GMAT Cheating Scandal Unfolds

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on June 23, 2008

Folks, we just posted an important story on the business school channel about an effort by GMAC to identify prospective MBA students who may have used the Scoretop web site to get a leg up on the exam.

What GMAC is contemplating is pretty extreme: anyone caught using the site will have thier GMAT scores cancelled, the schools that received them will be notified, the student will not be allowed to retake the exam, and they could face civil and/or criminal prosecution. For more than 1,000 students and applicants, a lot is hanging in the balance.

I’d really like to hear from individuals who have used the Scoretop site, which allows students who have taken the test to report the questions they received, and allows students who are getting ready to take the test to see those “live” questions.

I think there's a real debate that needs to take place. GMAC says that the students who reported the questions to the site, the site that displayed them, and the test takers who accessed them are all violating the GMAC copyright. Do test takers who take part in this know they're breaking the law? Does it qualify as cheating in any sense of the word?

Considering the miniscule advantage that sites like Scoretop provide, is GMAC's reaction an over-reaction? What should schools do in the case of applicants, current students, and graduates who submitted tainted scores? Let them slide, or reject their applications, throw them out of school, and rescind their degrees? Is there a middle way--something that recognizes the gravity of the mistake that was made but doesn't make students pay the ultimate price?

How does this stack up against the other big transgressions for which MBA students stand accused? (The story mentions a Chinese national who was caught taking the GMAT for dozens of prosepective students; but what about the Duke cheating scandal? Or the applicants to Harvard who were rejected a few years ago when the school found out they hacked into a computer to learn their admissions status?)

Does it matter whether you left questions for others to read, read questions that others have left, or both? Or are all visitors to the Scoretop site equally implicated?

Over the next few weeks, as GMAC digs into the Scoretop hard drive to figure out who spent time on the site, the schools will have to decide all these things and more. This is a chance to let them know what you think, while there's still time to influence the outcome.

Reader Comments

jhs04

June 24, 2008 12:57 PM

This is crazy. I used the site for a couple of months (February 2008-March 2008). I was a paid member of the VIP section, which the site clearly explained gave you access to questions that the WEBSITE wrote, and made a CLEAR DISCLOSURE that these questions were in no way, shape or form associated with the GMAT. The reason why I paid were because they had tutors helping you with the solutions to the problems if you didn't understand something - not because I thought that I was getting real questions on the test. I found out about score top in various forums because people said that it was a helpful website to get your score up. Now I'm being faced with slashing all of my career and business school dreams because of something that the site may have done in the past that I didn't know about. This is absolutely devastating. The people who make the GMAT should know this. It's just unfair to assume everyone was cheating when everyone I came across clearly was not.

Louis

June 24, 2008 1:33 PM

This is interesting. I just heard from a student who participated in the Scoretop forums, but never paid the $30 to access the premium content, including the questions. He said he didn't think it was right to see current test questions, "even though it was tempting," which suggests that at least some folks who visited the web site knew they were getting live test questions for their $30. I visited a version of the Scoretop site that existed before it was shut down and I never saw any of the disclosures. But then again I had very limited access to the site which didn't include the premiuum content.
I think you're making a very legitimate point, though. At the very least there seems to be some confusion about exactly what questions Scoretop was supplying, and whether there was anything wrong with accessing them. Good luck resolving this with your b-school. If your scores are cancelled and your school decides to take action, what are you planning to do?
Louis Lavelle, Associate Editor, BusinessWeek

Jhs04

June 24, 2008 1:57 PM

There were definitely disclosures on the website that said you could not post or discuss real GMAT questions and specifically that Scoretop was not posting real gmat questions... period. At least this was the case in the last few months that I was using it (Feb-March 2008). Here is EXACTLY what happened with me and probably lots of others who I interacted with on the forum. You signed up and paid for the VIP access, which they stated was written by their tutors, and that the tutors would help you if you had any questions. The GMAC I'm sure can track down this specific web page where this was stated. Once you paid for the tutor, each month the tutors wrote up about 100 math and verbal questions... and then later in the month supplimented the questions with valuable explanations. Each question had a link in it, which had a discussion between tutors and members of the forums on how to solve the question. It was really helpful for me to see how other people were doing the questions becuase it opened me up to new ways of solving questions. I will say, 100%, that I did not received ANY identical questions on the real GMAT. I had never heard anything about real questions until this article came out. I came across this website by recommendation from another forum. I'm sure many people did the same, as well as just coming across the site from a generic google search. I really did not know that I was doing anything wrong and I fear that this will come to an extremely painful and unfair end. I urge the GMAC to really look at the website and determine individually if people were trying to cheat. It is so blatantly unfair to make a blanket acquistion like this.

Even though the GMAC spokesman said what the GMAC plans to do, I am hoping that eventually they come to their senses and only crack down on people who clearly were cheating, instead of everyone who paid the 30 dollars (similar to what they did for websites like Napster, etc. in music sharing).

If the unfortunate event occurs that the GMAC does what it says it might do, I will have to appeal, and if necessary sue the GMAC. It's really stressful becaues I was in the process of starting my applications and now I don't know what I should do. Whatever the GMAC does, they should try to investigate quickly and give us a heads up.

Louis

June 24, 2008 2:09 PM

Well, whatever happens, I think it's going to be handled on a case-by-case basis, with individual schools deciding what to do about individual applicants/students/graduates. At the same time, I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on schools to do something, so that that they're not perceived as letting "cheaters" off the hook. So good luck...you probably have your work cut out for you.

RD

June 24, 2008 2:40 PM

As a paid member for the month of April '08, what confuses me is how GMAC has reached the conclusion that this site provided "live" test questions. I never witnessed any written documentation on the site or otherwise that stated that the questions posted were ripped from current GMAT exams.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that the questions weren't in fact taken directly from the site (because as an end user I have no way of knowing) but I would like anybody who has documented proof to show me which page at which URL stated that the material provided was illicit.

However, much like the previous comments have stated, what I can attest to is that the only statement provided by the site that I saw is that scoretop "tutors" would on a monthly basis provide additional questions to assist in the prep process.

I can't speak to the legality of GMAC's potential approach but it seems highly dubious that the initial statements from Judy Phair lay out such an extreme course of action. If there was no hard evidence that visitors to the site knew that the questions were illegally obtained, I see no difference between the service scoretop provided and that of Kaplan's. Frankly, it seems like Judy Phair's comments come off like that of a witch hunt.

Jhs04

June 24, 2008 3:37 PM

Well RD... now we have the great priveledge of waiting to see what happens. We both know that we didn't cheat. I know that the GMAC spokesman said what they are going to do, but presumably the actions they take have to get approved by some type of committee at large. Like the editor mentioned, I'm sure that ultimately each case will be handled individually and that at least the GMAC will know that it's possible that we were not aware that these may have been ripped questions. Our job as test takers is to determine that what we are seeing is not copyrighted material. If we determined to the best of our abilities that the material was original, we really cannot be held liable. I expect that in a few weeks that some type of compromise will be reached. At least the information came out now, when there is some time before application season. If it was October and this came out, I think this would have been a lot more stressful.

AG

June 24, 2008 5:58 PM

I agree with both RD and Jhs04 that GMAC is taking a rather extreme position in this matter. If there is evidence of cheating committed by the owners of the site and/or the "members" then I agree that these individuals should be penalized. But GMAC argument lies on the assumption that everybody who accessed the ScoreTop site is cheating, which to me seems like a very weak claim (I could write a very lenghtly and convincing AWA Analysis of Argument essay on GMAC's weak argument). As a GMAT test-taker myself, I access multiple forums for advice and techniques on how to solve difficult problems and ScoreTop was just one of them. As part of my test preparation, I browse approximately 5-6 forums a day in search for assistance on how to solve both Quant and Verbal problems, but that doesn't make me a cheater. GMAC and the schools should approach this issue on a case-by-case basis to see if there was cheating going on. Otherwise they will be doing a disservice to both the students and the schools.

Gmac Overreaction

June 26, 2008 12:07 AM

I agree with other folks like RD and Jhs04. It is absolute overreaction of GMAC without knowing the facts. I have signed with 5-6 forums and some of them I hardly visit. I did sign up with scoretop for a month but didn't even get time to solve their vip question.but i agree it was clearly mentioned on website that these are not real questions and provided by tutors of scoretop.
I think what GMAC is stating is one sided story as operator of the scoretop website ran away probably not being a US citizen. I think scoretop is like 100s of other sites beatthegmat.com or gmatcracked or so many of them. I can bet you can find the same questions on all the other forums as well.
My question is students are only guilty if scoretop would have sold membership saying that scoretop would supply real questions.But that is not at all the case. People were getting membership as there will be always a tutor available for answering your questions or clearing your doubts. Also lot of folks commented about their really good tutorials. Some of them were joining because of practice questions. I am so shocked right now how this story is shaping up. Not true at all...BusinessWeek and other media needs to step up and find the truth before GMAC takes any irresponsible step against careers of 1000s of future business school grads for no fault of theirs.

what GMAC is talking about

June 26, 2008 9:17 AM

Louis, The biggest question is here which were real or live question as stated by GMAC. As I have heard they have put a case against 400+ questions in one document called 1000 SC, 1000 CR and 1000 SC. All of these 1000 series documents are not sold by scoretop or any other website. I don't understand why GMAC is talking about pursuing those student who paid $30, all the members of all other forums who are using 1000 series document should be pursued..It will run into 100000+ ... These documents are free and pretty much available anywhere on internet and As far I know lot of folks don't even get time to do all of those questions in their preparation even if they have access.

Louis

June 26, 2008 9:28 AM

I'm trying to resolve this question right now. If what you heard is true--that GMAC's case is based on 400 questions in the 1000 series document--then you're right, GMAC has a problem on its hands. I stumbled on the 1000 document last night at a site called esnips.com. It's labeled as being produced by scoretop and the questions are labeled as "real gmat questions." I sent it to GMAC to see if in fact these are/were "live" GMAT questions, and whether they're going after any other sites for distributing them. In the meantime, if BW readers know of any sites besides esnips where the 1000 document is available (or any other purportedly "live" gmat questions are available, please let me know. Thanks!

legend

June 26, 2008 4:55 PM

http://www.mba.com/mba/TaketheGMAT/TheEssentials/GMATScoresandReports/CancelingYourScores.htm

This is what GMAC says about cancellation of test scores. I quote a specific paragraph (i wonder if i will be sued for this - GMAC - Please forgive me-cant stop doing this :( )

"There are circumstances, however, in which examinees may have their scores canceled or withheld without prior notice or an opportunity to appeal. Those circumstances generally involve disruptions by an examinee during exam administration, advance disclosure of exam content (even if a specific examinee’s actual access to disclosed test content cannot be confirmed by GMAC® or Pearson VUE), and cases in which an examinee is observed violating exam policies by a test administrator and/or is discharged from the testing site; in these situations, examinees will simply be informed that their scores have been canceled or invalidated."

What is the legal position of this document? Have we, the test takers, signed or accepted anywhere to this possibility that our scores may be unilaterally cancelled even when GMAC cannot established actual access?

Louis

June 26, 2008 5:12 PM

This is very interesting. It sounds like when you take the test you agree to be bound by all the rules and regs, including this one, which appears to give GMAC the authority to cancel scores even if it can't prove you had advance knowledge of test content. Wow.

HARR67

June 26, 2008 7:42 PM

I was going through GMATClub about this issue. Someone there had uploaded the verdicts and all other legal documents relating to this case but later on the admin I think deleted the post. The verdict clearly says that Lei Shi, the owner of the site, is solely responsible for the copyright infringement and should pay the penalty of 2.55M or something like that. The GMAC sued some John Does 1-5, supposedly accomplices of Shi, too. But the court absolved them completely. The court said GMAC's evidence proves that Scoretop violated the copyright for 494 questions contained in 1000Scs, 1000CRs, 3000RCs and GMAT Sets. These all things were clearly explained by GMAC in its argument. Ironically, these all documents are available freely on every, I mean EVERY, GMAT site. The VIP membership, as I came to know after reading all the legal documents that GMAC submiitted to the court, used to give something called mjj and vjj but the court didn't acknowledge that these were also copyright violations. I think GMAC doesn't have a strong case against the students who used the so-called privileged membership. If only those 1000SCs, CRs, RCs documents are copyright violations, then every GMAT related forums must be banned and every member who was a member of these forums will have their scores canceled!


While I myself think there must be something fishy about these so-called mjj's and vjj's, why GMAC couldn't prove to the court that those were copyright violations is something I am wondering about. If they can't prove to the court that these mjj's were copyrighted materials, then I don't think GMAC has a strong case against the user or members of the site who paid $30 for these JJ's because the other materials that these privileged members used to receive are also available everywhere else.

HARR67

June 26, 2008 8:30 PM

Louis,From your 1st post on this issue, someone named MARK75 claims that scoretop is still operating. Could you please look into that too?

legend

June 26, 2008 11:57 PM

KIND APPEAL TO LOUIS

Every article that is floating around in the net about this issue quotes your article as authority. While I do not doubt the veracity of your article, I do wonder how much of it has been based on your intrepretation of the issue.

Judy Says "if you have paid your $30 to cheat, you will have your scores cancelled"

Did she imply that there were people who paid $30 to cheat and then there were those whose paid $30 normally to obtain membership but never posted the questions or participated in the discussion?

All I want to know is the time frame within which any action that will be initiated by GMAC if at all they are considering the ill advised cancel scores of all members, so that I weigh my response.

More importantly, people like me who didnt suspect any illegal activity and have used the credit card and email as same as to register for GMAT, would be most affected as it is the easiest to make us the scapegoats.

Will the punitive action be on a case to case basis? Does GMAC have the time for such case to case action or would be they be invoking the rule that i quoted in my last post, simply not take the pains to demonstrate any responsibility towards us, and cancel the scores arbitrarily?

Monopolistic trade practices by GMAC, GMAT being only admissible test score for most programs, leave me with little choice other than suing GMAC in this case. I wonder what are the chances of success give that cancellation rule which I have abided by sheerly because I had no alternative choice!!

Louis

June 27, 2008 10:02 AM

Legend, there was NO interpretation in that article. Judy Phair's comment speaks for itself. GMAC's press release speaks for itself. The message posted by GMAC on the Scoretop homepage speaks for itself. I'm going to be writing a follow-up story later on today...stay tuned.

2008 GMAT Bulletin goes further...

June 27, 2008 12:11 PM

"In addition, when preparing to take the GMaT® exam, it is unethical, improper, and potentially illegal for prospective test takers to access, discuss, or otherwise use any GMaT® questions or answers that have not been released to the general public. if you enroll or participate in any test-preparation coursework that distributes, provides access to, or uses such GMaT® questions or answers, or provides a forum for others to share such information, your scores on the GMaT® exam may be canceled, and GMaC® may pursue other remedies. "
Reading this it pretty much means anyone with a VIP membership could have their GMAT scores canceled because scoretop provided a forum for people to share this information. This was changed this year but it might have been added because of the scoretop situation which was already ongoing. It sure appears that GMAC can cancel anyone's test scores for any reason they want and we all agree that that when we signed up to take the test. I dont think people will really be able to appeal any actions GMAC takes.

http://www.mba.com/NR/rdonlyres/18971069-E442-442D-9A62-B9DC00E64825/0/Bulletin_2008_WEB_PVR061108.pdf

Legend

June 27, 2008 1:32 PM

Louis, Thanks for the clarification. I am grateful.

I became a member on 11 May 08 and when i became the member, it was explicitly mentioned in ST site that these questions were prepared by their tutors and 780+ experts! How far must I go beyond this explicit disclaimer/advertisement from the owners of the site themselves, to check the copyright status of the questions posted? For the matter when we buy a Princeton Review GMAT prep book, how am I to know if the questions were real or live or prepared by authors of the book? All I have is the information published by the site/book! And logically i dont think I have an obligation to go beyond that.

If the author/owner of the site has left enough scope to lure prospective test takers to buy a membership against a stated/publicised intent to sell Real or Live question, (which I presume the case was before 2006 ), then those people could still be held responsible for "seeking" live questions before the exam!

But, for a person like me, who joined on 11 May 08 just because they were the cheapest in the market at $30 a month, only to find the site itself closed on 15 May 08 and the owner fled, (I firstly have to sue that guy Shi myself for duping my $30) and I am wondering how can I be held responsible for entering the site, when the contents were publicly claimed as that which were prepared by site experts and not those that are real or live questions!!

I gave the test on 23 May, technically the day I agreed for the non disclosure pact!

For 30yrs of my life I have been excelling consistently and I have a 770 which is legitimately mine and in the event of retest I can prove GMAC wrong by scoring an 780 to 800! so much so for their call "paid $30 to cheat"! One big bunch of losers!

Whatever has happened to that saying "a thousand criminals can go unpunished but not one innocent be punished". All this has left a bad taste. Harvard or Wharton is mere means to my aims. not the end. I shall find myself there inspite of GMAC if not with the help of GMAC.

But the whole point is that, such draconic rules, are leaving candidates at the mercy of few members of the governing

At this moment, the wait is little painful as I am left to wonder if at all should I prepare my essays!! The fact that I have used the same credit card and email to register for ST as for GMAT, is not helping the situation :(

thanks

HARR67

June 27, 2008 4:45 PM

Legend,

The very fact that you used your own credit card and email testifies your good intention that you didn't know of any live questions. So I don't think you should be worried at all. Moreover, I am sure the GMAC will base their decision of cancellation of scores upon how many times you logged in.


I am positive that GMAC won't take any drastic actions for which they will be sued.

To Louis

June 30, 2008 7:47 AM

I am not sure who comes up with polls. There is a poll attached to this story that asks "What should B-Schools do" If the people in the middle of this scandal have been proven to be cheaters, its different but why would you have a poll like this when so many innocent people are involved in this? I mean obviously people who have "cheated" should not be let off the hook, but that is the whole controversy here, Who are really "cheaters".

sg

July 1, 2008 3:06 PM

I want to bring one thing into your kind notice that All VIP users are not the culprits.
I have no idea whether site claimed live questions or not, but it was a preparation site and most of the users used it for better preparation, the same way other sites do.
Also,one can think this as the advertisement gimmicks of this site to earn more, as most of the users and test takers trust GMAT and GMAC and believe that the GMAT questions cannt be leaked. If the GMAC knew the fraudulant practise of scoretop.com, they should have publicaly announced or warned.Some students have unknowingly become a victim of this and it would be really unfair to punish all. Dont wreck their careers for a mistake which is made unknowingly.

Post a comment

 

About

Read daily reports from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Louis Lavelle, Geoff Gloeckler, Alison Damast and Francesca Di Meglio and boost your chances of getting into your best-fit B-school.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!