Businessweek reports:The cheating scandal that has engulfed the B-school world grew vastly larger on June 27, when the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) said the number of prospective MBA students facing questions about their entrance exams now totals more than 6,000—six times the original estimate.
You might wonder how one can 'cheat' on the GMAT. After all it is an online test involving logic and reasoning, not the class 12 board exam where you can scribble some formulas on your knee.
Well it appears that the controversy is actually about 'Scoretop', a site which students used to prepare for the GMAT. The site featured several 'live' questions ie questions that GMAT serves from its vast databank to actual test takers.
The unique thing about GMAT is the fact that it is a computer adaptive test and that no two test-takers get exactly the same set of questions. But no system is infallible.
Anyone who's taken the test can memorise a few questions, note them down and pass on the same to future test takers. These questions were apparently known as 'JJ' or jungle juice on the Scoretop site.
Numerous CAT prep institutes used to do this kind of thing before students were allowed to take the test paper home a couple of years ago. Of course, CAT questions are not re-used. But coaching classes liked to 'solve' the paper and indicate to students how much they could hope to score.
Since the IIMS are thinking of taking CAT online , this may be a good time to consider whether the GMAT model is practical in the Indian context. A live question bank would easily be leaked by coaching classes using the 'human memory' method.
Of course by GMAC's own admission students probably gained 'very little' by having access to questions.
Even if a site is illegally able to obtain some “real” questions, it is extremely unlikely that anyone accessing the site will see the same questions on the live exam...The reliability of the test taker’s score is less in question than the ethical behavior of those trying to “game” the system.
Either way, a system where a fixed exam is offered 4 times a year and questions are not reused would be much safer in India. Because in a test like CAT where competition is so intense that even a single question can make a difference, you don't want to take a chance. After all credibility is paramount.
I also think India must have an online + offline model in order to make the CAT fully accessible. At least for the next few years.
Getting back to the GMAT controversy, students who had purchased 'VIP' access to Scoretop over the last 5 years are currently under scrutiny. This includes those who are current students and even MBA graduates.
GMAC has won a $2.3 million copyright infringement judgment against the Scoretop site, thus shutting it down and getting access to the hard drive containing all subscriber information. The suit was filed in June 2007.
It is unlikely that all 6000 VIP members will be affected but GMAC is following the 'electronic paper trail' which indicates which users were aware of the fact that some questions were indeed live.
And not "fully owned by Scoretop [and] written by our own…tutors" as the site claimed.
Incidentally the owner of Scoretop - Lei Shi - has fled to China. There are at least 7 sites similar to Scoretop based in China and Businessweek writer Louis Lavelle reports that GMAC's lawyers have been in touch with the Chinese government re: copyright infringement.
I suspect there might be sites based in India with live questions as well... Or private tutors/ classes who share the same. Anyone with info on this could drop me a line at rashmi_b at yahoo.com.
Personally I say it is not worth the risk of getting permanently busted.
Earlier posts on CAT going online:
CAT goes online - i
CAT goes online - ii