Typing patterns and authentication in practical programming exams

Juho Leinonen, Krista Longi, Arto Klami, Alireza Ahadi, Arto Vihavainen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In traditional programming courses, students have usually been at least partly graded using pen and paper exams. One of the problems related to such exams is that they only partially connect to the practice conducted within such courses. Testing students in a more practical environment has been constrained due to the limited resources that are needed, for example, for authentication. In this work, we study whether students in a programming course can be identified in an exam setting based solely on their typing patterns. We replicate an earlier study that indicated that keystroke analysis can be used for identifying programmers. Then, we examine how a controlled machine examination setting affects the identification accuracy, i.e. if students can be identified reliably in a machine exam based on typing profiles built with data from students' programming assignments from a course. Finally, we investigate the identification accuracy in an uncontrolled machine exam, where students can complete the exam at any time using any computer they want. Our results indicate that even though the identification accuracy deteriorates when identifying students in an exam, the accuracy is high enough to reliably identify students if the identification is not required to be exact, but top k closest matches are regarded as correct.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITiCSE 2016
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450342315
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event2016 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2016 - Arequipa, Peru
Duration: 11 Jul 201613 Jul 2016


Conference2016 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2016


  • authentication
  • machine exam
  • programmer identification
  • source code snapshots


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