have to outsmart a range of AI monitoring technologies.

If a verified photo is uploaded to the platform, HirePro’s face recognition technology can compare the live test taker with it. This ensures test takers are who they say they are, and haven’t asked someone else to sit the exam for them. It is the institution’s responsibility to verify the original photo.

And since Versant tests are monitored using specialized AI algorithms – without a human present – even the slightest suspicious behaviors are flagged for review. For example, Versant notices if a different face appears in the video, or the camera goes dark. With video monitoring, our platform also flags if the test taker moves from the camera, or looks away multiple times. And we’ll see if someone changes tabs on their computer.

Finally, the entire test is recorded. When suspicious behavior comes up, HR professionals will decide if they’ll accept or reject the results – or have the candidate take the test again.

Are scores accurate?

We’ve all had frustrating experiences with AI. Chatbots don’t always understand what we’re trying to say, and speech recognition technology sometimes isn’t up to par. This leaves many wondering if they should trust AI to grade high-stakes tests – especially when the results could be the difference between someone getting the job, or not.

To grade tests, Versant uses patented AI technology that is trained and optimized for evaluating English language proficiency. It evaluates speaking, listening, reading, writing, and even intelligibility.

Our AI is trained using thousands of native and non-native speakers. With these models, we’re able to not only evaluate how someone should be assessed but also understand when they’ve mispronounced words or have made another mistake. Using all this information, a candidate’s final score is evaluated based on more than 2000 data points.

To learn more about how Versant’s scoring system is trained – and how we’re able to score tests accurately – take a read of our blog: The role of Artificial Intelligence in English assessment.

Do online tests follow GDPR standards?

HR professionals and managers deal with sensitive personal information every day. This includes each job applicant’s name, full address, date of birth, and sometimes even their social security number. The HR tools they implement therefore must also keep this data secure.

Most importantly, it must follow GDPR standards. That is, the data must be gathered with consent and protected from exploitation. With Versant, test taker data is securely stored and follows all GDPR guidelines.

All our data is encrypted at rest and in transmission. Versant assessment data is stored in the US and HirePro, our remote monitoring partner, stores the proctoring data in either Singapore or in Europe depending on customer needs. Both systems are GDPR compliant.

Versant: a secure English language test

The Versant automated language test is powered by patented AI technology to ensure the most accurate results for test takers and employers alike. Even better, our remote testing lets HR professionals securely and efficiently assess candidates from around the world, 24/7 – and recruit top global talent to help more companies scale.

Want to learn more about Versant language tests? Contact us today to get in touch with one of our advisors.

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