GMAT Cheating Scandal, Part II

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on June 26, 2008

Folks, I just received a copy of the complaint GMAC filed against the Scoretop web site and I’m posting a link here for all to see.

According to the complaint, one of the benefits of VIP membership marketed on the scoretop site was access to question sets dubbed “JJs.” JJ is an acronym for “jungle juice” or jijings.” Along with MJJs (math questions) and VJJs (verbal questions) these question sets are “actual GMAT questions that have been recontructed and reproduced on the Scoretop website.”

A lot of people have posted comments on my original story saying that the scoretop site made assurances that the questions were written by scoretop staff. That may be true, but it now seems very hard to believe that anyone with VIP access didn't know they were getting the real mccoy.

The GMAC complaint includes posts by several individuals extolling the benefits of the JJs, including this one from "h3adsh0t":

"Take [Scoretop's] VIP...[G]o through as many MJJs as you possibly can. They are invaluable. They are priceless. Let me say it again--they're inestimable...The current month's JJ's represent the questions that are most probable to appear on the exam, but they're not the only ones that may appear...I...saw 10-12 JJs [when I took the GMAT], word by word, and many of the other questions felt very familiar."

"Sammi," another scoretop poster, stated that he "got 3 successive [math] questions, of which all three were from scoretop Nov or Dec!...[T]he confidence you derive out of solving a seen problem is incomparable."

Check out the entire complaint and let us know what you think.

Reader Comments

RD

June 26, 2008 1:42 PM

I'd be interested to hear from a legal perspective how the notion of "supposed" awareness would come into play. ie, whether GMAC will ban all registered/paid users of scoretop or whether they will ban those people who frequented the forums where "JJ" questions were actively discussed. Personally, I'm still skeptical that on legal grounds that GMAC can go after every VIP user based upon the information that has been made public.

Alternately, I'd also like know whether there is legal precedence for previous cases such as this. Again, I would be surprised if this was the first time that a case such as this had occurred.

And lastly, I'm interested to see the actual transcript from the judgement that was handed in favor of GMAC. That by itself could go a long way in determining which party has the greater leverage.

My investigation

June 26, 2008 1:52 PM

Hi Louis,

Thanks for the update. I did some research as to why so many users missed the fact that scoretop provided live questions. This is what I have realized (source : internet). I may be wrong. But you may do your own investigation.

1. JJ's were provided by ST as part of VIP membership prior to 2007. In 2006, they issued a notice that ST was no longer providing VIP membership, and that there would be a major reconstruction before they brought back the service.

2. Around November 2006, they announced that they were starting the new VIP membership, with their fully-owned material, written by their own tutors.

I suppose, the people who will be wronged if GMAC takes a random action will be the ones who took the new VIP membership. They might be the ones who are claiming that they were not aware of anything illegal and they might be right. I do not know how scoretop advertised their previous VIP membership.

Also as far as I now, in every question bank that ST provided in the new VIP membership, they specifically mentioned that they were providing their own material.

If I am not mistaken I might have seen posts in various forums where people have mentioned that Scoretop no longer provides JJs.

Please confirm it and let us all know.

jhs04

June 26, 2008 3:30 PM

When I signed up for VIP earlier this year there was no mention of any JJ's. It looks like they stopped advertising and using these sets as early as late 2006. I never saw any posts like that at all either, which were also probably from a few years ago. I guess the rest of us are just suckers who were supposed to know what happened 2 years ago. Presuming that GMAC has the most recent version of the website, you would think this is something that can be easily identified. But I guess due to a few code words, I'm not allowed to go to business school. When I bought VIP access, it was for the access to tutors and practice questions. But I guess, who cares to look at the details... only hundreds if not thousands of innocent people will be blamed. I am an American and I have access to a lawyer and the GMAC can bet that they will be hearing from us if they decide to be so imprudent and assuming that we are all cheaters. The only thing worse than these rediculous statements and ramifications are the time we have to wait to learn that we are getting in trouble for something we didn't do.

RD

June 26, 2008 3:56 PM

Is it possible for anybody without journalist credentials to query Judy Phair for a follow-up statement to the quotes that she provided within the initial business week story?

Her original statements in light of the information that continues to trickle out seem to be fantastically inflammatory for somebody in her position.

Jhs04

June 26, 2008 4:07 PM

TO THE WRITER (LOUIS): I find it a little odd that you were the only one to report this, other than the GMAC article, which didn't mention that everyone who paid 30 dollars automatically cheated. All we were given was one little quote, which put the fear of god into a lot of people who did not necessarily do anything wrong. Don't you think this should give you the responsibility of going to the GMAC people and getting a more detailed explanation. You have to admit that it is possible that we never knew that there was anything weird going on with the website - especially since it seems like it completely changed its advertisement verbage in late 2006/early 2007. Since YOU were the one who put all of this fear in us (everywhere else this article appeared originated from YOU!), you should go to GMAC and get us some more details. These details include 1)Whether or not the GMAC are aware that it's possible that people did not know anything fishy was going on 2)Whether or not the GMAC knows that the website changed its language and advertised legitimate services (and no JJ's or whatever they are) and 3)A realistic timeline in which we can expect action to be taken. I don't want to pay money and spend all the time on applications if the GMAT decides they are going to label me a cheater (which will result in a lawsuit). I hope you realize the fear you put in people, and feel a civic duty not only to generate buzz on this website, but to give us the truth and hopefully relay perhaps another side that does have some validity.

legend

June 26, 2008 4:24 PM

Certain plain facts - The suit was filed against Scoretop in Jun 2007 but there was no information posted in GMAC website about the same. How am I, an end user, supposed to know that scoretop is violating the copyright?

Secondly, I took VIP member just a couple of days before the site was closed in May 08, and I gave my GMAT a little after the site was closed. So there is no way, I could be held responsible for disclosing the contents even if GMAC contends that all paid members abetted this crime of disclosure.

Thirdly, while taking the membership, there is no place in the site where there was any mention about sets or JJs. Infact, there were some who were asking for these JJs but many had responded that JJs were stopped much before 2006. These discussions took place in VIP area where the content can be accessed only after payment and membership.

Even if one has to learn that some illegal activity was going on inside the VIP area, one can do so only after obtaining membership. Effectively, until the entry, one is ignorant of the fact that some illegal activity was going on. And, it is highly possible that after learning about that copyright violation, the user never returned. In my case, I wasnt aware and I NEVER used or discussed a single resource. Infact, I found that area to be most haphazard and people were simply not aware of what is right or wrong answer.

How can GMAC establish my intent to cheat or access copyrighted material, based only on my membership, when it is not possible to know what is the content unless I got the membership? Especially when GMAC has made no effort to publish its suit against scoretop on its website?

Ignorance of orders is no excuse alright. But there are a million copyrights and does GMAC expects me to dream of things on my own? In its own logic, the second time test taker, who by virtue of having taken the test once, ends up disclosing to himself and he is "aware" of non disclosed questions! Isnt that an even unfair advantage?

Punishing prospective students like me, arbitrarily is not fair and such a move will not be left uncontested. By all means please punish the guys who posted such questions, because they have committed an infringement but not candidates like me who have not used the services against agreed upon disclosure pacts.

I AM NOT ONLY SUING GMAC IF THEY DECIDE TO CANCEL MY SCORES WHICH IS LEGITIMATELY MINE, BUT ALSO SUE THEM FOR GIVING OUT A PARTIAL STATEMENT LIKE THIS THAT LEFT ROOM FOR SO MUCH INTERPRETATION AND ROBBED MY PEACE OF MIND.

Louis

June 26, 2008 5:24 PM

Jhs04, I'm kinda perpexed as to why nobody else reported this. It was contained in a press release that GMAC put out about its court victory, so it was right there for anyone who was interested. As I've stated elsewhere, I've been trying to get more answers from GMAC all day--I called Judith Phair this morning and one of GMAC's Washington lawyers this afternoon. I also posted a copy of the GMAC complaint, and blogged on the first major b-school dean to speak out on the controversy. My purpose in writing the article wasn't to scare everybody, just to inform our readers about something of critical importance to a lot of people who visit this web site--that's what journalists are supposed to do. I think everybody needs to take a deep breath and calm down. I know this is pretty scary, but hitting the panic button isn't going to make things any better. As soon as I have some info, you guys will be the first to know--you just have to accept that we may not have answers to a lot of your questions for some time.

N.

June 26, 2008 9:58 PM

I agree with people who have commented here previously. The charm of the VIP membership was the help one could get from the tutors. It is extremely unfair to take drastic measures and ruin 1000s of lives based on something which a few people did. I know as early as February 2007, the site stated that the questions provided to the VIP members were solely owned by the tutors and the website.This article came as a huge shock to me esp the reaction from GMAC against innocent students. Additionally, pretty much any website that offers tutorials for GMAT has practice questions which I am assuming their tutors get from taking the exam.If this is a case of copyright infringement, I think GMAC should go after the owners of the website, not the students. Also to be noted, the questions that are encountered in the GMATs are dependent on the performance of the test taker. There is no definite set of questions one can expect. Keeping that in mind, I don't think any student could have actually gotten the exact same questions. Similar perhaps, but thats the case with any books and courses that one would use to prepare for the exam.

HARR67

June 27, 2008 1:42 AM

Louis, do you have any update whether they have started canceling scores? I read somewhere that they are going to sue the web host of Scoretop.

Louis

June 27, 2008 9:31 AM

HARR67, I don't have any further info about when GMAC will start cancelling scores. GMAC just got it's hands on the hard drive a few days ago. They need to match up the paypal info on the hard drive to actual scores received from the same test-takers. I know this is frustrating, but it's going to take some time and everybody needs to be a little patient.

One last thing...the biggest theme I'm seeing in all these posts is "I didn't know they were live questions, how can I have my scores cancelled?" According to one of the posts I saw yesterday, it appears that test takers agree to abide by GMAC's rules and regs when they take the test, and one of those rules appears to give GMAC great latitude in cancelling scores. It does not appear that they even need to prove you had knowledge of test content before the test, just that you had access to it. Now, I don't know if GMAC plans to enforce that clause--although Judy Phair's comments in my story suggest that they will--but it certainly appears that those are the rules agreed to by all parties, even if most test takers never read all the fine print. Is it unfair? Probably. But let's not jump the gun. GMAC, and the schools, might find a middle ground that makes sense to everybody--something like allowing people to retake the test. I know I sound like a broken record, but we just have to wait and see.

DSouza

June 27, 2008 9:54 AM

Louis

I was a VIP member in 2006. However, I used an alias. Do you know if the court ruling will allow GMAC to require Paypal to hand over the real names associated with a certain email address that was used to make a payment? I shut down that paypal account sometime back. If possible please find this out. I'm totally stressed out and near suicidal because I'm in my dream summer internship and can see my whole world crumbling down in front of me. Thanks

AR

June 27, 2008 1:23 PM

Louis,

I really appreciate the fact that your are covering this story. Please keep the updates flowing. Also, please try to get in contact with Judith, GMAC's Legal COunsel, or Darden's Dean to get a better idea as to the extend of their actions and/or the actual knowledge of the facts. Since there is a lot of misinformation flowing around, I think you can make sure you provide unpartial information for everybody. Keep up the great work!

To LOUIS - Please consider

June 27, 2008 5:53 PM

Louis - I really think you should write about the students/test-takers side of the story. So far the claims and articles are all biased towards GMAC's claims that everybody was a cheater, which I find extremely unfair. All the facts should be taking into consideration, including the fact that test-takers are exposed to various sites/forums that allow them to discuss strategies, test experiences, and prep material. Sites such as beatthegmat.com, testmagic.com, papalguy.com, manhattangmat.com are just a few of the ones that provide test information/advice. Why are these sites and their members in the spotlight? how can a test-taker know if there is illegal material being discussed? I have read the GMAC bulletin and its policies, and still think GMAC is being unfair (and maybe subject to class action suits) by claiming every member was a cheater. I ask you to please bring these topics into the discussion so that GMAC, its legal counsel, and the universities can have all the relevant information to make a educated decision. also, independent legal opinion would help bridge the gap between GMAC claims and the students/test-takers positions.

Louis

June 27, 2008 6:58 PM

I responded to the bias claim in the comments left on the original story. Here's what I wrote:

As for the claim of bias, I think that's off base. When the first (and only) story was written there was no way to find students who used the site. And now there's really no point--nearly 600 of you have left messages here, on the MBA forums, or on the blog. The students' point of view on this story hasn't just been told...it's completely overwhelmed GMAC's position. Personally, I think the students make a lot of compelling arguments. I also think you're your own best advocates--if anyone is going to convince GMAC of the error of its ways it's you, not me.

To which I'll add this: GMAC is in the process of creating an FAQ that I suspect will answer a lot of your questions. It should be available sometime next week. I know you and others feel wronged by GMAC, but resolving those issues is something that will have to be worked out by the students, the schools, and GMAC, not BusinessWeek. I'm here to relay the best information I have, as soon as I have it, not to act as a mediator.

Mamta

July 7, 2008 9:44 PM

Louis

I was a VIP member for 2 months in Late 2007. Though I never participated in any of the forums... nor discussed any of the questions.

I am YET to give my GMAT. Would that still land me in trouble? Just need your 2 cents on this.

Louis

July 8, 2008 8:27 AM

Folks, a lot of people are asking me questions I just don't have answers to. We're trying to set up a chat with GMAC so that you can all ask your questions directly and get answers immediately. As soon as it's scheduled I'll let everyone know. Thanks for your patience.

FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION

July 14, 2008 3:11 AM

After reading about GMAT controversy, I a 25 yr old software engineer from India, together with my 10 friends has decided to form a group to give private tuitions for Gmat. Each one of us will give Gmat twice a year, for next 5 years. We will discuss real, live gmat questions in private classes and most of our students will score more than 700. we will not open an internet site and there will be no hard disk or any printed material. We will base ourselves in 4 metros in India. No American will be allowed to join us. We will advertise by ‘word of mouth’ and will take payment in cash. We will not require students to disclose their real names. Thus making millions of dollars in a few years.

We challenge the FBI to find us. And prove that we discuss live questions. After 5 years, we will disclose the total number of our students who scored more than 700, and not their names, to a leading newspaper.
This will degrade the authenticity of gmat and will kill the gmac.

Thank you.

TO LOUIS

July 21, 2008 2:28 AM

DEAR LOUIS,
Why dont you also post importants points from court's judgement. That is the most important document. That will clarify many questions and make raise some new interesting points. For example, COURT found that GMAC's petition to get access to the HD of scoretop is overboard. None of your articles have high lighted these very importants points. As a responsible journalist, we expect that you cover all angles. No hard feelings against you but we expect more objective reporting from you.

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