The National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) is postponing the release of Part 1 scores while it investigates possible cheating by “a significant number” of exam candidates. Optometry candidates took the exam on March 16 and 17 at 18 different sites across North America.

NBEO’s investigation is focusing on three primary questions:

• Did some candidates have access to confidential exam items before the test?
• Did candidates engage in an organized attempt to memorize exam content in order to reproduce it for other students?
• Did this misconduct involve a faculty member (or members)?

“Such unethical conduct, if it occurred, would constitute cheating and would be a violation of NBEO examination policies and rules,” the organization said in a statement.

Before the exam, candidates agree to not accept or obtain any test items from any source, and not to “engage in any other unauthorized or improper actions in connection with the examination materials and/or content,” NBEO says. Failure to abide by these agreements “may result in the cancellation of scores, the barring of candidates from future exams, and/or the imposition of other sanctions as determined by the Board of Directors,” NBEO says.

If the investigation determines that some candidates cheated, then “appropriate disciplinary or enforcement action will be considered against those found to be involved in improper conduct.”

Scores from this exam were scheduled to be released on May 5. But now, NBEO says, the scores won’t be released until the investigation has been completed.

On the Internet, student forums are buzzing with speculation over which school and which faculty member is involved. Students are also bemoaning the delay in receiving their scores, which is making it difficult for them to plan their next steps.