Sunday, June 29, 2008

ScoreTop Scandal

How about that scandal eh? For those unaware, GMAC (the administrator of the GMAT) just won a lawsuit against a website called ScoreTop, which was providing live questions. Apparently one could pay $30 for 30 days of access as a VIP member and gain access to current questions that were still being used. The difference between this and Kaplan or Veritas' questions is that those questions are either proprietary (created by the respective company) or actual retired questions purchased legally from GMAC. ScoreTop had a message board where users would provide questions and some schmucks even wrote incriminating stuff about how they saw 10-12 questions on their actual exam that were posted on the website. Crazy. The amazing thing is that 6,000 people were registered VIP members! GMAC is threatening to cancel scores and notify the schools which received them. More should be known in a week.

This has got to be really scary for some people. The people who would use a website like ScoreTop are probably the super driven, super obsessed types who are applying to top programs. Those affected will likely come from the ranks of the Top 20 programs or so. Those schools will have a really tough decision coming up especially since it's still debatable which subscribers knew what they were getting into. The website certainly seemed legal and those subscribers probably viewed it as a way of getting extra practice and preparation. I can understand how the GMAT-obsessed aspirant could completely lose sight of the unethicality (not a word I know). After all, if something is available for purchase online, then most people probably think it's legal. A flawed heuristic to be sure but not an unfathomable one. Since ScoreTop has been around for 5 years, it's entirely possible that some of the incriminated have already graduated. The worst case scenario for them would be getting their MBA revoked and their careers derailed. I'm sure some programs will kick out current students. Just crazy stuff all around.

I really hope GMAC is 100% positive before calling out the subscribers because I'm sure we all know friends who could've walked into this trap somewhat unwittingly. Hopefully their momentary lack of judgment doesn't completely screw up their MBA dreams. I imagine cancelled scores will be a permanent part of one's GMAT transcript which means even if they retake the exam, schools would know about the previously cancelled score. Troublesome indeed.

I'm really sympathetic to those who must be terrified right now. I mean, I was one of the super obsessed types who was pretty insane in their GMAT preparation (luckily it paid off). In fact, I even remember stumbling across ScoreTop's message boards myself. I remember it distinctly. My Veritas course offered 4 different sets of practice exams (created by GMAC, Veritas, Arco, and 800score). The sucky thing was that my sample scores fluctuated like crazy so I was really nervous and did internet searches to ascertain which sample exams were good indicators. That's how I found the ScoreTop message boards. I remember seeing the threads talking about actual problems but luckily for me, I only read the 1 thread about the different sample exams (which was like 200 posts long!) ... I gotta say, the users of that website were definitely hardcore in their obsession. And I thought I was obsessed! I didn't look around the rest of the site so I never even knew about the $30 membership. Good thing huh? The fallout from this will be crazy. Much bigger than the Fuqua scandal for sure.

In brighter news, I took the PMP certification exam this saturday... I am now a certified P(i)MP. In consulting, it's the top designation that one can get certified in (I think): Project Management Professional. My company sponsored it. All I had to do was take a 4 day bootcamp class and then take the 4 hour exam (only need 3 hours though). Pretty easy stuff. I think it's ridiculous that people can get certified as such from just taking an easy class and then paying for the exam. It almost seems like a money-making scheme. Especially since the class teaches you how to pass the exam, rather than how to manage projects. The learning is very shallow. The positive takaway from this, however, is that I do have a better broad understanding of the consulting world and what it's like to manage projects. In the sense that every endeavor is a project, even applying to b-school, the course provided a decent framework for how to approach these projects from a planning, management, risk, and what-else-have-you perspectives. Last week I was about to use Microsoft Project to plan my b-school application schedule as a fun lil exercise but was too lazy to do so in the end. Silly me :P

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I personally know many students who used scoretop and are currently enrolled. These are quite brilliant kids and it will be a shame if they get expelled from BSchool. It will be devastating for them. I think GMAC should have somehow warned students about visiting such sites.

Anonymous said...

I agree..
Besides, I very sincerely hope that GMAC is absolutely sure about VIP members they decide to kick out..
One wrong decision could ruin someone's life!

Anonymous said...

my personal opinion is that anyone who subscribed to the VIP service should have all of his/her scores cancelled...but b. allowed to retake it. The honus on what to do with students enrolled or graduated would be on the each school.

The bottom line is that they have unfair access to information...this is the case whether they know it or not. the fair thing to do would be to make them retake it.

Anonymous said...

"One wrong decision could ruin someone's life!"

All this for $30. Crazy. I'm sure if folks knew what they were getting into, there would'nt be so many members.

TienyChesney said...

Wow, popular topic huh? I don't think I've ever gotten 4 comments so fast. When I first learned about the scandal, I was kinda peeved to be sure. I really wanted GMAC and the schools to bring the hammer down since this kinda corruption really hurts the honest, hard-working test-takers who busted their butts rather than bite the forbidden fruit. As someone who spent close to 200 hours on GMAT prep, I was pretty offended that posts on the ScoreTop boards would describe seeing 10 questions on their actual test.

But the more I read and think about it, the more sympathetic I get. Certainly there's a lot of cheaters out there that deserve to be punished but how easily identifiable will it be? It'll be really interesting to see what kind of news is put out in the coming days/weeks. Maybe verge towards leniency if there's any doubt whatsoever on the possibility of wrongdoing. I believe that GMAC should let everyone implicated take the exam again but let the b-schools know that a prior score was cancelled. Not only that, but the cancellation should have a note- something to the effect of "cancelled due to potential ethics conflict" or something like that. Fair is fair.

Mike said...

It's hard to fault schools/GMAC for taking a no tolerance approach. I completely understand and empathise with the pressure the applicants who used scoretop were feeling, but GMAC makes pretty clear that you cannot disclose test content to anyone else, so people using scoretop should have been a bit suspicious.

j n said...

Pleased to read some balanced views in this overheated debate. No point painting all with the same brush. GMAC statements initially were scary. Cheating MUST NOT BE tolerated. But give exemplary punishment for ensuring the efficacy of the system, not for exterminating the whole class, many of whom could be the unsuspecting victims of the scam.

Anonymous said...

the users of the site didn't know that copyrights were violated...and site was up for so many years....it never looked like there was any such voilations.... to cancel scores and not allow students to retake GMAT can destroy many lives. GMAC should consider their actions before acting....every one who used site and for that matter paid $30 didn't do it for "live gmat ques"...it was a good forum thats it....if live questions or JJs were posted in violation of copyrights the site should be sued becuase its users were unknow to this

Anonymous said...

the users of the site didn't know that copyrights were violated...and site was up for so many years....it never looked like there was any such voilations.... to cancel scores and not allow students to retake GMAT can destroy many lives. GMAC should consider their actions before acting....every one who used site and for that matter paid $30 didn't do it for "live gmat ques"...it was a good forum thats it....if live questions or JJs were posted in violation of copyrights the site should be sued becuase its users were unknow to this

Anonymous said...

If GMAC has a case where they clearly specified scoretop as a banned site and still people accessed it ...then it makes sense...

I think this gimmick by GMAC to cancel scores is just to create fear in the minds of all websites (and people who access them) which thrive of giving "real" GMAT practice.

Cancelling scores..what else..??

Nathaniel @ pmp certification online said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

I better be careful the next time I open my computer and surf the net. Keep it up!