Officials probe charges of cheating on Internet


This month, the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) Executive Committee plans to question two veterinarians and two would-be graduates on charges they shared NAVLE secrets on the Internet.

This month, the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) Executive Committee plans to question two veterinarians and two would-be graduates on charges they shared NAVLE secrets on the Internet.

It's the second panel hearing alleging candidate "irregular behavior" and more are pending, NBVME officials say. The first, held in March, accused four veterinary graduates of sharing content from the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Only three of the accused attended.

The investigations mark the first accusations of widespread cheating in NBVME's history. Passing the NAVLE is a requirement for DVM licensure in the United States. The computer-based test takes more than seven hours and includes 360 multiple-choice questions randomly chosen from a large item bank. There are multiple test forms, but NBVME representatives are tightlipped about how many exist.

What they're more forthcoming about are the investigations, even though the panel hearings are closed and the alleged cheaters' identities are not public record. Executive Director Dr. John Boyce says he's being candid about the issue to attract awareness. Apart from the cheating aspect, NAVLE information is copyrighted. Violators are subject to civil and criminal action in addition to license revocation, he says.

"Some people might not know that," says Boyce, who became aware of veterinarians cyber sharing after searching the Internet. "There's a gray area between giving advice and posting test questions and answers. Right now, we're going after some of the most egregious cases."

Hearing outcome

That starts by sending cease and desist letters to those involved in "irregular behavior" on NAVLE-sharing Web sites and chat rooms, and Boyce reports they usually respond by shutting down or disappearing.

But charges against those participating on the sites don't just go away. The March hearing featured two fall 2005 NAVLE candidates and two April 2006 candidates. The alleged users were permitted to present information in their defense. After 90 minutes, Executive Board members voted to invalidate the scores of the veterinarians who took the NAVLE during the fall 2005 window. One of the April 2006 candidates was barred from taking the test during that window. The other April 2006 candidate, who did not attend the hearing, was given the option of canceling the test appointment, which she accepted. All four candidates will be allowed to take the exam during the fall 2006 testing window, the NBVME National Board Report says.

More to come

This month's hearing ties three veterinarians, two who passed the NAVLE, to an Internet discussion group that detailed exam content. NBVME officials matched the posted material to actual NAVLE questions, Boyce says. The fourth NAVLE candidate is accused of passing exam content with other candidates via e-mail.

In other actions, the NBVME National Board Report sheds light on a student Web site at an accredited veterinary school that included a file allegedly containing NAVLE content. It has since been removed.

Boyce says NAVLE candidates cross the line when they share direct test material. He surmises that those who've taken the test memorize some of its content for distribution later.

Who's doing it?

Boyce also notes that the NAVLE fail rate for senior veterinary students from U.S. accredited programs is 12 percent while 96 percent of candidates who take the test following graduation. Graduates from foreign veterinary programs have a much higher fail rate, although Boyce points out that graduates from many European and offshore programs pass at a much higher rate than candidates coming from underdeveloped nations.

NBVME officials would not release the identities or alma maters of the accused, but Boyce contends most are not stateside veterinary medical graduates.

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