For example, I am taking an online Calculus test because of Covid-19 that would normally be taken in person.

The in-person test requires photo IDs to be checked of all test takers to make sure they are the ones taking the test.

Because of this rule, we must upload our ID online at any point during the week before the test. Effectively making the process redundant but still in effect for the sake of keeping the rules.

I was wondering if there is a word that can be used to describe such a rule?


EDIT: After further thought I think 'a formality' would be a good phrase to describe this.

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    I think you face a positive embarrassment of choices for that. As Richard Armour wrote in introducing Paul Tabori’s The Natural Science of Stupidity, “What can be more characteristic of our mankind than the fact that Roget’s Thesaurus devotes six columns to the synonyms, verbs, nouns, and adjectives of ‘stupidity’ while ‘wisdom’ occupies hardly one?” – Brian Donovan Jul 13 '20 at 18:43
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    Ritual is the normal term. – John Lawler Jul 13 '20 at 20:03
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    Not sure why you're calling the process redundant. Seems like a straightforward extension of the requirement for identity verification for in-person tests to online tests. Where is the redundancy? Is there a requirement that you provide your photo ID more than once? – Richard Kayser Jul 13 '20 at 20:31
  • A "waste of time" or "useless activity"? – Tyler N Jul 13 '20 at 20:35
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    It really depends on how the test is administered. If you had to take the test while on a video conference then the proctor could look at you on video and compare to the uploaded ID. For example. – Jim Jul 14 '20 at 2:01

A symbolic procedure with little real purpose:

pro forma

Wikipedia explains pro forma as follows:

The term pro forma (Latin for "as a matter of form" or "for the sake of form") is most often used to describe a practice or document that is provided as a courtesy or satisfies minimum requirements, conforms to a norm or doctrine, tends to be performed perfunctorily or is considered a formality.


  • You got it. I was going to suggest Verifiable so the one who signs up actually can be proved to be taking the test. – Elliot Jul 13 '20 at 21:43

Sounds like a check-the-box exercise. From the Urban Dictionary:

check the box: A phrase which means to complete a task to the barest minimum standard, and subsequently cease working. At this point one may check off the box on a task list or matrix.

Whoever is administering your online calculus test has created a check-the-box requirement that creates the illusion that they have identity verification and cheating prevention under control, when in reality they don't. It's a meaningless exercise, or as you so aptly put it, "a symbolic procedure with little purpose."


The organization has a CYA in place to cover their asses for the potential failure of this practice. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how effective these measures are just as long as they are in place.

According to The New York Times' language expert William Safire, it describes "the bureaucratic technique of averting future accusations of policy error or wrongdoing by deflecting responsibility in advance". It often involves diffusing responsibility for one's actions as a form of insurance against possible future negative repercussions. It can denote a type of institutional risk-averse mentality which works against accountability and responsibility, often characterized by excessive paperwork and documentation, which can be harmful to the institution's overall effectiveness.

Of course, you are uploading your ID to cover your ass also, and it ultimately serves the same bureaucratic "purpose."


This can be called theater. The most common usage is security theater as in “The TSA’s job is not security, it’s security theater”. See https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/tsa-business-security-theater-not-security/357599/

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