What risk is being defended against here?

Jerry Leichter leichter at lrw.com
Sun Jan 11 07:01:36 EST 2009

Not cryptography, but the members of this list think in these terms,  

Just recently, my 8th-grade daughter took a school placement test.   
This test (the ISEE) is administered internationally.

When we arrived, we learned that she would not be allowed into the  
test room without *one* of the following:

	- A photo ID
	- A copy of the verification letter sent to her

The verification letter is actually available - even now, after the  
test is complete - on a web site.

So ... just what risk is being defended against here?

You could imagine that the verification letter is essentially a ticket  
- the letter itself says thats what it is - but in fact the testing  
locations have a complete list of who is supposed to take the test -  
and of course you aren't *required* to have it with you.

Many such "high value" tests now require photo id's.  Some go further  
- the LSAT's, required with law school applications, fingerprint all  
test-takers.  (I think other, similar exams - like the MCAT's for  
medical school and the GMAT's for MBA programs do the same.)  There's  
an obvious risk here:  I can hire someone to take the test for me.  A  
photo ID makes that harder and a fingerprint provides strong evidence  
in case any questions arise.  But if I hired someone to take the ISEE  
in my daughter's place, presumably I could easily give them a copy of  
the verification letter.

I suppose the *combination* of the two does work as a ticket:  Either  
you have the actual verification letter, or you name is on the list  
and the photo ID proves that that's your name.  Seems a bit elaborate,  
especially since taking over someone else's test spot can't gain you  
anything - the results will be sent to schools in *their* name, not  
yours.  Besides, there's really nothing preventing you from  
*registering* in someone else's name to begin with.

Any speculations (beyond bureaucracy at its finest)?

(The actual administration of this requirement was a mess.  How many  
kids this age - the exam actually has three levels, so the age range  
would be from perhaps 9 to 17 - carry, or even have, photo id's?  The  
verification letter itself mentions, with no emphasis, that you should  
bring it with you on the test date - a fact not mentioned on the ISEE  
web site, where they tell you to bring pencils and pens and not bring  
calculators or cell phones.  Moreover, the verification letter can  
arrive way before test day - 3.5 months before, in our case.  Luckily,  
we live close to the test center, arrived early ... and were able to  
rush back home for my daughter's recently-acquired passport, the only  
photo ID she actually has.  Many others were caught in the same mess;  
some had to leave and reschedule for another day.)
                                                         -- Jerry

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