Noah, you asked how it is possible to be in the top ten percent or in first place on a test like HTML 5, yet only take five minutes to take the test?
Well, you already know the answer, which is that it is not actually possible to do that without cheating. You noticed that those types of scores show up among contractors who are members of agencies. You already know what is going on there, so we do not really need to address that.
I understand you frustration, but I suggest a somewhat philosophical approach. I have taken many tests on oDesk and I think it is fair to say that given all the practical limitations on administering tests in an economical way over the internet, these are impressive tests which (overall) serve a real purpose and provide benefits to oDesk, to contractors and especially to clients.
Obviously any cheating subverts the usefulness of the tests, but I believe that for the most part clients see legitimate test scores which provide an additional sense of what an individual contractor is capable of.
But it is just one piece of a broader picture. Clients realize that, and they do not hire people based primarily on test scores. As a contractor you also realize that and your profile is a combination of many elements, including test scores as well as your main text message/description, you work history, you educational background, you portfolio, and even your photo.
There simply is no practical and economic way for oDesk to prevent any group from cheating on tests by systematically collecting questions and disseminating answers to all the people in the group (or agency), but the testing system is good in my opinion, and has its place. If it was to be made far better or perfect, it would not be economically feasible to administer, unless maybe they charged users for taking tests.
I appreciate oDesk for the dedication to making so many tests available, all for free. This is quite an investment on their part. There are competing platforms (which I will not main here, bot one of them is very, very large), which charge freelancers to take tests, and I believe their primary motivation for doing that is to make money off of freelancers who are desperate to find work, and not to provide actual work to the or to provide quality services to clients.
Is oDesk and its test system absolutely perfect? No, but it is far superior to the major competition.
It is possible, yet it does not happen very often, to honestly complete a test within 5 minutes or so and achieve a passing score within the top 10 percent. That is, if one takes the test repetitively month-to-month in order to familiarize themselves with the test questions and possible answers (Familiarize and study between tests, NOT copy tests for future use).
In some countries cases an appointed "test taker" that specializes in test taking is empowered to take tests on behalf of a group of freelancers that often take turns to work via the same account. These "test takers" use a variety of sources to determine the appropriate test answers.
A similar practice is used on occasion during the interview stage whereby an appointed "interviewee" participates in an interview, yet if they win the job bid the work is done by others within the group.
In the latter case, especially with social media marketing and other writing jobs, it is relatively easy to detect these practices by comparing the writings of the "interviewee" with the writings delivered as part of the job. In either case, whether an appointed "test taker" or and appointed "interviewee," I believe such questionable practices might not be acceptable to oDesk -- Such practices are certainly unfair to both clients and honest freelancers.
Edited 01/09/2015 RT/lwm
I understand that some users' test scores seem unrealistinc. And although sometimes nearly perfect results can be acheived simply by re-taking the test, cheating happens as well. Rest assured though that oDesk Team is working hard on identifying cases of skill tests cheating and takes appropriate actions against accounts who are guilty of it.
Well not that I want to encourage people to search but once I actually saw a website with a specialized question bank that contains odesk test questions and answers. I have not verified if the questions are just sample questions or actual questions that are in the test. I am not putting in the link here as people might get tempted
May be odesk can take an idea from leading online test websites like a client company on odesk named gteam uses a third party website for their contractor evaluation tests. I had applied and had been hired by them a couple of times and I notice that they change their test patterns frequently and even the type of questions and their difficulty level is never the same. Personally I do agree with the point that clients should not give too much importance to such tests for their hiring process. I did not even look at test scores when I hired someone for an animation job.
I actually have done that. I took one test every month until I memorized everything and I knew the answer right away, so I can score very high. I get high scores easily. I don't know you can cheat though. But I can memorize the answers. I took my tests 5 years ago. I didn't know any cheating system then. I still don't know how you can cheat it unless somebody else takes the tests for you.
Call it "Luck" if you want but I've taken a few of those test. The easiest was SEO and 7 minutes into the test on question 20 of 40 it abruptly ends saying Upwork can already tell my skills are in the top 30 percentile. Not sure how it came up with that number when im only half way through the test but I'll take it.
I can only imagine what my true test results would have been if I was allowed to keep on going altough the time it would take for me to finish the test would be double.