Prospective and current graduate business students who used a web site to cheat on entrance examinations over the last five years could have their scores thrown out.
The exam’s publisher, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), is tracking down users of Scoretop.com after winning a lawsuit to shut down the site and seize a computer hard drive containing payment information and user identifications.
Scoretop sold VIP access for $30 a month, giving users previews to current questions on the latest Graduate Management Admission Test. Some of the questions were posted by users after taking the exam.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema also ordered site operator Lei Shi to pay $2.35 million, plus legal costs, in a June 20 ruling in the copyright infringement lawsuit.
In court documents, GMAC cited a posting by a user who said the information offered on the site was "inestimable," saying that he saw 10 to 12 "word by word" items and that "many of the other questions felt very familiar."
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About 6,000 GMAT scores from when the web site started in 2003 to the present are in question, GMAC spokeswoman Judy Phair said July 2. It’s unclear how many test-takers are involved, because they can take the test several times a year.
"We have an ethical responsibility to schools and students to say this is a secure and fair test," Phair said. "Obviously, you’re not being fair if you have an unfair advantage."
The council plans to match data with test-takers and cancel the scores of anyone it determines knowingly used Scoretop to cheat on the GMAT. It also will notify the schools receiving scores, and perhaps prevent the students in question from retaking the test. Phair said she couldn’t offer a timetable on the process.
Shi wasn’t represented by an attorney, according to court documents. McLean, Va.-based GMAC said Shi has returned to his native China and couldn’t be reached.
About 200,000 students a year take the GMAT, and its scores are used by more than 4,000 graduate management programs at 1,800 business schools worldwide, GMAC said. Test-takers must sign a no-cheating pledge when registering for and when taking the test.
Business schools are trying to determine how they will handle canceled scores, including those of students already enrolled in master’s of business administration (MBA) programs and those admitted for the fall term.
The dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Robert Bruner, wrote on his blog that Darden "will brook absolutely no cheating."
Melvin T. Stith, dean of the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, said most of the school’s incoming MBA students claim they haven’t used Scoretop, but if GMAC discovers otherwise, the school will make them retake the GMAT.
"To us, it’s a great test up front to determine the ethics and honesty of students you’re admitting," Stith said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.
Anxious MBA students have been calling GMAC seeking information, and possibly reassurance.
Phair said the council is focusing on Scoretop’s VIP members–users bragging about the questions they had in advance, for example–and not those who just casually accessed the site.
"If you posted live questions, then you should be worried," Phair said. "Canceling scores is a really serious thing. We’re going to be careful, but also we’re very serious about this."