The incidents of paper leaks – be it in schools, universities, or entrance exams for jobs – have increased over time. Even if these leaks are limited to a specific region, it impacts the candidates of all regions.
The latest example of an exam paper leak is the Uttarakhand Police Service Commission (UKPSC) exam that was conducted on January 8, 2023. Around 1,14,071 candidates appeared for the exam at 458 centers across 13 districts in Uttarakhand. The UKPSC canceled the exam after learning about the leaking of the question paper, bringing in a huge setback for all of the candidates across 13 districts.
The traditional process of making exam papers entails the involvement of a specific number of resources. Once the question papers are created by these resources, the papers are sent to the moderators who check the difficulty level of the papers and finalize them. Following this, the papers are printed and sent to exam centers, where the seal is broken and the invigilators distribute the papers.
All of these stakeholders, storage locations, and points of transition, which include involuntary participation of intermediaries, could be potential points of a leak.
In today’s technology era, it is not an ideal solution to use physical storage and distribution channels to deliver exam papers to different exam centers, which is usually the case today.
Blockchain technology holds huge potential to make this multi-stakeholder, intermediary-heavy, paper-dependent paradigm to remove the loopholes and make the process more secure.
Blockchain technology can help achieve greater security through encryption, auto-execution for permission, access control of securely stored documents, and decentralization of data.
At each transition step, the question paper can be encrypted using a strong hash function. This would require a stakeholder to use an authorized key to decrypt the document and read or edit its content. Any change in the paper document can be easily tracked for auditability in a tamper-proof manner.
The digital question paper can be stored securely on the Blockchain, with a restricted level of access control. This can prevent unauthorized stakeholders from moving the exam papers across the supply chain. Consequently, the papers can be securely transferred peer-to-peer, thereby reducing the possibility of leakage significantly.
A smart contract can enable access to the document at a specific time for specific stakeholders. This can enable user accountability and traceability, and eliminate the probability of involuntary exposure of documents.
To put it simply, blockchain can empower a stakeholder to prepare and upload their version of an exam paper on Blockchain. This can further create an encryption hash of the paper and securely store the paper on the Blockchain. Once this is achieved, the stakeholder access can be revoked automatically by the smart contract. This is when only the assigned moderators, as per the smart contract, can be permitted to read or edit the paper as the next step.
The identity of the stakeholder is anonymous for the moderator for any bias attempt. Encryption and storage steps can be repeated at this stage. Once the moderators reach a consensus on the final exam paper, the paper can be locked in for access until the due date. The smart contract can enable document access for specific users across exam centers on the exam date at a pre-agreed time. Or else, the smart contract can be integrated with a printing system for the agreed number of copies for each exam center connected to the Blockchain network. The process can be further augmented with online examinations, where students can have a unique key to unlock the exam paper at the time of the exam, thereby reducing the chances of leakage to a large extent
Unlike centralized systems, which are susceptible to a single point of error and hacking, blockchain-based decentralized systems are more secure and free from problems like a single point of error. Furthermore, blockchain can offer better traceability and transparency across the exam paper supply chain, making it easier for stakeholders to identify even a minor change in the document.
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