National board warns students against cheating

Sharing NAVLE test questions amounts to copyright infringement, officials say
Sep 01, 2007

BISMARCK, N.D. — A crackdown on cheaters taking the veterinary licensing examination may result in prosecutions.

The tough rhetoric comes from the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) and is aimed at blocking the Internet exchange of test questions from the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, or NAVLE.

Prior to taking the NAVLE, all candidates must sign the following oath
Officials have a message for prospective students and graduates preparing to take the exam: Exchanging and acquiring specific test questions are not legitimate study methods. The practice amounts to copyright infringement and cheating.

Since 2005, NBVME officials have investigated roughly 15 candidates and have received information concerning additional cases of suspected copyright infringement involving the sharing of test questions via the Internet. The NAVLE is a computer-based licensing examination consisting of 360 clinically relevant multiple-choice questions. All candidates must pass it to practice veterinary medicine in the United States.

Security breaches occur, officials say, when test takers share detailed NAVLE test questions — a problem compounded by the Internet. All candidates must first sign an oath promising to protect NAVLE's integrity by not reproducing test questions. Those accused of violating the examination's security must attend hearings that could result in a license suspension or revocation. Punishment can include fines and possible criminal or civil prosecution.

"The most serious cases have involved posting or sharing test questions that are or were on the exam, presumably reconstructed from test takers," NBVME Executive Secretary Dr. John Boyce says. "Compromising the integrity of the exam is serious. We're trying to get the word out on this."

The exam is expensive to develop, so when there's a security breach, those questions must be excised from the test's databank and replaced. Roughly 5,000 candidates pay $480 to take the exam each year.

While specific details are guarded, NBVME officials reveal many versions of the exam are administered and questions are on a rotation. Thousands of test questions reportedly exist.

Fine line

Officials accept and promote reviewing topics on the test, and even publish a study guide on the group's Web site. That's fair game, explains Dr. R. Michael Thomas, NBVME immediate past chair. The cheating distinction comes when candidates create a system of memorized questions.

"The sharing of questions from the state board has been around forever, but they have not necessarily been the exact questions," he says. "Over the years it's gotten worse. We want to get the word out that while we want people to be prepared, if this were tolerated, it would compromise the integrity of the examination."