Coming Soon to a GMAT Near You: More Security

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on July 22, 2008

Would-be MBA students getting ready to take the GMAT might be in for a little surprise when they show up at the testing center. In addition to all the usual security measures—including video monitoring and the computer adaptive test itself—test takers will soon be asked to submit to a new one: a biometric device that uses an infared light to capture the test-taker’s unique “palm vein pattern.”

Pearson VUE, the company that administers the GMAT for the Graduate Management Admission Council, plans to announce the new security effort tomorrow, but BusinessWeek got a sneak peak at it today.

The Fujitsu “PalmSecure” device will be rolled out next month at 16 testing centers in India and Korea for GMAT candidates. It goes live in the U.S. this fall, and when fully deployed will be used in 400 facilities in 107 countries by May 2009.

The announcement comes as the b-school world is embroiled in a cheating scandal involving the GMAT--users of a now-defunct test prep Web site, Scoretop.com, have been accused by GMAC of using it to post and access live test questions, and GMAC has said it will cancel the test scores of anyone who violated its rules.

But the new security measure is designed to stop a different kind of cheating--the use of professional test takers, or proxies, to take the exam on behalf of someone else. GMAC's been burned by this type of cheater before. Back in 2003, it busted a half dozen people who took the GMAT for others for about $5,000 a pop. GMAC canceled 166 scores as a result, and five of the six imposters ended up at Rikers.

Here's what David Wilson, the president and CEO of GMAC, says about the new security measures in the announcement:

“For decades, the world’s leading business schools have relied upon the GMAT exam as the best predictor of a candidate’s academic success. We have an ethical responsibility to business schools and students to preserve the integrity of the GMAT and the application process, so insuring the highest level of security is critical. Pearson VUE is an excellent partner in this capacity because it, too, places an emphasis on security and responsibility to our customers. PalmSecure helps us respond to the needs of our international marketplace. It is a more accurate, more efficient, and less invasive way to ensure that each test taker has a single GMAT record, thus preventing individuals from taking the test for others.”

The PalmSecure device is already in use by healthcare organizations, government agencies, financial institutions and other global enterprises, but this is its first major use in an educational context. While the timing might seem odd, the rollout is more proactive than reactive--it was not prompted by either the Scoretop situation or an uptick in proxy cheating.

Reader Comments

Ken Ware

July 23, 2008 9:29 PM

I'm tired of all the standarized test bologny. Top B-school need to start doing their homework and research the actual candidate's credentials rather than looking to GMAT. Then maybe business schools would be ranked on substance rather than on the college's average GMAT score.

Potential Testee

July 24, 2008 12:19 AM

So let me see if I understand correctly...

A service that has had two publicly acknowledged (in this article alone) security breaches, is now to be trusted with my biometric data?

Does something seem wrong here?

They can't get their security correct in the first place, and who can predict if the next breach will be of their biometric challenge/response database with MY palmprint in it?

Kind of reminiscent of the TSA - hey let's all kneejerk react in a fashion that does nothing to increase security, but instead offers a nod at the latest buzzwords.

hk

July 25, 2008 8:23 PM

One day , someone will catch GMAC slipping (with hard evidence) and it will be them looking down the barrel!

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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.

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