GMAT Scandal: Punish Cheaters

Users of test prep service Scoretop who paid to look at live questions got an unfair advantage and should be penalized. Pro or con?

Pro: Memorize This

The 6,000 students who saw “live” questions on Graduate Management Admission Test prep site Scoretop.com should be penalized by having their scores dropped. Standardized tests are supposed to ensure a level playing field. Knowing the answers beforehand—whether or not students were aware the service was illegal—destroys that common standard. Therefore, tainted scores should be voided.

That way, both schools and the students applying to them can rest assured the minority of test-takers who had this unfair advantage won’t steal top B-school spots from any of the other 112,684 people who took the test in the 12 months leading up to May 2008.

As for the penalty, those who intentionally cheated shouldn’t be accepted anywhere. Cheating will get you kicked out of school, so it shouldn’t win you a spot in the first place.

Still, intentions are hard to prove. To keep from unfairly punishing students who used the Scoretop.com questions thinking it was a legitimate study aid, while still being fair to those who didn’t see the questions beforehand, applicants who used the site should all have their scores revoked. But the Graduation Management Admission Council should allow them to take the test again.

Invalidating the scores of everyone who saw the questions before the test, while making sure to not ruin the B-school dreams (or reputations) of unintentional cheaters, is the only way to ensure fairness—and find the most qualified applicants.

Con: An Overblown Incident

I am not a stakeholder in the current GMAT mess in any way—unless you believe non-Scoretop.com users should receive extra points on the GMAT, and I won’t hold my breath for that.

Finger-pointers allege that certain Scoretop.com subscribers had the opportunity to memorize questions, but that feat would be far more impressive than actually figuring out the answers to the questions. Frankly, I think there’s a gray area between a legitimate GMAT study guide showing practice problems and the blacklisted Scoretop Web site.

The GMAT has a serious problem with its test. The setting makes you feel as though you’re being booked for a crime. You are fingerprinted, and cameras watch you at all times. But even so, there is the possibility that a student could see the same problem in two different testing periods. Wouldn’t creating fresh questions cost less than all this test security—and be more effective?

The current GMAT troubles were inevitable. The test is far less sophisticated than the Graduate Management Admission Council believes. Nonetheless, the GMAC does make it amply difficult—it’s not as though these students were able to succeed by memorizing a sequence of “b’s” and “c’s.” Each student has to learn sample problems along the way, no matter what practice material he uses to prepare. I believe there is very little difference between a Web site like Scoretop and a study book given out by MBA.com. It would be unethical to sully the names of 6,000 hard-working students.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

carson grey

The only way to truly protect the integrity of the test and to "level the playing field" is to:

1. Cancel the scores of the students in question.
2. Give them a free opportunity to retake the test (after all, it is GMAC's fault the test questions were exposed).

Fair or not, how can you leave things as they are, knowing that some students had early access to the test? There was a breach of test security; it needs to be addressed.

Tom

Tom wrote: "Is it cheating if there was no advantage to be gained (by GMAC's admission)?"

Answer: Of course. If the intent was to gain unfair advantage and to break the established rules to do so, then there is no question that it was cheating.

anonymous

Trent Allen wrote: "There is the possibility that a student could see the same problem in two different testing periods. Wouldn't creating fresh questions cost less than all this test security--and be more effective?"

The question pool is very large and refreshed regularly, and the system prevents any student from ever seeing the same question twice.

Sandro

GMAC may not foresee it, but there is potential of a class action case filed in Virginia. And GMAC, please don't play with the futures of 6,000 people. Don't take the frustration out on some fugitive Chinese or poor trapped VIP users. GMAC, you know that all other Scoretop users were also seeing those same questions--in discussions. So please show restraint and let those people who did not share live questions after their GMAT not be punished. Thanks, GMAC.

2007 VIP member

Jacob,
When you say that these 6,000 VIP users saw "live" questions, it seems that you based your opinion on incomplete data. That's why I would like to add a very important piece of information. This is a fragment of the text describing the VIP service, as of 11/2006:

"New VIP membership has openned [sic] today!"

"In the new service, we will provide our own math/Verbal practise questions(fully owned by Scoretop, not copyrighted of anybody else!) written by our 780+ tutors, with explanations to those questions posted on a daily basis. By practising these questions, members definitely can improve their skills. [sic]" The full text can be found at web archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20061230063431/www.scoretop.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=12066&PN=1

As a 2007 VIP member, I can say with an absolutely clear conscience that I wasn't aware of anything illicit. Before signing up for the VIP area, I read all the debriefings written by users and featured in the first page, and none of them made any reference to "JJ," "live" questions, or activities that could appear fraudulent. By early 2007, when I signed up as a VIP member, it seemed that the site offered an online service with questions created by tutors, very similar to the service of companies such as ManhattanGMAT and Kaplan.

GMAC says in its FAQ that: "Scoretop promotions and numerous postings on the site touted the benefit of VIP membership as having access to live questions," suggesting that "you had to be blind not to know." This is definitely incorrect. I believe that several VIP members (especially those who signed up after 11/2006) are victims of this entire situation, as most of them were unaware of the fact they could be violating GMAC's policy.

Why should all users be penalized?

Curious

I have a question for Mr. Stokes:

How far back do you think the GMAC should go when canceling the scores? Would the scores of people who used Scoretop.com four years ago and have since then graduated from their b-schools be revoked as well? Should they retake the test? What for? And how do you propose the b-school handle these cases?

Incredible

Tom wrote: "Is it cheating if there was no advantage to be gained (by GMAC's admission)?"

Answer: Of course. If the intent was to gain unfair advantage and to break the established rules to do so, then there is no question that it was cheating.

Curious

2 Incredible,

Question: If by GMAC's admission the test bank is so huge that no advantage could've been achieved by looking at the reconstructed questions, how can you expect a rational person to form an intent to cheat by doing so? Can't have it both ways.

VIP member

Those of you who have not seen the site are basing their opinions on the
following:

1) You are assuming that 6,000 people saw the live questions and they had some kind of advantage. There used to be a few live questions in the pre-2007 era, and even then only a very few questions. GMAC changes their questions often, and the possibility that an applicant would have even seen a similar question in the actual GMAT is very remote. You can't expect a person to take GMAT and remember questions word for word with options answers.

2) Scoretop was different from other test prep sites/books. You are absolutely wrong--if you used any standard GMAT prep book you would probably see the same pattern of questions that GMAT has. If you practiced all the questions from these books, you are very likely to see some very similar questions. Should all those students be banned? Maybe GMAC should cancel all the stores, and it should sue itself for releasing official guides.

3) The value of Scoretop was in the discussions that applicants had. Compared to the explanations, strategy and tips provided by fellow applicants and all other standard materials are worthless. You have to read 50 pages worth of crap to get one good tip from standard books. Scoretop had solutions and tips from many people for the same problem. You could see how different people analyzed a problem and what's the best way to solve a problem.

And the debriefings were invaluable, Nothing more motivated me when I saw how much effort other applicants have taken and how hard they have worked to get high scores, and after reading their posts I believed I could do the same.

Scoretop members did very well in exams, not because they had access to live questions, but because they had access to a live and active community.

Just the users will be penalised?

Why are we not hearing about getting Lei Shi arrested and put in a prison? How will GMAC get the $2 million without getting this guy?

in a mess

Let me ask this:

Do you think anybody, and we have 6,000 people here, would pay using their credit card for a "stolen" or "live" GMAT exam paper. This defies common sense--nobody buys drugs or stolen goods with their credit card.

In my opinion, GMAC is pissed off since these forums had soft-copies of its official guide and other material that it sells at Borders and B&N.

Also, some users on these forums were going after GMAC by repeatedly posting real exam questions, and GMAC wants revenge now.

Another question that defies logic: Why would someone pay $30 using his CC to "post" live questions? Are you saying people paid and then gave out real exam questions? This is ridiculous.

To bring your attention to some facts:

1. The court denied access to the user list on Scoretop hard disk to GMAC. GMAC managed to get access by buying the disk through an auction. The reason the court denied is given in the judgment--where they could find it objectionable to go after the users of this Web site.

2. In addition, the court pointed out that GMAC "failed" to prove that any third party (users of Scoretop) had posted a "live" GMAT question--out of the 494 objectionable questions on Scoretop.

AI

Anyone who has taken the GMAT knows that GMAC's argument is a self-serving joke.

The GMAT is not an exam that tests rote memorization or data, but the ability of the test taker to comprehend (decipher) the logic and the methodology of the exam. A successful test taker learns to eliminate the most obviously wrong choices so that the odds of choosing the best answer are high and the odds of choosing a bad selection are low. Mastering the process of elimination is key to getting a high score.

Having "live" questions in advance would make little to no difference in the outcome. Attempting to ace the exam by using rote memorization would be worse than useless. There are far too many questions to make any attempt at memorization helpful. If anything, it would create more confusion than clarity for the test taker, because it would entail memorizing hundreds of questions that would not be asked.

The real issue here is that GMAC copyrights the questions and packages them in its study guides for $36.95 (plus shipping and handling, of course) a pop. The best test prep courses--you've heard of them, surely--are skilled at developing questions that don't violate GMAC's copyright but help the test taker to grasp the logic of the exam.

GMAC wants a piece of the test prep business for itself. (That position is ironic, for it contradicts the council's own position that the exam is an intelligence test, i.e., a test for which study should make no difference in the results.) There is money to be made in selling the "real" questions exclusively in its guides.

GMAC is a sham non-profit that generates at least $60 million per annum in revenues, upon which not a penny of tax is paid thanks to its not-for-profit status. The system served me well personally--intense study allowed me to score in the top 1%, far better than I would have without preparation--but we should be quick to question any ethical demands made by the self-serving monopoly that is GMAC.

494 QUESTIONS

If GMAC filed a complaint that only 494 questions were compromised, does it mean to say that it's question bank is so small that 494 questions in 5 years would give anyone an unfair advantage?

And, of course, if you think you are doing something wrong, would you use your own credit card to do it? And, would you come back and brag about doing it on a test debrief that can be accessed by everyone?

Of course not. The fact remains: Nobody knew this is copyright infringement. Everyone thought that JJs are "similar" or "very close to" real GMAT questions. And, when you are serious about a 700, you pay $30 and practice on such questions. Simple as that.

Sandy

As someone who recently appeared on the exam (without help from Scoretop or other such sites), I think there ought to be a punitive punishment for test takers who had an unfair advantage in the GMAT. For applicants from highly competitive pools (like the one I belong to--foreign born, with experience in booming sectors of emerging markets), a tiny difference in GMAT score can also make or break chances of admission to a top school. Very often GMAT is called as the great leveler for diverse groups of applicants. For this reason, faith in this measuring scale should be restored to its previous standing.

Omar

A couple of weeks ago, I gave my opinion about this mess to another Businessweek article and I stick to it: The ones being scrutinized shouldn't be the students but Scoretop and, most of all, GMAC. How come someone can actually get real questions of the examination? This really speaks ill of GMAC.

I'm not a GMAT taker but I think this matter goes beyond the GMAT takers. It is a matter of corporate ethics. GMAC has no right whatsoever to spoil the careers of people who simply decided to use one tool to prepare for the exam and they would have chosen any other available in the market. This issue is a copyright infringement issue that should be sorted between GMAC and the former owner of Scoretop. And if there was an actual crack into the GMAC-question system to get answers, then there should be penal pursuit against the Scoretop's guys, but not against the students.

I really hope that the business schools will simply dismiss the GMAC's tantrum and by doing so, they leave GMAC in ridicule, because that's what they deserve. Come on, they have to get a grip. What they should do is to keep a constant eye on those preparation sites to remove any questions that leak into them from the exams and initiating legal action against those who infringe their legal property, leaving students alone. It's already hard enough to get into business school without their trying to get things even harder.

For those Scoretop users who might eventually be affected by this, be ready to defend yourselves because you have the right to do so.

VIP Member - 05

GMAC has the right to protect its copyrights, and the same right was granted to them by the court decision. However, the court did not (from the decision document that I have read) permitted GMAC a free ride to pursue and sue all the members.

I believe that GMAC got it wrong. One can argue that members had advantage from seeing the live questions, but GMAC has clarified that this is not the case.

Why did so many people scored so well? Simple, the active and live community. No one is able to memorize the questions or the answers. The community had active participants who all paid to be part of it and were therefore sincere in bringing constructive and live discussion to the forum. This at time involved discussion on LSAT material and at time stuff taken from GRE exams. There could have been the so-called live questions, but they were not posted as such and no one went looking for them either. You only need two or three people to tell you the right answer, but it was the subsequent discussion on how to quickly and precisely eliminate the wrong ones that benefited the members the most. For members like me, who had no recourse but to purchase official GMAT material (None available in 100 miles around) Scoretop was one of the channels I used.

I found friendships that lasted beyond GMAT in essay and interview prep and even through B-School.

The question that I have is what GMAC plans to do about MBA8 and ChaseDream members? Why should anyone else get off the hook?

justice

From now on, these are two possibilities:

1. GMAC punishes the 6,000 people by, let's say, canceling their scores.
This would be extremely unfair, because among those 6,000 students, there are many innocent people (for example, those who joined after 11/2006).

2. GMAC studies case by case. The scoretop server crashed in May 2008. It was later restored, but only to its 2006 state. If you checked it, it was like being in 2006. This means that all the posts after 2006 had disappeared.

How can GMAC prove the culpability of anyone who joined after 2006? Or worse, how can those post-2006 members prove their innocence to the universities in case GMAC takes the easy way of canceling all the scores?

To Justice

"There are many innocent people (for example, those who joined after 11/2006)." This link (http://www.linkedin.com/in/shourya ) proves that there must have been at least some live questions in 2007 and 2008 also. Pre- or post-2006 does not matter--the majority didn't know what they were getting into.

NSK

Although I have not taken any GMAT tests and do not subscribe to GMAC, I think it is totally unfair for GMAC to revoke the scores of the people who have used the VIP membership and accessed the so called "live" questions without intention to cheat. People who used this service/Web site used it as they would use any other so-called "legal" test prep Web sites.

Revoking the scores of people who intentionally posted questions that appeared in GMAT is valid. But making victims out of unintentional "cheats" is grossly unfair when GMAC itself proclaims boldly that the benefit those people received out of these is next to nothing.

GMAC's ethical considerations for such unintentional "cheats" do not hold any water when they themselves proclaim that they gave numerous warnings to Lei Shi to curb his Web site's activities when all they could have done is to have taken measures to close the Web site earlier.

Asian Member

Usually the members from India and South Asia in general did not use their own credit cards. Unlike in the U.S., it is difficult to get one, and even if you have one, the card company does not allow you to use it on the Net for fraud related reasons. That said, I know of friends who were sharing memberships among various paid sites like MBA insider at Business Week.

GMAC does not have a foolproof way of tying a post to an individual. Even if they do, a GMAT score of 680 or 720 does not makes or break the decision for Adcom. For those who mentioned that members gamed the system and got in just because of high scores, I doubt it. There were members with 750+ scores who got ding and ones with 600 got accepted at good name schools.

Doesn't the verdict prove as well that GMAC failed to identify other John Doe defendants who breached their agreement and posted live questions? The court also did not give custody of the hard drive to GMAC, fearing that it will invade the privacy of Mr. Shi and give GMAC access to information that has no relevance to GMAC live questions--membership data and Scoretop's own generated questions' being a couple of them.

Where GMAC has succeeded is in making the issue known publicly. It will ward off future students from preparatory sites, especially if the sites are not affiliated with the GMAC. I think in a clever little way, GMAC has managed to take business away from likes of Kaplan and Princeton by creating doubts in minds of other test takers, confirming its monopoly.

My advice to GMAC would be to work actively with these other firms and establish a certificate-based system for the companies involved in tutoring. Members who sign up can view the certificate and rest assured that they will not be persecuted down the road. Otherwise, this little game of GMAC may come back to haunt them with litigation and diminishing popularity of standardized tests.

Ilia

To me, this seems like an attempt by GMAC to reduce third-party preparation materials. Not only do they get money from the lawsuit, they also boost their share on sales of GMAT books, programs, etc. They should face an anti-trust lawsuit.

Mike

GMAC won the Scoretop and GMAT, plus court cases because, in both cases, the defense was a no show.

I suggest everyone who GMAC punishes challenge the validity of that punishment in court. An MBA is so valuable to a career that I suspect anyone challenging GMAC's punishment looks for eight-figure compensation.

I think people who used Scoretop's VIP service should retake the exam before GMAC makes a decision. By doing so, they will give business schools no doubt an applicant's GMAT score. Additionally, GMAC will have no cause to cancel the new GMAT score.

To GMAC & BW Editors

I just read on the latest BW story on this topic:

"Judy Phair, a spokeswoman for GMAC, says e-mails notifying those 6,000 people of the ongoing investigation have all gone out, but she could not provide a time frame for when its investigation would be completed, which leaves open the possibility that students involved in the investigation could begin classes in the fall."

Can you please help clarify that those who have not got any e-mail from GMAC are safe and have nothing worry about?

This is really important and would be very useful info to a lot of students.

sas

I just read on the latest BW story on this topic:

"Judy Phair, a spokeswoman for GMAC, says e-mails notifying those 6,000 people of the ongoing investigation have all gone out, but she could not provide a time frame for when its investigation would be completed, which leaves open the possibility that students involved in the investigation could begin classes in the fall."

Can you please help clarify that those who have not got any e-mail from GMAC are safe and have nothing worry about?

This is really important and would be very useful info to a lot of students.

dsdfsdfas

I found this on previous forum posted by somebody--thought was interesting

All past and present and GMAT test takers... file a class action suit against GMAC. http://civil-action.net/ GMAC set out to squash threats to its business, including students who could have unwittingly used unlicensed materials from a rogue prep site. The hypocrisy of the matter is that GMAC provides questions in its own prep courses that appear on live tests, e.g. analysis of argument topics. This is about protecting GMAC's core prep course business and not about cheating. Students unite. Fight for your rights. Don't let big business bully you into submission. There's got to be a lawyer out there who would be willing to help.

Justice

"This link (http://www.linkedin.com/in/shourya ) proves that there must have been at least some live questions in 2007 and 2008 also."

Why does this link proves that? I could not find any reference to "real" or "live" questions. He says he has been collecting GMAT questions from the Internet and translating them into English. Nowhere is it stated that those questions were real.

abc

Is it possible to upload a copy of the court verdict on the Internet (assuming that it is a publicly available document)?

Ron

"The verdict proves as well that GMAC failed to identify other John Doe defendants who breached their agreement and posted live questions? The court also did not give custody of the hard drive to GMAC, fearing that it will invade the privacy of Mr. Shi and give GMAC access to information that has no relevance to GMAC live questions--membership data and Scoretop's own generated questions' being a couple of them."

I am wondering how GMAC can now access the membership data by taking the hard drive through an auction and then doing investigation on the members. Is it not violation of the court's judgement? Is it not a case for civil action against GMAC? I may be wrong. Can somebody clarify?

Curious

I read all court documents related to this litigation. They are available through the PACER system for a moderate fee ($0.24 per page or so). Everyone can access it through the Internet.

It is indeed a very interesting reading. First, the court ruled that scoretop.com posed no imminent threat to the integrity of GMAT exam (Document 31, order to deny the motion to reconsider). I think this particular ruling can be of help to those who might need to defend their scores and reputations. Second, the court "ordered that John Does 1-5 be and are dismissed without
prejudice as defendants from this civil action" (Document 26, order to grant the motion for default judgment).

The court also said that the GMAC cannot seek the information about the defendant or his employees from the third party ISP (don't ask me what document this is in). However, I didn't find any ruling explicitly prohibiting the GMAC from seeking or obtaining the information about the subscribers. I'd be glad to see it if it's there, but so far it seems to be a misinterpretation that originated on this discussion board.

J,Burlingame

Anyone that disseminated live questions should be banished from the GMAT, have their scores revoked, etc.

Anyone who read the live answers should suffer no consequences.

You don't agree to the GMAC rules until you sign up for the test. I started studying eight months before I took the test, but registered six weeks before the test date. How could I have known that Scoretop was cheating? By the way, I'd never heard of Scoretop before this news broke.

Dante

It's fun reading all these cheaters trying to squirm their way out of punishment with inane "logic" and threats of law suits.

But I personally think the schools have gotten this all wrong. Instead of punishing these cheaters, they should give them a PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper). These slimeballs have proven that they have what it takes to work in a hedge fund or join the upper ranks of investment houses: Ly'n, Cheat'n and Steal'n. And based on some of the ludicrous "logical" constructs posed on this board and others on BW, these slimeballs have proven that they had cheated through their BS degree, too.

Upinderjit

There was nothing like live GMAT questions that were available on scoretop.com. I mean, everyone would have scored 800 if that was the case. For all those who feel cheated, it's actually a case of lack of knowledge that a site like scoretop.com existed that provided "practice questions" and not "live questions" in abundance. All those 6,000 students actually worked hard and were serious in their preparations and did the research to actually figure all available sources for GMAT prep available on the Internet. Even then it was impossible to just memorize all the questions and the answers to them. The idea was to get more practice, not knowing the answers beforehand.

It wasn't like someone was offering live questions on the Net and people grabbed the opportunity. It was the students' zeal for more and more practice that brought them to this site. This site wasn't leaking out exam questions, for God's sake. And by the way, all those who think they had been cheated would not have missed the opportunity of joining this site if they knew beforehand about it, or maybe they were already saturated in their efforts to actually attempt more practice questions. I could not use this site much as I was saturated in my practice even before I could attempt the questions on this site. I m not trying to say that the site was doing a wonderful job. All I'm saying is that the students who used this site actually were looking to work hard to get more practice questions rather than looking for exam questions beforehand.

Cheating, in this context, would constitute intentional wrongdoing and knowing beforehand the would-be questions. None of the questions that I practiced on this site appeared in the GMAT when I took the test. I believe all the students were focussed enough to actually leave no stone unturned before actually appearing for the test, and in their quest for more practice questions landed on this site.

jassyjaz

No wonder the country is in a financial hell hole. I'm certain that the current flock of corrupt business leaders achieved their lofty positions by cheating and lying. This is endemic to the current business culture that sanctions cheating, stealing, insider trading, and greed.

This culture is woven into the fabric of the elite business schools.

Perhaps the country and society would be better served if the next batch of business graduates are chosen from the state and city universities.

Interesting

"It's fun reading all these cheaters trying to squirm their way out of punishment with inane 'logic' and threats of law suits."

As if your ad hominem attacks detract from the well-thought-out arguments of the "cheaters." You haven't mentioned anything about how using Scoretop supposedly amounts to cheating.

What is actually funny is watching the test-makers claim that test-prep doesn't affect test scores and then offer test-prep materials themselves.

in a mess

To all those labeling VIP Members as cheaters: Think about a logical rationale to this questions: Why would anybody, and we have 6,000 people here, use their credit card information to buy "live" "real" "stolen" GMAT questions?

Have you ever come across an incident when someone paid for drugs, stolen goods, or stolen exam papers with a credit card?

The argument here is that rational human behavior would prevent anyone from revealing personal information that could link him to the buying of illegal items. This is in case the person is fully aware that what he is buying is illegal.

What 6,000 VIP members did was choose Scoretop over many other and similar test prep materials. There were and are various paid-only online memberships, forums, and tutor-programs from ManhattanGMAT, VeritasPrep, Kaplan, and Princeton. A buyer's choice should not lead him into disqualification from the process--if he was unaware of the legitimacy of the product. I would not be surprised if tomorrow GMAC announces that a leading test prep (such as Manhattan GMAT) was offering real questions and all its registered students will have their scores canceled.

I am also appalled at the statement from the schools' directors, some of whom have commented without sufficient information. It looks like everybody wants to use the ethics card and massacre a bunch of MBA aspirants.

Sue GMAC ?

Is GMAC not an abettor in crime because it's holding information about Scoretop's illegally selling and marketing GMAC's copyrighted material? GMAC knew long back (before 2005) that Scoretop was involved in illegal activities but did nothing, and exploited the innocence of thousands of test takers to build their case against Scoretop. Now GMAC is harassing these innocent test takers, whom GMAC exploited, by issuing a warning that their scores may be cancelled just because we fell prey to Scoretop's marketing? Can GMAC not be sued for withholding information and subsequent harassment? I'm sure that the number is going to increase from 6,000 to 60,000 as GMAC moves forward to sue other test prep companies and Web sites.

sdfj

I purchased VIP membership in mid-2007 just before Scoretop put a disclaimer that the questions are prepared by their own tutors. At this point, I do not remember what posts I made two years back. I for sure remember that I used the site rarely and never used the site post-GMAT except maybe for posting my d-brief (this is what is troubling me).

I'm supposed to start at a b-school in the next two months and am living under constant psychological pressure about what would happen if I start at b-school and GMAC decides to cancel my score. It would be nothing less than financial suicide for my family as there is no way my family can bear a loan burden of $120,000 (along with the insult of being labeled a cheater).

Is their any way I can have another look at posts I posted on Scoretop?

Annonymous

I still don't see how researching for further questions to help with the GMAT is cheating. Last time I heard, researching is called "studying." Someone let me know when this definition was changed into "cheating"?

According to a 2007 VIP member, a lot of people did not know it was illegal. Additionally, how could this Scoretop be operating for so long without GMAC's intervention? It should have been stopped within weeks of operation.

I look in disgust at those students who argue that using scoretop is "cheating." For instance, if this was a math exam you had to take in school. How is paying for another math textbook to revise and study further questions cheating? Why didn't you get off your bums and go out and find some study questions? Instead of sitting there complaining about others who actually researched the GMAT and studied. Is it fair to term this form of studying for math "cheating," even if for some reason your school teachers happened to write a similar question on the test? The more you study, the more likely you'll meet the same question.

While I understand that Scoretop did have some inside information, the fact is that most VIP members had no idea. Punishing them (ruining their lives) would not help them or other students. Those who wish to find extra preparation material would probably be too afraid now, thus reducing the overall standards of result, even from a truly legitimate organization. Furthermore, the economic input from 6,000 people with jobs is in the millions. Making them jobless won't help.

That's my two cents.
-- A personal opinion from a Dentistry Student who has taken an interest into this topic for the sake of those innocent VIP Scoretop members.

Anony Mous

I would personally hire them to help run my hedge fund. Good job, guys. Way to show that ethics are meaningless in today's society.

Justice

Mainly because of a period of heavy workload in my job, it took me one year of hard work and several attempts to achieve a good GMAT score. I used Scoretop VIP because of the practice material and the forums, where I could study online with other people after work and during the holidays. I was living in the countryside, and the closest preparation school was kilometers away. I joined after 11/2006, and nowhere in the Web site was it advertised that the site offered "live" or "real" questions. Even if I took the test several times, it never crossed my mind to post the questions. I believe it would have been useless anyway because:
- Probably, I would not have been able to remember the question properly.
- I believed, and I still believe, that the only way to achieve a good score (at least for me) is to practice, practice, practice. I did thousands of questions to prepare for the test. It is pointless trying to remember specific questions.

OK, so after this year of hard work, and after I jeopardized my chances of being admitted and burned the chances of getting a scholarship by waiting to improve my GMAT and applying to R3, after I have been admitted in the school of my dreams, which I will start in one month, I find out about this mess.
I am sick to find out that my score is suddenly suspicious, and I get sick when I see the comments of some people who accuse without enough information. I look forward to proving my innocence. I just hope that it is possible to recover all my posts, since the site crashed in May/08, and they probably got lost. If that is the case and GMAC takes the easy solution of canceling the scores of all the VIP members, it would be extremely unfair, and I would be ready to fight to prove my innocence. In that case, I hope that all the other people in the same situation get together so that we can fight together for justice.

gabe

"The only way to truly protect the integrity of the test and to "level the playing field" is to:

1. Cancel the scores of the students in question.
2. Give them a free opportunity to retake the test (after all, it is GMAC's fault the test questions were exposed).

Fair or not, how can you leave things as they are, knowing that some students had early access to the test? There was a breach of test security; it needs to be addressed."

I agree with this comment. Obviously GMAC is embarrassed by the fact that this Web site cracked their system. But there were obviously people who didn't realize they might be cheating by doing this. There's no way to know who is innocent and who is not, because everyone will claim they didn't realize that using the Web site was a violation. I think that by going after the users, GMAC is only exacerbating an already embarrassing situation.

Curious

OK, here I go again.
I found the part where the judge denies the GMAC access to the hard drive, for the reason that there might be other private materials on that hard drive. Which is exactly the case here. So I am not a lawyer, but if I enter into a contractual agreement with a third party (Scoretop) with a reasonable expectation of privacy and share my personal information with that party (name, CC#), isn't it true that I should have the protection of the Fourth Amendment (freedom from search and seizure)? Or does it apply to the government authorities only, and private companies can do whatever they want?
It seems to me that something should be done about it. Otherwise, where does it end? Quite amazingly, there's a similar copyright Google/Viacom litigation happening right now. Viacom was hunting for illegally posted videos, and Google was ordered to turn in the user data, but Google will not disclose any personal information that can be used to identify the users who viewed or uploaded the videos. I think the situation is exactly the same. In this case, GMAC is trying to penalize the users for seeing the questions, same as if Viacom would somehow go after people who viewed copyrighted videos on youtube. This is bizarre, and this isn't right.

Re To Gabe

1. GMAC itself has admitted that it was almost impossible to game the test due to the secure nature of the test.

2. GMAC sued Scoretop for selling 494 GMAC copyrighted questions without the consent of GMAC. GMAC itself claimed that most of the 494 questions were either retired or reconstructed questions and pose no threat to the GMAT. GMAC never stated how many live questions were disclosed by Scoretop, which indirectly confirms that GMAC is only assuming that test takers disclosed actual GMAT questions at Scoretop. However, by selling GMAC-owned retired questions, Scoretop wailfully violated copyright act and has been punished for it.

3. There is no point in asking 6,000 students to retake the GMAT. If GMAC finds someone guilty with compelling evidence, then cancel the score or else leave him or her untouched (along with an apology). In case GMAC offers an opportunity to retake the test, it would mean that the test scores of lots of other non-VIP membership students were incorrect and these students should sue GMAC for not being able to provide a secure test.

I would rather spend $50 on defending my score and reputation than buying prep material from GMAT to reappear in the test. GMAC paid $200,000 as attorney fees over a period of three to four years. If 6,000 students collectively sue GMAC, it would hardly take $35 per student to hire a lawyer and represent student body in court.

Polymath

I am an educator and have been training students for the GRE and GMAT for the last 10 years. I have taken both of them more than a half a dozen times. It is very easy to memorize many of the math, grammar, and critical reasoning questions, and pass them on later to my students.Since English and its usage cannot be patented, which the GMAC is trying to do, I say that there is nothing wrong with what the Scoretop guys did. In fact, I have the entire database of Scoretop questions for the last one year. Anyone interested?

R

Justice/Curious,
I do agree with your view points. Here if the court intends to protect the Scoretop subscribers, then there must be some legal initiative to stop GMAC in its investigation with HD. Court might have thought that GMAC's investigation may harm many innocents. So, there should be an immediate law suit against GMAC that can stop GMAC immediately. I hope some civil action lawyers will come forward on this.

Nandu

Arjun:
GMAC should have banned ScoreTop.com much earlier, before the students appeared for GMAT examination. Now I think GMAC will be responsible for the students' career. Moreover, there can be different categories of students like :
1. those who have just got won admission
2. those who are performing MBAs
3. those who are already passed out.
4. those who have scored high and will be waiting for next year application.

It's not just a question of canceling the score but a question of stress, tension, and difficulties each one need to face. GMAC should have taken the measures to ban Scoretop.com long back, but they continued. Why was the site open to all till July 1?

Students can go for extra practice on different Web sites and study material than can enhance their knowledge.

useless and futile debate

Useless and futile discussions. VIP members, if you are innocent, then have the courage to go ahead and pursue the course at your desired b-school. If you get bogged down by ignorant people throwing stones at you, then you don't deserve to be in b-school anyway. I am a VIP member and am leaving for my b-school next week. I am not worried anymore--if GMAC acts stupid, I am sure my school won't.

Agreed

The worst part is that this investigation could drag on for months or even years. The court should have specified a time limit for this kind of investigation.

Get off your high horses

Give me a break. To devote this much discussion to a Web site that supposedly had live GMAT questions is absurd.

There is no such thing as a level playing field in this world, and going to b-school will not teach you this either.

Life is about taking advantage of opportunities that everyone else many not have. If the Scoretop Web site gave an opportunity to a select few, good for them for taking advantage of this, and a big 'too bad' to all the other people who did not, who probably think we live in a socialist world where everyone is supposedly equal.

Long live capitalism.

GH

Weak points: A person new to the GMAT test does not even know that there is the possibility of getting the same question on the test that someone else has taken before him. Even GMAC mentions this nowhere in its prospectus, so if an ignorant person asks someone even to disclose some questions that he or she encountered in exams, then the ignorant person is not at fault (because he is not aware of the nondisclosure policy unless he signs from GMAT exams), but the person who discloses is at fault. Any comments on this?

purebushit!

With universities, lots of misconduct gets a very blind eye; several of my classmates never took the GMAT, but the Uni awarded them their degrees.

Curious

To R:
I also hope that some civil liberties group will pick it up. I contacted some of them trying to draw their attention to the situation.

At the end of the day, this is not about cheating, and in the grand scheme of things, nobody cares about alleged cheating. The much bigger issue here is privacy violation. This case is bigger than just Scoretop or GMAT or anybody's ruined career--it is about a company buying and disseminating private information.

MS

I don't think those poor students should be punished. After all, even if they saw "live" questions, the test is adapted, and questions taken from it are data-based every 30 days. Therefore, what is the probability of everyone who saw those "live" questions actually seeing them on the GMAT and gotten an advantage from it.

Anonymous

To Curious:
I agree. While the FBI has the rights to access individual's private information for criminal investigation, no private corporation has ever accessed individuals' information for any investigation.

The way I look at it:
1. GMAC has branded a set of folks as "cheaters" without substantial proof that the folks were actually involved in cheating. This constitutes slander.

2. GMAC has violated the right of individuals by accessing their private data, including potential credit card information, etc., even when the court ordered otherwise.

Both #1 and #2 constitute grounds for civil lawsuit--am I missing something here?

I am guessing GMAC has good lawyers, too. They must know something that I do not, or are they under the impression that they can bully folks and get away with it?
--Independent Observer

Curious

I believe that unless there are actual consequences to the GMAC’s actions, there’s no ground for the lawsuit here. If, however, the GMAC cancels somebody’s score and the person incurs financial losses as a result, that might be grounds for defamation, and who knows what else (a lawyer would tell you)?

The GMAC has essentially lost this case in court as it failed to meet the burden of proof and show that any person other that Shi violated its copyright. Now the GMAC, angry with this decision, is trying this case in the court of public opinion--labeling the users, harassing those whose contact information they were able to get a hold of, etc. So much for the “ethics” fight. Duh. I really think that most of the students and adcoms members fail to see the forest behind the trees here, so to speak. Whether people cheated or not on the exam is irrelevant, what is relevant is how the GMAC is approaching this case.

Imagine that Amazon.com goes bust tomorrow, and some creditor of the firm gets the hard drive with your purchasing history and sends the list of the books and videos you purchased to your family or employees. Or a firm like Viacom holds you responsible for watching a stolen episode on Youtube.

This is a serious issue, and it affects every single Internet surfer.

JG

I think the idea of having a degree you already earned revoked because of this is ridiculous. The GMAT exam helps gets you into a given program; it does not keep you in it. If you earned an MBA, it was through hard work, not some standardized entrance exam.

what is JJ?

How was this word coined? GMAC assumes that JJ means live questions on what basis? Where is the legit evidence that it means that? Tomorrow somebody can mean JJ as anything. There is no fixed definition. Sometimes on Scoretop later in 2007, they called JJ for practice questions. Well, how would a surfer in 2007 know that JJ means a live question? I think GMAC should differentiate between the 2006 and 2007 members. They definitely did not have the same knowledge as in the 2006 era. Things had changed in 2007, and one would not know JJ means a live question but known JJ and practice questions PQ’s as the same. And nobody saw any practice questions or PQ’s in the live exam. They were written by Scoretop tutors. This is the case of copyright infringement by Scoretop by having OG and other material on Scoretop. Scoretop should be held accountable and not the students for this case. GMAC was slack enough not to take action soon and is running behind students now. GMAC should put their energy and efforts into shutting down more sites like this and shut the root cause instead of flirting around blind.

Asit

I have few points that I wish to put forward:
1) The court in Virginia refused GMAC the right of ownership to those hard drives, which later on, GMAC bought from an auction. Now since these drives are in GMAC's possession, what is the guarantee that they have not been tampered with? I wish to know whether such evidence, procured from an auction and in private custody, are legally admissible in court of law?

2) As we all know, there are two sides of a coin. It is also possible that GMAC might have taken a few questions from Scoretop and put them on their test, so that they can label those questions as live questions and sue Scoretop.

3) GMAC has accessed private data of many users without informing them or without prior permission from any legal authority. These are critical data, such as personal/professional information, contact information, and credit card information that people fill out during sign up. What happened to privacy laws? How can they intrude into such private details of a person?

4) GMAC has been monitoring (I should say, spying on) the activities of scoretop and its users for the last few years and has probably used some unauthorized procedures/methods to collect evidence, which include inflicting users' computers with viruses such as "infostealer." Please note that many users observed that their anti-virus programs used to detect such viruses only when they used to log on to Scoretop's sites. I wish to know how you would grade such an act on the scale of ethical behavior.

5) The discussion section of the Scoretop was a "free for all," where anyone can write anything that he wishes to write. It was very similar to this particular discussion section of BusinessWeek. Now if someone puts live questions on this discussion board, how can everyone else be held responsible for that particular person's independent act? It is as if you are sitting in an exam-room of 100 people and one person writes something on the black board and later on the whole class is being punished or is being labeled as "cheaters."

6) I personally feel that rather than putting blame on innocent students and paying millions of dollars to lawyers, GMAC should spend that money to fill up loopholes in their existing system. They always know how many students are going to appear in a particular month. Rather than having a small set of questions in their bank and repeating those live questions during tests, GMAC should give new questions every time a test taker appears for a test. They should increase their workforce and invest some extra money so as to eradicate such possibilities in the future. After all, they are charging more than USD $200 for a 3-4 hour test; also they charge USD $30 for sending scores to a school. Can you see how costly that is? Don’t you feel that they are acting in a monopolistic way and looting people in a legal manner? Sorry--I think here I have drifted off from the track.

Some very god points!

I must say that there have been some major violations here. You cannot imagine what I and my friends have gone through over the last month. Every day I fear that I will be asked about Scoretop at work. I am an Indian and work with a Chinese colleague, and we both have got where we are through hard work and honesty (which will sound like bull to anyone now). How does GMAC think I am dealing with this trauma? This is the U.S., and I thought this was one place where people cared about their privacy. Certainly there are safeguards to prevent any abuse, but I am with you when you say that we don't know if the hard disk was tampered with by Scoretop, GMAC, or God knows who. What if any of this information gets leaked? Surely we have seen this in the past.

Great_analysis

To Asit:
Very good analysis. If you live in the U.S., please contact the ACLU with your points. I am sure they will entertain your grievances.

If you live outside, prepare to talk to local consumer courts. While I want GMAT to be "cheat" free, branding some students of a site is not going to do anything apart from destabilizing their lives.

Solutions:
1. GMAT needs to be a test where questions are only valid for a day or a few days such that any chance of cheating is significantly reduced

2. GMAT needs to shutdown all these test prep sites/organizations, provide free material that appears from its tests every few months, and provide enough material such that a decently intelligent person can do well in the test.

3. The goal for GMAT should be to identify the folks who cannot be successful in B-school because they lack aptitude. So, make it a cutoff test--you score above a certain point, and you are eligible to apply. You score below that, and you need to retry. Your essays, recommendations, and interview should be good enough to prove you are capable to succeed in the business world. I know IMD has case studies that students have to solve for the entire day--that is true aptitude testing, not some standardized test.

in a mess

I am seeking your perspective, and I hope some lawyer can provide advice on this analogy.

All VIP members were at a party where some guests were offering drinks to minors (it's a crime to do so in USA). The host of the party (Mr. Shi) had knowledge of the operation and was an accomplice. Now my questions are:
1. A guest who did not offer drugs--should he be punished?
2. Should a guest who did not have any knowledge of what some members of the group were doing be punished?

One way to verify if a guest was offering live questions is to check his posts on Scoretop, which the GMAC is perhaps doing. The method to verify if a person had no knowledge of the illegal activities on the site is perhaps difficult but possible:
1. Find people whose VIP membership dates cannot be related to their exam dates. For example: those who did not use Scoretop on their earlier attempts on the GMAT and people who took the GMAT months after their membership on Scoretop began.
2. People who did not seek GMAT questions, people who did not say: Hey, what did you see on the exam today?

NSK

Asit has raised very pertinent arguments in this forum. I feel all the students in question being harassed and traumatized should come together. They could create a group on Yahoo, etc., to fight for their just cause.

hhik

I am with Asit. They are all valid arguments. I think there should be a proactive approach to this case rather than reactive.

BBB

I think all the 6,000 prospective students' scores should be dropped. They cheated, and that is it. If they "claim" they are brilliant students, then they should be given another chance to take the test and if their score is well below what they currently have now, they should be banned from applying to any B-school.

ATTNCheaters

I think these kids should all be expelled. If you cheated in even the tiniest way when I was at B-School, they slammed the door in your face and prayed that it hit you in the back on the way out. Anything less than expulsion is in direct violation of every single honor code I have ever come across. Sweat it out, whine, cry, whatever. You know what you were doing was wrong, and you all benefited from an unfair advantage. When you did it, you knew it was wrong. Face the music, or better yet, do the right thing and voluntarily withdraw.

Asit

To BBB:

1) I think you must understand the problem here. The problem is not about scores but is about ethics. The problem is about breaking trust and violating rules.

2) Blindly canceling scores of a person without proving him/her guilty is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it is totally unethical as well as illegal to do so.

3) GMAC has stated in the sixth question of its FAQ that "The reliability of the test taker’s score is less in question than the ethical behavior of the person trying to ‘game’ the system. Even if a site is illegally able to obtain some ‘real’ questions, it is extremely unlikely that a test taker 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."

4) This clearly shows that GMAC also knows and understands that knowing a few live questions could not have even made small difference in scores. Anyone who has prepared for GMAT and has given the actual GMAT exam would know that.

5) Without actually going deep into the matter, GMAC has blindly labeled all users of Web site as "cheaters," just because they won law suit (which was not represented by any lawyer from the defendants’ side) against Scoretop. The fact of the matter is that the Virginia court even refused the ownership of hard drives to GMAT in order to protect the privacy of users. You must appreciate the fact that the court has not ruled that all users were cheaters or that all users have violated GMAC's policy or that all users are guilty. So when users have not been proven guilty by court of law, why should they be punished? Why should they test again? Why are they being labeled?

6) The center of the controversy is why all 6,000 members should suffer just because some of the members violated GMAC's policy? Therefore, canceling scores of all 6,000 members and banning them for life is totally out of question.

7) As far as colleges are concerned, they always see the overall picture before selecting a student into their program. GMAT score is not the only criteria; there are many other factors that play more important roles.

8) Do you really believe that GMAT actually tests the IQ level of a student? If it were true, people would not have improved their scores from 600 to 750 within two months time. How can the IQ of a person change so considerably in such a short interval? Therefore, I strongly feel that GMAT is just a pre-requisite for applying to MBA colleges but not a measure of an individual’s abilities and his or her future performance.

Privacy Geek

Okay, I spoke with a very senior practice lawyer today (and I also deal with privacy stuff every day in my job).

There are some serious issues with the way GMAC has handled this investigation.

1. Court in Virginia did not want to hand over the hard drive to GMAC as GMAC had not proved any of the folks using Scoretop apart from the founder was guilty. GMAC went around and obtained the data, thereby possibly violating a court order.

2. GMAC made a blanket statement that implied all 6,000 VIP members were guilty. Folks who paid $30 to use the Scoretop questions cannot be held guilty--it is folks who posted live verbatim questions or obtained live questions by asking them to be posted in forums that are guilty. This is in gross violation of individual rights and if anyone can prove that they have suffered material damage, GMAC will be in trouble here.

3. GMAC changed its privacy policy in 2008 to explicitly include disclosure in Internet forums as a basis to dismiss tests, while folks in 2007 and before are not completely out of the woods if they are found guilty of posting questions, the lawyer believes they have grounds for appeal.

Please take all of this with a grain of salt. I am myself enraged at the privacy violation that has happened here. Other than that, I actually hope GMAC finds the root offenders (the folks who might have taken GMAT multiple times to get questions, etc.) and punishes them.

correct the debate topic

Please change the topic of debate here, "Punish the cheaters without any grounds--6,000 VIP members are proclaimed cheaters." My little sister, a VIP member, with two years' work experience, hasn't copied in her entire life. We are from a very good family, and it enrages me to have my sister called a cheater. Least expected from a reputed organization like GMAC. She was referred to Scoretop for practice questions by the IMS (Institute of Management Studies), as she wanted to practice more. Bottom line, I still think BusinessWeek can change the perspective of the general public by showing the true picture, keeping in mind all the innocent folks out there. God, give them a break.

To Privacy Geek

Privacy Geek, you rightly mentioned the key points. I have gone through the court judgment with a lawyer. There are many weak points in GMAC's overall standing. Somebody opined that there can be even a temporary injunction on GMAC's investigation of the Scoretop HD to protect the Scoretop subscribers' rights, as GMAC is possibly violating the court's judgment. But it may have to be explored further with due diligence.

Greg L

I agree with "Asit," that the GMAT is really more of just a prerequisite for MBA school, rather than a true measure of how well they will do. Same goes with the LSAT. It's just one more hurdle to jump through to gain admission. I do find it sad that some of the greatest individuals will not make it to their goal just because they did poorly on a test, but that's the system we have. Personally, I scored only 960 on my (old) SAT and poorly on my GRE, but luckily I got into top tier schools somehow and graduated from both undergrad and grad schools with cum laude honors. It has been nothing but heartache for me getting rejected over and over because of my poor scores on standardized tests, but my perseverance got me through. I don't know how, but it did. Success at school is more about how hard you can work and who wants it more. I know there were classmates who I beat (GPA) who were much smarter and barely studied, but what's important is how well they are prepared for the real world. It's too bad that most admissions counselors lose sight of this point.

TO GREG L

Greg L,
I cannot agree more with you. In my mind GMAC officials are trying to cover up their failures to protect the integrity of the system by targeting easy hunts, and in the process they are trying to get buy-ins of the B-schools. If you go through the court judgment, this will be clear like daylight.

But I am surprised how leading academia such as Darden's dean came up with some comments which are fairly biased towards GMAC. I am sure if he had gone through the court's judgment, he might have made some strong points on GMAC's officials if he really means what he says about ethics and honesty. I have already written to him about my points. Here, I again present those so that everybody can add their input:

1) Dear Dean Bruner,
You have mentioned a few vital points …“GMAT is vital to the discovery of best talent. The GMAT is easily accessible and objective; therefore, it helps to democratize the discovery of talent. The advancement of society depends on the promotion of strong talent from wherever it may originate.”

Now tell us how GMAT is a democratic process. A true democratic process requires an even playing field for everyone. GMAT is never an even playing field. Students from underdeveloped countries are really at disadvantage in terms of GMAT preparation. You mentioned that students should go to reputable test preparation companies. But those are not available in many African or Asian countries. Students from those countries do not have access to those or can even afford such hefty fees, but students from developed countries can afford those and improve their score by 100 points or so. This is a proven fact. Hence, how is GMAT a democratic process? Please explain. I guess you know that all these test preparation companies teach students about some common patterns and traps used in GMAT tests. Unfortunately 90 percent of the questions follow that generalized pattern. How do we explain it? Is it because there is some unhealthy business relationship between GMAC and those big companies? I may be wrong. Whatever it is, the exam hardly tests somebody’s intelligence or creativity; rather, it tests one’s ability to recognize some patterns and traps. So is GMAT really a talent discovery process? I have my doubts. I think GMAT exam needs to be overhauled in a big way and all these test preparation facilities must be banned so that anybody from any corner of the world is at level playing field. Only then will it be a true democratic talent discovery process.

2) Dear Bruner,
You vouched that it is appropriate for GMAC and B-schools vigorously to defend the integrity of the test. I agree with this completely. But have you read the court’s judgment? Here is what the court says:

“In pressing for the maximum penalty, plantiff (GMAC) invokes the need to preserve the integrity and security of the GMAT examination process. This argument is belied by plantiff’s (GMAC’s) own admission that most of the infringed GMAT questions were non-secure questions that no longer in the pool of live GMAT questions that appear on actual administration of the GMAT exam.”

In addition, the court judgment mentions that “plantiff (GMAC) filed its complaints nearly nine months after FBI’s criminal investigation became public. That delay undercuts plantiff’s argument that the defendant poses an imminent threat to the integrity of the GMAT exam.”

What is more interesting is that the court did not take GMAC’s logic of the FBI investigation for the delay in taking early action against Scoretop. What is more hilarious is that even after the court’s rejection of accepting FBI’s investigation logic, GMAC has used it as a cause to justify its delay in taking its action in the GMAC’s FAQ section. Is it not unethical? It may be even illegal also, though I am not sure. Is it not irresponsibility on part of such a big body as GMAC? Or do you think that it was misjudgment in GMAC’s part? If so, how do you think that an individual can be always right in its judgment? Do you want to give the benefit of the doubt to GMAC? Then I guess students deserve more benefit of the doubt than GMAC. If you do not want to give the benefit of the doubt to students, then first ask for punishment of GMAC’s officials. Because of them, students have become entrapped. It is GMAC's officials who should be punished, not students.

in a mess

Please note that Dean Bruner serves on the Board of GMAC. Go to GMAC's site to verify that--now his comments cannot be taken seriously. I respect this person for his excellent work in academia but not in this case.

Graduate Management Admissions Council chats live on July 23

Peg Jöbst of the Graduate Management Admissions Council chats live on July 23:
http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/jul2008/bs20080717_596446.htm

TO ALL and IN A MESS

I agree that he is on GMAC's board. But as a board member, he must be more demanding of GMAC's officials about their activities. In b-school, a lot is preached about corporate governance. So, as a member of the board of GMAC, he must hold responsible GMAC's CEO and others. Is it a good example of corporate governance? I am not sure.

I have tried to argue that the GMAT is not a democratic process of talent discovery. There are many flaws in this argument. I hope he comes back to me with a counter argument.

Otherwise, it will be again established that truth and ethics are prerogatives of the powerful ones. They will think something as true and ethical only if it serves their interests.

GMAC

I want to draw GMAC's attention to the original statement "Intention makes the difference." They may want to check:

1. Is someone trying to hide behind the identity, i.e. knows what is going on (fuzzy e-mail, CC, etc.)?

2. Did they benefit from any live question vs. just seeing the question, which I am sure many saw whether they wrote it in the summary or not (tainted score)?

3. Are they going repeatedly in the exam to play with the system vs. one time?

4. Did they actively trade the live questions after the exam?

Please don't just cancel the scores without seeing the intent, benefit, and severity. People might be caught up in the environment with no ill intent as no warnings were issued anywhere.

The issue is "knowingly" vs. "unknowingly."

Request to GMAC

GMAC stated that it is going to cancel scores of people who violated GMAC's policy by 1)posting questions seen in a exam after their exam 2)posting that they saw specific questions (during their GMAT session) posted by other Scoretop users.

1. In a way, GMAC is confirming that these people are only violators of GMAC policies and not exam cheaters. I request BW rephrase the story title to "GMAT Scandal--Punish Violators."

2. Why are only Scoretop VIP members being investigated? I request GMAC cancel scores of anyone who disclosed live questions on any site irrespective of their membership status. Why should I be under constant mental trauma when almost every GMAT taker and test prep company has been doing it around the globe.

As GMAC is unable to promise a timeline, I request GMAC provide details of posts to respective VIP members. It is impossible to remember what I posted on Scoretop one or two years back. This way, users themselves would have a good idea of whether their scores could be cancelled and users can take a more informed decision about their careers.

I'm 99.9% confident that I never violated GMAC's policies by being a VIP member, but that still leaves 0.1% to chance, and I don't want to take a risk of taking $150,000 debt for a B-school education only to be informed that my score is getting canceled for some comment I made unknowingly two years back.

GMAC

I believe GMAC will contact each individual before his or her score is cancelled. Ms. Peg from GMAC said so in the chat. She even said that every individual will have an option to appeal within a time frame. In this case, I expect that GMAC will consider each individual's motive or intention as well as the potential harsh consequences for him or her. For example, somebody might have made a mistake in judgment and posted his debriefings, which may result in his score cancellation. But he did only once and never posted there. So should he or she face a severe punishment of losing his studentship or degree. Maybe not. After all, there is something called humanity. If somebody understands his guilt, learned his lessons, and wants to correct himself, then should he be not given another chance? GMAC and b-school may or should still inflict some punishment but something that could destroy not only his or her life but also a few other lives associated to him or her. For example, renowned Rutgers University professor McCabe says. "If you got somebody who could somehow convince you they were concerned about being left behind, that they paid for the site but didn't use it much or didn't get that much help, they might say, 'Apply a penalty, but please consider my application.' I might consider that." I hope GMAC will have a similar mind set.

riskman

I believe this is an unfair advantage and question the moral integrity of those using it and what they will contribute to society at large as they undertake their chosen professions.

Carlos

When they grow up, they're gonna have to cheat to get ahead in business, especially if they work on Wall Street, for the government, or anywhere in the private sector.

They may as well get a head start on what they're gonna have to do later in life to compete with everyone else who cheats. Otherwise they'll be left in the dust.

Taking exams honestly and fairly (by studying for them) is strictly for chumps.

Onetime vs repeated

If everybody is getting a second chance, the caught-up students deserve a second chance, too, but with penalty. Everybody made a mistake to reach this point. I suggest canceling the score for prospective students but allowing them to reappear to reach their potential goal. Taking GMAT for current or passed out student doesn't make sense, but they should be penalized based on number of questions posted.

I believe GMAC mentioned $,2400 for every question. If you divide it into three parts, one for GMAC (not helping these students by issuing a warning), one for Scoretop (for running such environment), one for student (posting data), every student should pay $800 times the number of live question posted.

This way punishment will be based on the level of breach. This will also not end the career of the students who have already spent a lot in terms of time and effort. In addition, this will avoid any legal issues and will cover all the expenses GMAC is bearing for this investigation. Any additional surplus can be used for cleanup and crackdown of other sites.

Regarding, "I saw question from Scoretop," it is no different for other students attempting the exam at the same time (even if they don't say in briefing) as they saw the similar sort of question, plus or minus.

TO CARLOS

Carlos,
You are sadly right. In the business world, most people are directly or indirectly doing unethical things. There are so many examples around us. We only point at Enron? Look at what oil or steel companies are doing in the developing countries. What financial companies are doing today. Even look at GMAC's actions. It vouched to keep sanctity of the exam. But surprisingly the court found that GMAC, by its delayed action against Scoretop, proved that Scoretop was not an immediate threat to the integrity of the exam. Is it not failure on GMAC's part? GMAC today vouched that they will keep students informed about illegitimate Web sites. Could they have done it back in 2003 and 2004, maybe without mentioning Scoretop explicitly, and saved many lives? Is it also an ethical failure on GMAC's part?

Yet Again

GMAC yet again proved that they only care about their business. Nothing to do with cheating and the whole drama. Otherwise, just from the fear of lawsuit, they won't just go after a selected group who may not even have appeared repeatedly or tried to game the system or may not have used the Scoretop as frequently as others to increase the score.

Some people are not even sure whether they put the summary or not. So if you put the summary, you are cheating. If not, you are just fine. Keep in mind the person who puts the summary gets nothing out of it. Doesn't even visit it later (unless repeatedly taking test).

Most absurd.

Old MBA

Drop the GMAT, and use the things that worked before--undergraduate grades and the difficulty of courses, outside work experiences, interviews, recommendations, and the applicants' convincing the schools that they have the passion to become grads who will carry the banner high. Multiple guess tests are a joke, as they do not measure heart, desire, or character. GMAT grads are the ones who brought us CDOs and the rest of the slime.

Ethics Scorecard for GMAC

If students made a mistake, they will be penalized by score cancellation. Isn't it fair that GMAC pay a fair share for its mistakes? Let's see the list so far.

1. Privacy Violation
2. Spying
3. Hiding information from customers (students)
4. Unfair discrimination among VIP members
5. Using students to settle their score with Lei Shi.
5. Threats and mental trauma for students and their families
6. Unethical ways of acquiring HD and site
7. Flip-flopping on many public statements

Lawyers will come up with additional listing [GMAC is no white sheep here]. Company size If students made a mistake, they will be penalized by score cancellation. Isn't it fair that GMAC pay a fair share for its mistakes? Let's see the list so far.

1. Privacy Violation
2. Spying
3. Hiding information from customers (students)
4. Unfair discrimination among VIP members
5. Using students to settle their score with Lei Shi.
5. Threats and mental trauma for students and their families
6. Unethical ways of acquiring HD and site
7. Flip-flopping on many public statements

Lawyers will come up with additional listing [GMAC is no white sheep here]. Company size

The profit may be $15 million to $20 million. They are no McDonald's or GE of the world.

Don't be scared. We (final list based on one-sided manipulation, not severity) should not take the fall (be scapegoats) for the whole issue. Since the punishment is so severe that you can't do what you want to do anymore, you might as well take them down with you and save future students from falling into such traps.

JB

Admittedly, this needs to be addressed in a reasonable manner. So, with all due respect to Chinese culture (which is pervasive in the Scoretop.com model of information sharing), it's time to consider the fact that there are many others' cultures around the world do not have a problem with this level "collegiality." Although Western folks complain and label this behavior "cheating," it's time to accept that a persistent global grey area exists. New Oriental Education (Ticker: EDU) is the largest English test preparation company in China (think SAT, ACT, GMAT), boasting a New York Stock Exchange listed company with a market cap of more than $2.7 billion. They have been accused and admitted (including offering formal apologies and paying reparations) to accusations of stealing, cheating, and plagiarizing. Nevertheless, global investors can’t get enough of this company. Please stop kidding yourselves by imagining that New Oriental, Scoretop.com, and dozens of other test "prep" programs serving a client base of success-starved individuals operating under a non-Western value systems aren't "sharing" information. If you are unaware of this reality or somehow failed to consider its existence, then I most graciously and humbly welcome you to the new world.

ABCD

Any recent updates from GMAC?

It's been more than a month since GMAC has provided any insights into the investigation. It's mental torture I have to go through every day, anxiously waiting to get some updates from GMAC.

XYZ

GMAC has started sending out cancellation notifications.

anonymous

There are two very good sides to choose from, and very good points.

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