I sometimes receive this rather amusing message while reviewing in the review queues:


This was only a test, designed to make sure you were paying attention. You passed.

If I am not paying attention while reviewing I sometimes receive this not-so-amusing message:

STOP! Look and Listen.

This was an audit, designed to see if you were paying attention. You didn't pass.

Don't worry, we've already handled this post appropriately – but please take a minute to look it over closely, keeping in mind the guidance above.

  • What is the purpose of this test?
  • How does the audit work?
  • What happens if I fail?
  • Why was the system expecting me to negatively review a good post, or positively review a bad post?
  • A review is obviously an audit. Should I report it?
  • Do review audits count toward the Reviewer badge?
  • Do robo-reviewers dream of electric sheep?

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1 Answer 1


What is the purpose of this test?

The test (known as a review audit) is designed to help new reviewers hone their moderation skills, while nudging more experienced users who don't seem to be paying close attention to what they're reviewing. Some people were in the habit of positively reviewing everything without regard to quality; extremely low-quality posts with a high score are very problematic in a system where the best information naturally rises to the top, so "audit" tasks are mixed in to make sure folks are paying attention.

This is currently active only on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, Software Engineering, Ask Ubuntu, Mathematics, Stack Overflow em Português, Stack Overflow en Español, and Stack Overflow на русском.

How does the audit work?

  • First questions, First answers, Late answers, Triage, and Low quality posts/answers: The test presents a reviewer with a post that was previously deleted and known to be of extremely poor quality (flagged as spam, "not an answer", or "very low quality"), or known to be of high quality (many up-votes, no down-votes, etc).

  • Close votes and Reopen votes: The test presents a reviewer with a question which the system has determined should be open or closed based on various criteria (highly-voted with no close votes, quickly closed with no answers, etc).

  • Suggested edits: The test presents a reviewer with a randomly generated edit utilizing the Markov chain algorithm to randomly insert various words that may appear to be useful at first glance but actually make no sense and are meant to vandalize the post.

If a user passes a test, they are informed that they passed and thanked for their time and feedback. If a user fails a review audit, they are warned that they didn't pass and encouraged to pay more attention in the future.

The result is then recorded for analysis. Only diamond (♦) moderators or Stack Exchange employees can see the full data; it is not accessible publicly even to high-reputation users. Normal users can see if a given post was used to generate audits in the post's timeline; the entry will appear as "audit", and clicking on it will access the review task which will indicate the pass/fail outcome and the user to whom it was presented.

What happens if I fail?

For most, nothing. You'll be given some guidance on why the post was inappropriate and what you could have done instead, and then allowed to continue reviewing.


Repeated failures, especially in short succession, can lead to your review privileges being suspended for a few days or longer, depending on the frequency of the failures. Stack Exchange is continuing to analyze the data to determine the best action to take in these cases.

Why was the system expecting me to perform the wrong action on a post?

Review audits are chosen automatically. The system isn't perfect, meaning that every so often a post slips through normal community detection and moderation, causing the system to generate a bad, invalid, or questionable audit.

These can be split into two cases:

The system expected me to positively review a bad post

  • The most common case is when a low-quality, off-topic, or otherwise close-worthy post gets upvoted. Sometimes visitors may upvote posts without paying attention to the site rules.
  • You identify a post as being an exact duplicate of an older, highly-voted post. To prevent audits from being obvious, the vote count is displayed as zero and the user card is either anonymized or shown as having been posted by a new user. This may make you think you are looking at an exact duplicate.

The system expected me to negatively review a good post

  • Other users may have cast subjective downvotes, which means they disagree with the post rather than think it is a bad post. You may have had a different opinion, or attempted to review it objectively.
  • The post may have been marked as spam as part of a spamming attack where only a few users knew the details. In this case, moderators can clear the spam flags, to prevent them from being used as audits.1

Don't worry! The fact that you identified a bad audit means that you are paying attention, and are not the type of reviewer that the audits are intended to catch.

If you encounter a bad audit, post it on the per-site meta tagged to draw attention to it, containing a link to either the audit review task or the post, and why you disagree with the audit. Other users can cast votes to counteract the automatic decisions that led to it being chosen as the wrong type of audit (e.g. downvote and close an off-topic question that got picked as a known-good audit). If you get suspended from reviewing as a result of failing one or more bad audits, the review suspension can be lifted or shortened by ♦ moderators at their discretion.

A review is obviously an audit. Should I report it?

There are many ways to identify audits (e.g. click to see the post itself, the user, the vote count, etc.). Almost all of these ways involve having to further investigate the post. By this time, you've already carefully reviewed the post, which is the intent of the queues.

As stated earlier, the main purpose of audits is to catch robo-reviewers, who mindlessly review without even looking at the posts, and to help educate new reviewers. Easy-to-identify audits help legitimate reviewers pass and help better hone new reviewers' skills.

On the other hand, if you spot a user who appears to be gaming the system (e.g. they are making bad reviews but somehow passing every audit) flag one of their posts for moderator attention and explain the situation; moderators will take a further look and maybe issue a manual review suspension.

Also, if you find something in the review audit system that makes audits extremely obvious (as in one can immediately tell that a review is an audit, with almost no extra investigation), feel free to report that flaw.

Do review audits count towards review badges?

Passed audits count as a successful review towards the review badges. A failed audit does not count toward the badges, but does not decrement your progress either; it simply adds none.

Do robo-reviewers dream of electric sheep?

Robo-reviewers don't sleep. They wait.

Important Note:

The information contained in this answer is subject to change as the review system is further refined. Changes that impact the mechanics of the test, or consequences of failing it repeatedly will be reflected in this answer as they're made, but not necessarily immediately after they're made.

1. In December 2018, a change was made where only posts that are deleted by the system in response to the threshold number of spam flags (currently four from normal users or a single one from a moderator) will be used as known-spam audits in the Triage and Low quality posts (answers) queues (as well as entirely excluding posts with one or more valid "rude or abusive" flags in those queues). However, you may still see this happen, e.g. if the flags come from Charcoal users, as well as in other review queues.

  • 226
    I'd like a "I still disagree, your test if flawed" button for "failed" tests. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 15:33
  • 21
    @CodesInChaos: keep in mind, these test posts have already been deleted - so if you disagree strongly, you should probably flag them for moderator attention / bring them up on Meta / etc.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 17:33
  • 48
    I got the "failed" message when closing some questions. It presented a real one and I clicked on the "Close" button just to see how many other people had considered it a "closable" question, but it immediately said I failed the test despite not yet submitting a close vote... I quite often open that close dialog up just to see what other people are thinking (in the event I am overlooking why the question is being voted to be closed).
    – dreamlax
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 17:32
  • 35
    @dreamlax You should not review based on what others are thinking, because that only amplifies existing reviews. The review systems works because multiple people form an independent opinion. If there is (semi-)consensus that probably means the consensus is true and actions can be based on that consensus. However, if that "consensus" is because everyone agrees with the ones before him only the first independant opinion determines the consensus and thus it becomes worthless.
    – dtech
    Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 12:15
  • 28
    @dtech: I see your point and fair enough. For me though, I don't blindly follow what everyone else is thinking, I only check to see if perhaps my mind has had a severe lapse of judgement.
    – dreamlax
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 3:02
  • 22
    Can users ever graduate out of having to take these tests? I've done hundreds of reviews, and have passed every test thrown at me. How long before the system figures out that I can recognize garbage? Maybe when I earn the Steward badge?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 19:14
  • 18
    I suppose. It just feels a little condescending after a while.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 19:22
  • 47
    I just failed my first audit by clicking "no action needed", on an answer that had already been deleted, which I knew by clicking through to the full question. Because my understanding of reviewing was to recommend future action (or to take action myself), I concluded that the problem had already been resolved, so no further action was needed. Have I misunderstood the purpose of reviewing, such that I shouldn't be looking at the live post to see the current state of affairs in its larger context? Is my misunderstanding of a different flavour? Advice/clarification would be appreciated.
    – nmjk
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 19:52
  • 12
    Is it theoretically possible for the random algorithm to generate helpful edit suggestions? And, if that happens to me, can that be taken as conclusive proof that this is the matrix, and I am the Chosen One?
    – root
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 16:47
  • 14
    I was thinking about posting a new question, but hopefully a comment here will suffice. My problem with this is that I sometimes want to view some close reasons, which I can do before closing, except when these tests occur. I wanted to check if something was a duplicate by opening the close dialog, but was then "busted".
    – keyser
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 14:11
  • 22
    @dtech Your point, that reviews should not be based on what others think, is correct. However, consider this case: I notice a question has had close votes, but see nothing wrong with it. Before I comment "this post is fine", I'd like to see why it was close-voted in the first place. For instance, it's considered a duplicate, and maybe it is? So I take a look at the linked post to double-check. It is only then that I can decide whether the post truly was a duplicate, or if people may have misjudged the post; maybe they only look similar, but actually ask 2 different things?
    – Nolonar
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 23:28
  • 35
    I would very much like an "I respectfully disagree" button added to the failure dialog. I suppose it may be a character flaw, but if someone solicits my opinion (as SO does by asking me to review things), and then tells me I'm wrong, I expect a chance to argue my position. It just seems polite. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:25
  • 20
    I suspect that one real consequence of these audits is to encourage active members not to review. I decided to be a good citizen and do my share and clear off the review list whenever presented. But when you get one or two of these stupid and condescending responses a day, I decided whats the f***ing point and gave up reviewing. How many others have done likewise? You don't get anything for acting as a reviewer other than be insulted by the system for your contribution.
    – TerryE
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 14:29
  • 28
    I don't get these at all; if the point isn't to go along with the herd, then what's the point of the test? If 5 people said a question is poor and should be closed, but I don't think it should be, then there's a disconnect. Either you are encouraging groupthink or you encourage people to make their own decisions, but the fact there's some hidden algorithm that determines if you reviewed "correctly" defeats the purpose of thinking independently. Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 19:53
  • 8
    Yea I just got my review rights removed for a little because someone posted a question asking about how to make a plugin work and linked to some sites. I looked at the URLs and they weren't sites for selling something. So I said it required editing. But I failed since the question was closed. Its just confusing to me. It wasn't spam. And I went and looked at the question again and others had commented that it seemed to be a legit question too. Very aggravating. Try to help the community by doing your share and I am being punished for it. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 14:36

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