Posted by: Louis Lavelle on June 30, 2008
The long-awaited GMAC FAQ, answering questions about the ongoing GMAT cheating scandal, just arrived. It addresses many of the questions that have been raised on this blog, in our MBA forums, and in comments left in the stories themselves. But I suspect a lot of people who used the scoretop site will be disappointed. There are no firm answers about when scores will be canceled, or exactly how GMAC will decide whether an individual’s conduct on the scoretop site warrants cancelation of his/her scores.
For those of you just learning about this story, allow me to recap. As the result of a $2.3 million copyright infringement judgment that GMAC won against the Scoretop site, it was able to shut the site down and obtain a hard drive containing subscriber information. There are about 6,000 names on the hard drive, all of them folks who paid $30 for 30 days access to a VIP section of the site, where GMAC says live test questions were available for one and all. Since these are questions that subsequently appeared on the test, these subscribers in effect had a sneak peak at the test. GMAC is now analyzing the hard drive and plans to cancel scores for any subscribers for whom there is “compelling evidence” that he/she violated GMAC policy.
Okay, now that you’re all caught up, GMAC’s FAQ is after the jump. This is entirely a GMAC product-BW had nothing to do with choosing the questions. A couple of interesting things that GMAC did answer: how could scoretop users have known the questions were live (short answer: you had to be blind not to know) and why it took so long to shut down the site (short answer: the feds made us do it). Read on…
Background: The Graduate Management Admission Council® was awarded a $2.35 million judgment by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in a copyright infringement case against the operator of Scoretop.com, a U.S.-based Web site that sold access to questions used on the GMAT® exam. GMAC seized the site’s domain name June 20, shut down the site, and also obtained the computer hard drive containing subscriber information.
Q. Why did GMAC file the suit against Scoretop.com?
A. GMAC goes after those who try to cheat on the GMAT exam because the Council has an ethical responsibility to business schools and students to protect the integrity of the application process. GMAC sued Lei Shi and others who operated Scoretop.com, a Web site that offered forums where visitors could share information about the GMAT. The site promoted VIP memberships─$30 for 30 days’ access ─ in which users were encouraged to read and post “JJs,” or live GMAT questions. “JJ” stands for “jungle juice,” or “jijings” – slang words for “the real thing.” GMAC’s investigation of the Web site revealed that some of the JJs contained real GMAT items.
Q. Is GMAC going to cancel scores? How long will it take?A. GMAC’s initial focus is on those who disclosed live questions to Scoretop. If, as part of this investigation, there is compelling evidence of a test taker knowingly violating GMAC policy, GMAC may cancel GMAT scores and notify recipients of the cancellation. It is too soon to say how long the investigation will last, but GMAC will keep schools and students informed throughout the investigation.
Q. Some students who visited Scoretop say the site claimed the questions were written by tutors and that they did not know the questions were live. How should they have known?
A. Scoretop promotions and numerous postings on the site touted the benefit of VIP membership as having access to live questions. Students who accessed the site but did not pay for VIP memberships did not have access to “JJs” and therefore have nothing to worry about. However, when evidence indicates a test taker paid for VIP membership, sought and obtained live GMAT items, GMAC may cancel the test taker’s score and notify schools of the cancellation.
Q. How can students know what test prep material is legitimate and what’s fishy? A. Any test preparation organization advertising “real GMAT items” is guilty of lying, stealing or both. In preparing to take the GMAT test, potential test takers should steer clear of these organizations as they can be harmful to their future. There are many reputable test preparation organizations available that do not make these claims.
Q. When do test takers agree to comply with GMAC policy about accessing or discussing GMAT questions?A: VIP members shared and/or had access to GMAT content, violating the terms they agree to when they register for the test and the agreement they signed at the testing center. Rules prohibiting improper or inadvertent access to test content, which test takers agree to when they register for the test, are described in the terms and conditions of the GMAT Information Bulletin. Test takers are reminded of their obligations and agree not to access or share test content in the Testing Rules & Agreement and the Non-Disclosure Agreement at the testing center before they take the exam.
Q. How much did people gain from accessing the questions?
A. Probably very little. The reliability of the test taker’s score is less in question than the ethical behavior of those trying to “game” the system. Even if a site is illegally able to obtain some “real” questions, it is extremely unlikely that anyone accessing the site will see the same questions on the live exam. The GMAT, a computer adaptive test, has a bank of thousands of questions.
Q. Did GMAC change the test as a result of the items exposed on Scoretop?
A. GMAC had been following Scoretop for some time and had removed the live questions found on the site from the GMAT question bank. No further changes need to be made at this time. The GMAT exam is continually monitored and reviewed.
Q. The Scoretop Web site has been up for a few years, so why did GMAC wait so long to pursue it?
GMAC worked with the FBI for several years documenting the evidence necessary to take action. During that time, Lei Shi was warned repeatedly to stop posting live questions to the site. Ultimately, while the FBI continued its investigation, GMAC decided to try to shut down the site via a civil suit, which was filed in June 2007. GMAC announced the ruling on June 20, as soon as it gained control of the Scoretop.com domain and hard drive.
Q. Is GMAC going to pursue other Web sites?
A. Yes, GMAC is always looking at sites for possible violations of its intellectual property and will continue to investigate all Web sites that claim to post GMAT questions.