Combat Cheating in Regulatory Bodies – Part 2

In the previous post last week I talked about cheating on Continuing Competence and Practice Hours reporting.  This time I’ll discuss some possible ways that registrants can cheat when uploading documents and on online exams and methods that you can use to make it harder to cheat.

Certificates, Insurance Policies and Transcripts

Do you require that members have liability insurance or provide proof of CPR certification?  Do your applicants need to provide proof of their transcripts from school?  It’s pretty common for a regulatory body to require these kinds of documentation every year or when someone is a applying for licensure.

Allowing your members to upload this documentation in your association management software makes College processes easier. Rather than having to receive and store physical documents, allowing your members to upload the documents takes away a lot of cost and headache.

When your registrants are sending you electronic documents, however, the possibility does exist for them to “doctor” those documents before sending.  This might mean changing their grade on a transcript or changing the expiry date on a certificate of insurance.

How can you catch or deter members from cheating this way?

  1. Sometimes, members assume you will never look at the image when they upload it and upon opening the file for review, the edit to the image is pretty obvious.  One regulatory body shared a story where a member used white-out to cover an expiry date, wrote in a new date, and then uploaded the doctored image. That falsification is pretty easy to determine as long as you are reviewing each document that is uploaded. The key to making this work is having a process by which you review applications or renewals for each registrant.
  2. Compare year to year: Having their images stored digitally allows you to compare last year’s image with this year’s. Often, if the registrant is sending in a copy of their professional liability insurance policy and they are going to doctor it to extend the expiry date, using the same image file as last year. If the two images from 2014 and 2015 look almost identical except for the expiry date, then they might warrant closer inspection.
  3. Meta data inspection: digital image files like JPG often have data called “EXIF” data encoded right in the image.  This data includes things like the camera type that took the picture, but more importantly – the date that the picture was taken.  If the year-to-year comparison shows similar images, then using a tool to compare their EXIF data may tell you that the newest image came from the older one.
  4. Audit: when you have a suspicion that a document may be falsified, then you may wish to request original copies of the documents in question.

Jurisprudence Exams

Often, regulatory bodies opt to have members complete exams to test the member’s knowledge of the profession including the specific by-laws of the regulatory body. These exams may include sections on professional conduct/ethics, clinic operations, scope of practice, continuing competence and many other areas.

In any online, self-directed examination, there exists the possibility that members will copy the questions and answers.

Even here in Alberta there have been several cases where regulatory bodies have become aware of members selling jurisprudence exams on common buy and sell websites like Kijiji, Craigslist or eBay. There are even websites dedicated to the sharing of high school and university exams.

What can you do to make it less likely that your registrants will cheat on these exams or try and share or sell the exams?

First, your members need to be aware that this kind of cheating is illegal and usually against your regulatory bodies code of ethics. Often the penalty for this type of cheating may be a suspension from practicing status of the stripping of the members license altogether. Making this known and what the penalty might be for an infraction may help deter members from cheating.

But deterence may not work completely. So another way to help ensure that cheating by sharing your questions and answers is to make sure your exam looks different to each candidate – ensuring that no one candidate has access to all of the questions and answers and that no exam has the same questions.

For example, you may have a 20 question exam covering several areas or domains. When a candidate sits down to take your exam, ensuring that your association management software generates their exam randomly from a larger pool of questions guarantees that their exam will be different than the last persons.

If you have a pool of 80 questions to pull from and you have 20 questions, then the number of possible combinations of exams is 3,535,316,142,212,174,000. That’s a lot. And any one exam candidate only sees a maximum of 25% of your question pool – so no one can sell or share your pool of questions.

Starting with a large pool of questions may be difficult, so adding 10 or 15 questions each year will help ensure that the exam is different again from year to year.


There’s no way to guarantee that your registrants and applicants don’t cheat, but using these tools and the ones in the previous post should help you make it harder to cheat and also to make it catching cheaters after the fact a little easier.