TwelveByTwelve (TBT) Index       Explicit Transformational Syllabus (XTS)        Finger of Blame

by Luby Prytulak, PhD

Can students reverse the finger of blame? ETS cheating
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First posted 15 May 2013 05:52pm PST, last edited 21 Jul 2013 09:37am PST

Other things worth knowing about the Educational Testing Service:
David Owen, Taking the SAT
Glenn Elert, The SAT: Aptitude or Demographics?    


Aerial view of the Educational Testing Service, ETS cheating Educational Testing Service headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey

News reports reproduced in the INSTANCES section farther below demonstrate that preview cheating and recycled-exam cheating on ETS examinations keeps erupting throughout the 1982-2013 interval, sometimes on a mind-boggling scale, and shows no signs of abating at the time of last editing, which is 21-July-2013.  These news reports demonstrate also that ETS works assiduously to hush up what cheating happens to come to its attention, such that estimating the total volume of cheating is rendered impossible, and the only safe conclusion is that the total volume of cheating is bound to be vastly greater than the already-staggering volume that is being acknowledged.

Cheating is rightfully understood to be a transgression and an injury.  Most obviously injured are the students who don't cheat — their test scores give them a depressed percentile ranking on achievement and aptitude, take away from them scholarships and other financial support for their further studies, exclude them from the programs, or the schools, to which they had aspired to be admitted, and thus derail career plans and lead to reduced income and fulfillment.  Those that do cheat are injured too — their self-concept is altered to that of charlatan, they are driven to further transgression to maintain the status that they have undeservedly won, they learn to live with guilt and shame, and whenever caught may suffer ignominy and social or economic collapse.

And the contemporary testing regime inflicts injury even when no cheating has taken place.  For example, a test may be cancelled in anticipation of cheating, with all examinees being forced to take the test at a later time, which may result in the missing of application deadlines and therefore delay of further study by a year.  Or an examinee who scores extraordinarily high may be suspected of cheating, and distrusted, even though he came by his score honestly.

And society generally is injured by placing into positions of responsibility individuals of lower competence and morality than are available.  The ultimate harm to society may be the creation of a new generation of citizens who cheat habitually because they have been taught to expect authorities to wink at cheating:

Besides being blase, some of today's cheaters brazenly show no remorse.  "Apologize for what?" asked Jolie Fitch, one of nine students from Chicago's Steinmetz High School who were caught cheating to win a 1995 statewide academic championship.  "I would do it again," she said defiantly, after watching a made-for-TV movie last May about the incident.  [...]

A U.S. News & World Report poll last fall found that 90 percent of college students say cheaters never get punished, and 95 percent of confessed cheaters in the Who's Who poll said they were never caught.  Moreover, nearly a third of the 1,000 faculty members from 21 different campuses interviewed by McCabe for his fall 1999 survey admitted that they had observed cheating in their classes and did nothing about it.

Kathy Koch, Cheating in Schools: Are high-stake tests to blame?  CQ Researcher  22-Sep-2000

The Educational Testing Service has historically accepted no responsibility for the cheating that takes place on its exams, instead blaming students and their tutors.  However, today's students do not have to take this blame lying down because the Internet has made available to them information that students in earlier times lacked — today's student writing an ETS test is more likely than ever before to know that some, perhaps many, of the students being tested along with him are cheating.  In some examination settings considered in a broader discussion of cheating, an examinee's wondering whether he is the only one in the hall not cheating may spring less from paranoia than from being well-informed.  It is the arrival of examinee awareness of massive cheating that is able to reverse the attribution of responsibility, as explained below.

The chief options that might occur to an examinee burdened with an awareness of massive cheating are the following:

(1) The examinee may refuse to participate in what he perceives to be a game that is fixed against him.  But if that's his choice, then he will almost certainly pay a heavy price — instead of being credited with high integrity, he will be suspected of avoiding a test that he fears doing poorly on, and will be suspected also of being a malcontent who will forever be finding fault.

(2) The examinee may write the exam and bear the consequence of a percentile ranking which deprecates his achievement and his aptitude, and which thus has a good chance of frustrating whatever career aspirations he had been hoping his ETS scores would advance.

(3) The examinee may join the cheaters.

It would seem, then, that if a student opts for cheating, it will be to avoid the career-stunting losses threatened by the first two options, and it will be to instead join the masses who appear to be advancing their own interests by engaging in a cheating which ETS does not consider worth stopping.  The student, then, may view the predicament into which ETS places him as strong pressure to commit a small sin.

Is ETS production of cheating intentional?

Under the law, "every man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his own actions".  As cheating is the natural consequence of preparing examinations using ETS methodology, then the law regards ETS as producing that cheating intentionally:

When used with reference to civil and criminal responsibility, a person who contemplates any result, as not unlikely to follow from a deliberate act of his own, may be said to intend that result, whether he desire it or not.  Thus, if a man should, for a wager, discharge a gun among a multitude of people, and any should be killed, he would be deemed guilty of intending the death of such person; for every man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his own actions.  Intention is often confounded with motive, as when we speak of a man's "good intentions."  Mozley & Whitley.

Black's Law Dictionary, Revised Fourth Edition, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minn., 1968, p. 948.

And if the law considers ETS to intend the cheating, then the law will also treat ETS as if it in fact desired the cheating:

Intent is not, however, limited to consequences which are desired.  If the actor knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his act, and still goes ahead, he is treated by the law as if he had in fact desired to produce the result.

Cecil A. Wright and Allen M. Linden, The Law of Torts: Cases, Notes and Materials, Fifth Edition, Butterworths, Toronto, 1970, p. 18.

But might it also be the case that ETS intends cheating to take place not only according to a legal definition of intention, but also according to an everyday definition, the everyday definition which ascribes intention wherever an action can be seen to bring gain, as for example monetary gain?  At first glance, this does not seem to be possible — examinee cheating seems to bring ETS only embarrassment, and so imagining that ETS could benefit from, and therefore desire, that cheating seems preposterous.

However, let us keep the question of gain in mind as we examine a particular case, say the case of the Louisiana teachers circulating preview copies of the ETS exam which qualified them to be principals (see the NYT article Giant of Exam Business Keeps Quiet on Cheating below).  As such cheating was discovered to be rampant, it may be supposed that some, perhaps many, perhaps most, Louisiana pincipals are grateful to ETS for allowing them to have cheated their way to status and power.  Such illicit principals might want to protect ETS from being discredited because they want to protect their own credentials from being discredited.  Also, the status and power of these ETS-created principals is augmented throughout their careers by their being able to disclose to select friends and relatives the secret back door to status and power — which is cheating on ETS exams.  When questions are raised concerning standardized testing, the ETS-manufactured principals can be counted on being for it.  When a choice of suppliers of standardized examinations needs to be made, the ETS-created principals can be counted on voting for ETS.  Whenever ETS sets up an unqualified teacher as a principal, is it not at the same time creating an ardent supporter and a loyal defender of ETS?  Therefore, why cannot it be imagined that ETS intends cheating not only according to a legal definition of intention, but also according to a common-usage definition as well, the common-usage definition which identifies intention with the seeking of gain?

The example of British education giant Edexcel serves to illustrate the general principle that installing a secret back door to career success can bring a test supplier cash — Edexcel was discovered to be charging teachers £230 (US$350) a day to attend seminars in which the location of that secret back door was disclosed:

Examiner regrets telling teachers he was cheating
Posted by or from a variety of publications on on December 16, 2011
Paul Evans of the WJEC, Edexcel cheating scandal
Welsh examiner [Paul Evans] was suspended after seminar in which he spoke to teachers about the recycling of questions from year to year

Top examiners suspended after claims they gave teachers secret advice on how to improve their pupils' exam results have told MPs they regret their "inappropriate" remarks.  [...]

An undercover reporter for the Daily Telegraph recorded one chief examiner for history at the Welsh exam board WJEC, Paul Evans, telling teachers at a seminar that he was "cheating" by passing on information that some questions were recycled from year to year.

Evans and one of his colleagues, Paul Barnes, were suspended in light of the comments.

Another chief examiner, Edexcel's Steph Warren, told the reporter her exam board's tests did not require much teaching and there was a "lot less" for pupils to learn than on rival courses.

The newspaper reported that teachers had paid up to £230 a day to attend the seminars.  [...]

So, yes, test suppliers generally, and ETS in particular, might well be considered to intend to produce cheating not only according to the legal principle that "every man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his own actions", but also according to the common-usage principle of welcoming that cheating because it brings material gain.

Can ETS be sued?

A tort is violation of a duty which inflicts damages, and which damages may be recoverable by means of civil litigation.  Perhaps, then, it can be argued that the Educational Testing Service has a duty to its examinees and to the institutions which contract ETS to administer examinations — the duty to prevent cheating, and thus to prevent the damage that cheating causes.  Plaintiffs in such a tort action might characterize ETS infliction of avoidable harm as negligent or as reckless:

NEGLIGENCE.  The omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those ordinary considerations which ordinarily regulate human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent man would not do.  [...]  Doctrine of negligence rests on duty of every person to exercise due care in his conduct toward others from which injury may result.  [...]  Negligence usually consists in the "involuntary and casual" — that is, "accidental" — doing or omission to do something which results in an injury, and is synonymous with heedlessness, carelessness, thoughtlessness, disregard, inattention, inadvertence, remissness and oversight.

Black's Law Dictionary, Revised Fourth Edition, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minn., 1968, p. 1184.

RECKLESSNESS.  [...]  The state of mind accompanying an act, which either pays no regard to its probably or possibly injurious consequences, or which, though foreseeing such consequences, persists in spite of such knowledge.

Black's Law Dictionary, Revised Fourth Edition, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minn., 1968, p. 1435.

Does ETS hand cheaters defences against prosecution?

One of the harms of ETS continuing to rely on antiquated testing methodology may come to be that cheaters escape punishment by deploying defenses that ETS furnishes them.

Cheaters might argue that they are the victims of Entrapment and Inducement

A student who is normally law-abiding, who possesses no predisposition to engage in conduct which is illegitimate or prohibited, may nevertheless find himself compelled to leave the path of righteousness by carrot-and-stick shepherding which blinds him to his legal obligations — the carrot, for example, of admission to a prestigious university in a first-world country, and the stick of continuing to live in a third-world country where his chances of advancement are limited.  Is such ETS inducement powerful enough to overbear a law-abiding student's will to obey the law?  Can the Educational Testing Service be said to implant the disposition to cheat into an innocent student's mind?  If the answers to some of these questions are in the affirmative, then the cheating student might be able to claim that he has been the victim of entrapment and inducement.

Of course part of the inducement consists of inculcating the belief that the cheating carries weak culpability as evidenced by the ETS permitting it to thrive.

Although the definitions below describe the government entrapping an innocent person in criminal activity, the defense of entrapment might similarly be presented in any case in which an institution has power to set rules and to punish infractions of those rules, as for example a student in school might be entrapped by a teacher to transgress one of the rules of the school.

Entrapment is a complete defense to a criminal charge, on the theory that "Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person's mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute."  A valid entrapment defense has two related elements: (1) government inducement of the crime, and (2) the defendant's lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct.  Of the two elements, predisposition is by far the more important.

Inducement is the threshold issue in the entrapment defense.  Mere solicitation to commit a crime is not inducement.  Nor does the government's use of artifice, stratagem, pretense, or deceit establish inducement.  Rather, inducement requires a showing of at least persuasion or mild coercion, pleas based on need, sympathy, or friendship, or extraordinary promises of the sort "that would blind the ordinary person to his legal duties," (inducement shown only if government's behavior was such that "a law-abiding citizen's will to obey the law could have been overborne"); (inducement shown if government created "a substantial risk that an offense would be committed by a person other than one ready to commit it").      Citations removed.

Cheaters might argue that they are the victims of Selective Enforcement

If it is the case that only a tiny minority of cheaters is ever caught and punished, then any student being prosecuted for cheating might avail himself of the defense of Selective Enforcement:

Selective enforcement

Selective enforcement is the ability that executors of the law (such as police officers or administrative agencies, in some cases) have to arbitrarily select choice individuals as being outside of the law.  The use of enforcement discretion in an arbitrary way is referred to as selective enforcement or selective prosecution.

Historically, selective enforcement is recognized as a sign of tyranny, and an abuse of power, because it violates rule of law, allowing men to apply justice only when they choose.  Aside from this being inherently unjust, it almost inevitably must lead to favoritism and extortion, with those empowered to choose being able to help their friends, take bribes, and threaten those from whom they desire favors.


In the case of Educational Testing Service, selective enforcement might apply more to educational districts, or entire countries, rather than to individual examinees.  The following two sentences from the 30-May-2007 article in the INSTANCES section below suggests that selective enforcement for ETS cheating may in fact take place:

In other words, students in America who had access to the document before taking the test could have gotten perfect scores.  But sadly, only the test scores of those who took the SAT in Korea were canceled.

Below, then, is a selection of reports of Educational Testing Service preview cheating and recyled-exam cheating that can be read in full on the Internet today.  From the ubiquity and longevity of such cheating, it can be inferred that ETS testing methodology has long been playing a leading role in corrupting student character, undermining education, and unravelling the social fabric.  As ETS asks students to take the blame for such cheating, it is students who might be among the most strongly motivated to repoint the finger of blame back at ETS.



When cheating is prevalent, it causes harm not only by appearing, but sometimes also by only being suspected.  Which of the two explains the Escalante case is of secondary concern for our purposes, as both are the product of ETS methodology, and both are damaging.

Jaime Escalante, ETS cheating, advanced placement calculus

Jaime Escalante

In 1982, Escalante came into the national spotlight when 18 of his [Garfield High School] students passed the challenging Advanced Placement Calculus exam.  The Educational Testing Service found these scores to be suspicious, because all of the students made exactly the same math error on problem #6, and also used the same unusual variable names.  14 of those who passed were asked to take the exam again.  12 of the 14 agreed to retake the test and all 12 did well enough to have their scores reinstated.

18 Apr 1990

New York Times logo ETS cheating
Test Results in India Canceled Over Fraud
Special to The New York Times     Published: April 18, 1990

NEW DELHI, April 17 — Because of fraud in the administration of internationally standardized tests in India, the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service has canceled all the results of the last three Graduate Record Examinations held in this country.

All students in India who took the examination on Jan. 20, Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 will have to retake it.  The testing service, the world's largest, will use a private security company to police the next Graduate Record Examination in India, on Saturday.  Next year, the number of tests and testing centers will be reduced.

The problem has not arisen on such a scale in any other nation, officials in Princeton say.  Their conclusions follow a five-month investigation of reports that copies of the examinations were being sold in several testing areas.

More than 14,000 students take the Graduate Record Examination in India, a significant proportion of the 366,000 tests administered in more than 170 countries annually.  American colleges and universities rank highest now among Indians seeking to enter foreign institutions for postgraduate training.

Large numbers of Indians also take the Educational Testing Services English-proficiency examination.  That exam, too, has been underminded in India by the apparent sale of test papers in advance of the test dates, according to officials of the service in Princeton.


From the 13 Mar 2007 New York Times article reproduced in greater detail further below:

[ETS spokesman] Mr. Ewing said [that] in 1992 about 10,000 scores on the TOEFL, a test measuring fluency in English, were canceled in China.


The 28 Sep 1997 New York Times article below states that

Three years ago, in its biggest security breach, the company [ETS] canceled the scores of 30,000 students in China on entry tests for graduate schools after the discovery of a ring that was selling the examinations.

Aug 1994

The 28 Sep 1997 New York Times article below shows that massive ETS cheating cannot be viewed as an exclusively offshore phenomenon:

Last month, Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed documents describing a nationwide cheating operation in which hundreds of students paid as much as $9,000 for answers to graduate-school and English-proficiency tests.  As outlined by prosecutors, experienced test takers took the exams in New York City and telephoned the answers to accomplices in Chicago and Los Angeles, who passed them along to those taking the tests in the later time zones.

16 Dec 1994

New York Times logo ETS cheating
Computer Admissions Test Found to Be Ripe for Abuse
By WILLIAM CELIS 3d Published: December 16, 1994

The Educational Testing Service, which administers the nation's leading standardized admissions test for graduate schools, boasted when introducing a new computerized version a year ago that the test was nearly infallible.  But a company that coaches students got suspicious last summer that the new version was easy to cheat on.

The company, Kaplan Educational Centers, started hearing the same questions over and over from students they were coaching who had taken the test at various times.  The implication was clear: The testers were recycling some questions.  If this was so, an enterprising student could memorize the questions and share them with friends taking the test later, or improve his results by taking the test again, or put the questions on the Internet, or sell them.

So earlier this fall Kaplan sent three employees undercover to take the test, called the Graduate Record Examination.  Sure enough, the three were able to memorize so much of the exam that Kaplan could construct a replica.  Kaplan went straight to the Educational Testing Service, and said, essentially, here is our version of your test.  Kaplan said that 70 to 80 percent of their questions matched the real thing.  [...]

31 Oct 1996

The Yale Herald logo ETS cheating
Testing fraud exposed
GRE, GMAT, TOEFL cheating scam uncovered
By Fiona Havers     31 Oct 1996

Time zones, fake names, and encrypted pencils were all at the heart of a cheating scam allegedly used by hundreds of students applying to graduate school.

George Kobayashi was arrested Sat., Oct. 26, for running a company that advertised a "unique" method of preparing students to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Graduate Management TEST (GMAT), and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  According to the U.S. Attorney's office, students who paid $6,000 to take advantage of this method flew to Los Angeles to take the exam.  Expert test-takers hired by Kobayashi and using fake names would take the test in New York and then phone the answers to L.A., where, because of the three hour difference in time, the test would be just beginning.  Kobayashi's employees would then quickly encode the answers on pencils and distribute them to the student test-takers who had been instructed beforehand on how to translate the code into the correct answers.

Kobayashi told students that they were guaranteed their desired score and would not have to pay if it fell short of their goal.  An undercover federal agent, who attained his target score using Kobayashi's "method," said that, to insure payment, Kobayashi made him hand-write a letter stating, "I cheated on the October 30 GMAT.  Please cancel my score."  Kobayashi kept this letter, and said he would send it to Educational Testing Services if the student did not pay.

If convicted, Kobayashi could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of more than $250,000.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Godsey, who is in charge of the prosecution, declined to comment on the number of students involved in the case or their fate if they are caught.  However, it appears from the complaint filed that there were several hundred, and they should be worried: Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the Educational Testing Service (ETS), said that the names of students that had used the service had all been registered by Kobayashi and were in records seized by law enforcement officers.

Time zone cheating is certainly not new.  A similar scam involving students cheating on the SAT was uncovered in 1991 and, according to Seppi Basili, director of pre-college programs at the Kaplan Educational Center, this method "is a very old form of cheating....  It is really shocking that it continues, because it is a very easy thing to fix."  Basili said that ETS could stagger test hours so that they would be administered nation-wide at the same time, or jumble the answer choice patterns so that relaying answers would be more difficult.

Ewing said that ETS is constantly changing test security, but he said for security reasons he was not at liberty to say what new measures they are planning to use in response to this particular attempt to outwit ETS.  Ewing also said that ETS administers between eight and nine million tests per year.  He estimates that of those, people cheat on less than one tenth of one percent of the tests.

28 Sep 1997

New York Times logo ETS cheating
Giant of Exam Business Keeps Quiet on Cheating
By DOUGLAS FRANTZ and JON NORDHEIMER   September 28, 1997

[...]  The man on the telephone said he was a Louisiana teacher and had a stolen copy of the standardized test that Mr. Weston's company, Educational Testing Service, administers to teachers who want to be school principals.  [...]

Three days later, Mr. Weston and two other senior managers of the testing service were in Louisiana confronting a situation that was even worse than they had thought.  Copies of the test's 145 multiple-choice questions, along with correct answers, had circulated among teachers throughout southern Louisiana, probably for years.  In a state mired at or near the bottom of almost every educational ranking, teachers had cheated their way into running public elementary, middle and high schools.  [...]

But when E.T.S. faced this situation last fall, in what could have been one of the worst public scandals of its history, the testing service decided to keep it quiet.  State and local education officials said they were refused information on the extent of the cheating.  Instead of publicly disclosing the possibility that unqualified cheaters were running schools in southern Louisiana, the testing service quietly notified at least 200 teachers who had passed the exam that they had to take the test again to "confirm" their earlier scores.

Rather than an isolated incident, the situation that E.T.S. officials found in Louisiana and how they reacted to it fits a pattern uncovered in a four-month examination by The New York Times of the huge nonprofit company that runs most educational testing in the United States, from the SAT for college-bound high school students to tests for licenses and certification in 34 professions.

In numerous instances across the country, E.T.S. has confronted case after case of cheating but withheld information from the public and failed to take aggressive steps in time to insure the integrity of its tests, according to internal documents and interviews with current and former officials there.  [...]

While the organization professes zero tolerance when it comes to suspected cheating, its critics, including former E.T.S. officials, say the company is all too eager to sweep its dirt under the rug to protect its lion's share of the testing business instead of spending the money to tighten security.  In many cases, the company's insular culture dictates that lapses of testing security remain hidden behind the curtain of customer privacy and test confidentiality.

"The tendency has been to lean over backwards to keep matters pertaining to test security sort of under wraps," said Winton H. Manning, a former senior vice president who retired in 1995 after more than 25 years at E.T.S.  "There is a certain amount of good business sense to that.  Admissions officers and deans would begin to wonder just how reliable are these folks if they knew everything."  [...]

The Methods

Variety of Ways To Obtain Answers


Even E.T.S.'s push into the new world of computerized testing suffered a serious security lapse.  In 1993, its new computerized test for graduate school admission was found to be vulnerable to one of the oldest cheating techniques: People who had taken the test were able to remember enough questions to reconstruct almost the entire examination.  Unlike paper tests, which are given only a few times a year, computerized tests are offered anytime.  And if the tests use the same questions day after day for months, they are much more vulnerable to cheaters who can memorize the questions.

Internal E.T.S. records show that in the rush to gain an early foothold in the field of computerized testing, company executives ignored warnings from their own test experts about the risk of using a single set of questions and later misled New York legislators by saying the testing service was using multiple sets of questions.

Cheating problems have also plagued the tests for graduate school and on English-proficiency that were administered by E.T.S.  Three years ago, in its biggest security breach, the company canceled the scores of 30,000 students in China on entry tests for graduate schools after the discovery of a ring that was selling the examinations.

Last month, Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed documents describing a nationwide cheating operation in which hundreds of students paid as much as $9,000 for answers to graduate-school and English-proficiency tests.  As outlined by prosecutors, experienced test takers took the exams in New York City and telephoned the answers to accomplices in Chicago and Los Angeles, who passed them along to those taking the tests in the later time zones.

Time-zone test schemes are nothing new for the service.  Critics complain that the company's failure to spend enough money to search aggressively for patterns of cheating or even provide different versions of the same test for each time zone are other examples of its passive attitude toward security.

"Cover-up is probably more prevalent than cracking down because cracking down is expensive," said Monte E. Perez, who ran E.T.S.'s troubled citizenship testing program for four years until he resigned in 1995.

Officials of the testing service said that breaches of test security might be more prevalent today than in the past because of what they called a weakening of the taboo against cheating.  But they said that spending the money required to make tests virtually impregnable would drive up fees for test takers and create an intrusive atmosphere.

"We don't want to act like kids are coming into a police state to take a test," said Mrs. Cole, the president.  "The general thrust has been to educate our test center supervisors better about security issues and to institute a host of things aimed at prevention."  [...]

From its 360-acre campus, E.T.S. develops and administers nine million tests a year worldwide, often on behalf of academic associations.  A nonprofit organization since its founding in 1947, it has grown into the largest educational testing company in the world, with 2,400 employees.  Last year, its revenue topped $400 million and it had a surplus of nearly $9 million, which swelled its reserve fund to $91 million.

Some critics contend that weak security survives at E.T.S. because there is no public accountability.  No Congressional committee or Federal agency monitors the testing industry, and few individuals have the resources to challenge a giant like E.T.S. in court.

"There is more public oversight and control over the food I feed my cat than the tests they give my kids," said Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing in Cambridge, Mass., a nonprofit watchdog group.  [...]

Next: The business of testing.

Computers Offer Hope and Danger on Test Security

Top executives at the Educational Testing Service say they expect some of their security problems to be remedied as computer-based examinations replace paper-and-pencil tests in the coming years.

They said that copying from neighbors should be reduced, the use of impostors to take tests should be curbed by more stringent identification steps and transmitting tests over secure computer lines would eliminate thefts of exam booklets.

But at the same time, even within the testing service, there are concerns that computer-based tests present a host of new woes.  For instance, a stolen booklet for a paper test contains a few dozen questions, but the push of a button can send thousands of computerized test questions to a computer anywhere in the world.

Another potential problem involves the near-constant availability of computerized tests.  Paper tests are usually given four or five times a year, but one appeal of computerized testing is that exams can be given virtually anytime.  If the same questions are offered day after day for long periods of time, however, the chances increase that test takers can memorize enough questions to reconstruct the exam for others.

"Computer-based tests are going to help us in a variety of ways," Nancy S. Cole, the president of E.T.S., said.  "They will raise some problems, too."  One of the problems was exposed in connection with the company's first big computerized test, a version of its standard test for admission to graduate schools.  Internal memorandums obtained by The New York Times showed that top E.T.S. executives ignored warnings from their own experts that the new test was vulnerable to cheating.

In November 1993, the interactive computer graduate examination was introduced and the plan was to have 30,000 to 40,000 prospective graduate students take it first year and gradually phase out the paper test, now given to about 400,000 students a year.

A year earlier, two test developers at the testing service had written an internal report expressing their concern over using one set of questions on a continuous basis for the test.  They wrote that examinees "will remember questions and reveal them to their friends or to a coaching school."

Craig Mills, the company's executive director of testing for the test, the Graduate Record Examination, recommended solving the problem by developing four separate pools of questions, according to another internal memorandum.

But developing a single question pool that meets the requirements for fairness, accuracy and relevance can take weeks and cost $250,000 or more.  A series of meetings was held about the problem, but the decision was made to go ahead with one set of questions.

"This year, G.R.E. will test (we estimate) 35,000 people with (ssshhh!) one pool," Robert Altman, a testing service vice president in charge of the graduate examination program at the time, wrote in a memorandum.  "What we don't know — and what is likely the first question — is, is that enough?"

Similar concerns were made public at a hearing of the New York State Senate Higher Education Committee in May 1994, six months after the new graduate examination was introduced.  Robert Schaeffer, of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a watchdog group in Cambridge, Mass., told the senators: "E.T.S. is relying on the world's largest honor system.  They're hoping that, if they give the test to 500,000 kids a year, that none of them are going to tell anything about those questions to anybody else and, if they did, nobody would listen."

Officials of the testing service assured the senators that there was nothing to worry about because they had been using multiple pools of questions for the test.

Later that year, the Kaplan Educational Centers, a leading test-preparation company, sent 22 employees to take the graduate examination over several days in 9 cities.  They were told specifically to memorize as many questions as possible.  Because they saw the same questions, Kaplan's employees were able to reconstruct a substantial portion of the examination.

Kaplan did not use the questions in its courses.  Instead, it alerted E.T.S. to the problem.  The testing service responded by temporarily reducing the number of times the test was offered and suing Kaplan for copyright infringement, breach of contract and fraud.

"All Kaplan proved was that, if you put a professional ring together, you could steal much of the test," Mrs. Cole said in an interview.  She said going forward with a single pool of questions might have been an error, but she said the risk was minimal because a relatively small number of students took the exam.  She said the test now uses multiple pools of questions.

Last June, Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed most of the suit against Kaplan, but he ruled that there should be a trial on the copyright infringement claim.

Judge Motz also concluded that Educational Testing Service's assurances to the New York senators that it had been using multiple pools were "ill-founded."

30 Jan 2001

China Education and Research Network logo ETS cheating

ETS Sues Chinese School for Copyright Infringement
China Education and Research Network

Chinese students' applications to US universities may well be affected by a special review of their GRE and TOEFL test scores, insiders said.

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) boards sent a letter to American universities on January 30 "urging them to treat all GRE and TOEFL test scores from China with caution," as "certain individuals may have gained unfair advantage through intensive coaching that included exposure to undisclosed test questions."  [...]

The letter has drawn attention to the New Oriental School, China's largest test preparation school that provides students with the "coaching" referred to by the boards.  The school is currently being sued for copyright infringement after using unauthorized and unreleased GRE materials in its courses.

The letter, which casts suspicion on the test scores and integrity of Chinese students, has given rise to anger among Chinese students. [...]

The anger of Chinese students was addressed towards the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the world's leading English language testing institution.  The ETS administrates GRE and TOEFL tests across the world, tests that are essential to the success of any application for admission to or a scholarship at a US university.  [...]

The ETS has issued a lawsuit seeing New Oriental for infringement of copyright after it published certain ETS materials without authorization.

Xu Xiaoping, vice-president of New Oriental, said that New Oriental had acknowledged its "mistake" in connection with the ETS copyright issue.

He said his school had contacted the ETS several times to buy the publishing rights for authorized GRE materials, but that they had been repeatedly rejected.

Xu noted that New Oriental would have become the largest buyer of ETS materials in China if the ETS had made authorized GRE materials available to them.

The ETS had issued publishing rights for its materials in many other countries, such as Japan, Canada and the United States, but not in China, according to Xu.

The ETS said that some materials published by New Oriental had been confidential, and had not been published anywhere else in the world.  [...]

09 Aug 2002

The Dartmouth logo ETS cheating

Cheating scandal rocks GRE, ETS
By Tara Kyle, The Dartmouth Staff    Published on Friday, August 9, 2002

In a display of cheating unprecedented in the Educational Testing Services' nearly 50-year history, an unknown number of students in China, South Korea and Taiwan dramatically improved their scores on the verbal section of the Graduate Record Examination by sharing questions over the internet during the last academic year.

After taking the computer examination, which reuses questions and was administered six days per week, students logged onto several Chinese and Korean-language Web sites and posted memorized questions, ETS learned during a months-long investigation.  [...]

03 Oct 2002

The Economic Times logo ETS cheating

GRE Computer Science test cancelled for Indians, Chinese
The Economic Times    PTI Oct 3, 2002, 12.07pm IST

NEW YORK: The US-based Educational Testing Service has cancelled a graduate-level computer science test for Indian and Chinese students because some Asian websites had posted answers to earlier papers [...].  [...]

13 Mar 2007

New York Times logo ETS cheating
World Briefing | Asia: South Korea: 900 Sat Scores Canceled
By KAREN W. ARENSON     Published: March 13, 2007

The scores of all 900 students who took the SAT exam in South Korea in January will be canceled, the Educational Testing Service announced in South Korea on Friday.  Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the testing service, which is responsible for security issues involving the College Board's college admissions exam, said an investigation had shown that an unknown number of students had seen at least a portion of the test before the exam was given on Jan. 27.  Because the number could not be determined, he said, all the scores were being canceled.  Students will be able to retake the test or accept a refund.  In the early 1990s, thousands of Graduate Record Exam scores were canceled across most of India, Mr. Ewing said, and in 1992 about 10,000 scores on the TOEFL, a test measuring fluency in English, were canceled in China.

30 May 2007

That the Educational Testing Service acknowledged students who cheated in Korea but not their counterparts in the United States is suggestive of Selective Enforcement which allows favored wrongdoers to escape punishment and which incidentally cuts back on bad publicity for ETS.

The Korea Times logo ETS cheating

'Hagwon' Blamed for Cancelled SAT
By Park Sun-jong     2007-05-30 17:56
Korean high-school student, Park Sun-jong, ETS cheating

A few months ago, I had my SAT Reasoning Test score canceled.  If I recall correctly, I did not violate any rules set by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the test, such as sharing the test questions with someone else.

It was part of a complete cancellation of the SAT Reasoning Tests administered on Jan. 27.  The New York Times and CNN reported in early February that there was a "security breach" of the SAT Reasoning Test in January.

According to a news report published in the Times, "At least one student who took the exam Saturday had access to the questions ahead of time."  In light of the emphasis on fair competition the ETS sets on SATs, this was indeed a serious security breach.

The pivotal problem of the test was that it recycled almost all questions previously administered in the United States in December 2005.  Considering that many SAT hakwons in Korea have access to previously administered SAT Tests and many test-takers attend hakwons, the careless recycling of test questions by the ETS was the bedrock of the security breach.

But the ETS has yet to realize the larger picture — students in America take the SAT one day after those in Korea do and once hakwons realized that the SAT in January was a near replica of one previously administered, they quickly sent answers to students in America who had attended hakwons.

Indeed, on a Web site frequently visited by those wishing to study abroad in America, the document containing answers to the SAT in January that was sent to students in America was posted.

The document was compiled by a hakwon teacher and he encouraged his students to carefully memorize the answers before taking the test.  In other words, students in America who had access to the document before taking the test could have gotten perfect scores.  But sadly, only the test scores of those who took the SAT in Korea were canceled.

But like an abstract painting, the scene of test taking in Korea is distorted to the point where the true purpose of standardized testing has become null and void.

ETS said in its latest report that the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy (KMLA) is among the world's top high schools outside the United States according to its students' performance on seven advanced placement subjects.  [...]

Whether or not you are innocent, the ETS does not seem to care.  As a senior who will be applying to colleges in a few months, I am short of time.  And the cancellation of the SAT in January is outrageous and nerve wracking.  [...]

Park Sun-jong is a senior studying at Daejeon High School in Daejeon.

24 Oct 2008

Los Angeles Times logo ETS cheating
SAT scores of students who saw test earlier are tossed
October 24, 2008|Mitchell Landsberg

The company that administers the SAT exam announced Thursday that it was throwing out the scores of several Granada Hills Charter High School students who managed to see copies of the test the day before they took it earlier this month.

But the Educational Testing Service said there was no need for a wider cancellation, suggesting that investigators were confident that any stolen tests had not been widely distributed.

The testing service had previously said that it was investigating a security breach in the exam and was unsure how far it extended.

"We have concluded ... that a majority of scores will be reported and only those limited number of students directly involved will have their scores canceled," testing service spokesman Tom Ewing said.  "They will not be given an opportunity to retest [immediately] and if they test in the future again, they will do so under very strict observation and most likely separate from the rest of other students."

The security breach has roiled the San Fernando Valley campus, with some students expressing anger over the way it was handled by Granada Hills administrators.


San Mateo County Times logo
Mills High School's AP test scores invalidated, students cry foul
By Aaron Kinney    19-Jul-2013

[...]  More than 300 students in the Orange County community of Mission Viejo reportedly had their scores invalidated in 2008.  [...]

18 Jan 2010

The Chronicle of Higher Education logo ETS cheating

In Alleged Scheme, SAT Was Sent From Thailand via South Korea to Connecticut
The Chronicle of Higher Education    January 18, 2010, 11:17 AM ET

The South Korean police are investigating an alleged SAT-cheating scheme in which a lecturer was said to have e-mailed a copy of the college-entrance examination, with an answer key, to two students in Connecticut whom he had tutored to prepare for the test, according to the Associated Press.  The lecturer allegedly got the copy from a Thai student in Bangkok last year, then quickly e-mailed the test to the two students, who were scheduled to sit for the exam within hours.  The students, who may have passed the cheat sheet on to 20 other South Korean students in the United States, ended up receiving nearly perfect scores.

25 Jan 2010

Chosun logo ETS cheating

Korean Police Asked to Probe SAT Leaks / Jan. 25, 2010 12:32 KST

Educational Testing Service, the U.S. company that administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test and various other English proficiency tests, has dispatched staff to conduct an independent probe into the leak of SAT test papers following the arrest of two Korean lecturers who allegedly helped students cheat.  [...]

The two ETS staffers arrived in Korea last Thursday on a fact-finding mission and handed over to police data they had compiled since 2007 about such incidents.  [...]

Just when the ETS staffers were visiting, another test leak was reported on Saturday, prompting police to widen the investigation.  The incident follows less than a week after the first one, where an SAT lecturer at a private crammer in the affluent Gangnam District obtained a copy of the SAT from a Thai student who took the exam in Bangkok in January and, taking advantage of the time difference, allegedly emailed the test paper and answer sheets to two Korean students who took the same test twelve hours later in Connecticut.

Private crammers in Gangnam blame the back-to-back instances of cheating on the highly competitive atmosphere in the industry.  "SAT crammers charge high fees because they teach only during vacation when students abroad return to Korea," said one owner of a crammer in Gangnam.  "Students and parents expect to see scores improve significantly given the money they spend, and I am aware of frequent instances of leaked tests."

Gangnam crammers offer special vacation crash courses and charge millions of won.  One crammer in Apgujeong-dong charges W5 million a month (US$1=W1,146) for five hours of lectures a day.  Successful tutors can make nine-figure salaries.  Another owner of a crammer said since there are more than 100 SAT crammers in Seoul alone, getting hold of leaked copies of the SAT is a sort of "survival tactic."

28 Jul 2011 ETS cheating
Exam cheats use internet to share answers

Get Tips, Advice and Strategies for Exam Success in 4 Days.

When 21-year-old Zhang, an average student in college, got set for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in Beijing this year, she felt so unprepared that she skipped the exam entirely.

Forty days later, she flew to Vietnam and nailed a near-perfect score in the test, which is taken by candidates applying to graduate school in the United States.

The secret to her sudden stroke of brilliance?

Before the second exam, Zhang — not her real name — tapped into an online network of former test-takers who pool questions and answers to gain an edge in the computerised test, which is not offered in China.

"I heard from my friends that it is easier to get better grades in the computer-based exam," said Xu, another Chinese student who flew to the Philippines and came back with a score of 1420 out of 1600.  "Now I think it was money well-spent."

The coordinated cheating on the computerised GRE poses a challenge for the Princeton, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, which develops and administers the exam.

The stakes are high.  On August 6, the computerised GRE will return to China after a nine-year hiatus, after ETS launches a revised GRE worldwide.  That will allow much greater numbers of Chinese students to tap into online cheating networks if the revised GRE fails to curb their methods.

For Chinese, post-graduate study at a US school is the ticket to prestige, adventure, and possibly higher wages.

"ETS's Office of Testing Integrity closely monitors testing, investigates security issues and assures score validity worldwide for all ETS testing programs," Christine Betaneli, ETS spokeswomen for the GRE tests, wrote in an email to Reuters.

"ETS takes test security very seriously and has a number of processes and procedures in place to ensure the highest standard of validity in testing.  Some of our protocols are shared with the public, while some methods remain confidential."

The protocols outlined by Betaneli — handwriting samples, photographs and voice matching — would help deter one person from taking the test on behalf of someone else, but they would do little against the coordinated online cheating system.

ETS has instituted new security measures for the revised GRE.  Betaneli did not elaborate, saying they were confidential.


In a well-coordinated global effort, Chinese students who have just taken the computerised GRE load as many questions and answers as they can remember on to online chat rooms.

They call it "ji jing", or "computer experience".  It capitalises on a weakness in the testing system, namely that test organisers cannot introduce new questions fast enough to keep test-takers from finding out the questions in advance.

ETS painstakingly develops and evaluates each question, making it unlikely that the computerised test, offered weekly around the world, could contain unique questions each time.

The online system is more than just simple sharing.  Blogs and forums on the Chinese search engine Baidu point potential test-takers toward chat rooms, staffed by volunteer organisers.

The organiser collates the contribution and posts an "officially edited version" of the questions with answers and analysis by the end of the day.

"Those taking the test in Asia in the morning are responsible for the first three questions.  Post them as quickly as you can, and those in the afternoon will benefit a lot!" said one organiser in a blog post.

The contributors take the tests primarily in North America and Southeast Asia.  New test-takers benefit from the time difference to memorise the responses posted from other continents.


Some chat room organisers worry about scores being too high.

"We must follow the score-control strategy," admonishes one.  Test-takers were advised to make five mistakes to ensure scores aren't so high that they expose the system.

In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea the exam has only been offered in paper form since 2002, when ETS discovered websites containing GRE questions.

"The websites included both questions and answers illegally obtained by test takers who memorise and reconstruct questions and share them with other test takers," ETS said in 2002.  It decided to retire questions after each paper test, to prevent cheating.

"An extensive investigation covering more than 40 countries showed security breaches occurring only in these areas."

Around the same time, ETS won a lawsuit in Chinese courts against the New Oriental Language School, a chain of schools that teach English and test preparation.  New Oriental had published complete copies of previous tests, including questions that ETS re-used in subsequent years.

Despite the lawsuit, copies of those previous exams still can be found at sellers of pirated books in Chinese cities.

Teachers in test-preparation schools in China now advise students that to get better scores, they should take the computer-based GRE abroad, according to a student who attended one such class.

Some Chinese note that widespread sharing of questions casts suspicion on the scores earned by any Chinese student, whether or not that individual had cheated.

"It's utterly unfair for Chinese students who work so hard for the test," said He Minghao, a 21-year-old who took the GRE test in June.

"Shame on those who cheated.  Their behaviour discredits our hard-earned score as we are all Chinese students and their high scores give them an advantage over us in the application, especially when it comes to scholarship offers.  Jijing should be forbidden."

22 May 2012

Los Angeles Times logo ETS cheating
AP exam flap baffles Chatsworth High students

Missing test booklets force administrators to re-administer the exams during finals week, creating further headaches for already-stressed seniors.

May 22, 2012     Sandy Banks

Nobody has yet used the "c" word — cheating — to describe the imbroglio that has scrambled the testing schedule at Chatsworth High this month.  [...]

Chatsworth High Principal Tim Guy's explanation was more prosaic: The school came up short a few test booklets, and no one knows how or why it happened.

That discovery invalidated scores for the students who took that psychology exam and complicated the school's year-end testing marathon by pushing other AP exams into finals week.

Guy said the psychology exam was underway when the teacher recognized the shortage.  Three students were absent, so there should have been three leftover test booklets.  There were none.

The testing coordinator searched through the other packets of AP subject exams.  Not only did the missing booklets not turn up, but four other subjects were one exam short.

Did somebody botch the ordering?  Did the Educational Testing Service send too few?

Or did a security breach on campus allow the theft of tests by someone willing to cheat?

Officials from the testing service visited the school to investigate but couldn't determine exactly what happened, Guy said.  So the test results had to be scrapped.  Students will have to take a new version this week or next.

And tests that were supposed to be given last week in biology, chemistry, English literature and English language were postponed.  New versions will be administered this week — finals week, which means days of back-to-back exams.

"They'll be taking finals in the morning and APs in the afternoon," Guy said.

That has more than a few students worked up — particularly the hyper-studious and over-booked, who had broken down their study guides in minute-to-minute increments and thought they'd be finished by now.

"I spent an all-nighter getting ready for that test," said senior Raj Toor, who will have to return to Chatsworth High the day after he graduates to retake his AP psych exam.  [...]

He's troubled by rumors and gossip: that a seal was broken on a test packet, that somebody took a cellphone out, that the proctor passed out the wrong exam.  [...]

Was it a poor job of administrating, or students trying to cheat, that messed things up?

"Now I worry that our school will be a joke because of these AP shenanigans," Raj said.  "I feel like nobody is going to take my diploma seriously: 'You're in the class of 2012. We know what happened at your school that year.'"  [...]

04 Mar 2013

Boston Korea logo ETS cheating

SAT Cheating Scandal Stirs in Korea
Written by HyunCheon Kim / Translated by JaeMin Woo / 2013-03-04, 12:18:18

As investigation on a leak of SAT answers has begun in Korea.  Innocent students are expected to be affected as well as the cheaters.

In a similar case in 2007, ETS (Educational Testing Service), the SAT conductor, discovered that some students had acquired the answers before taking the exams, and canceled all 900 students' scores sent from Korea.

High-Tech Crimes Department of Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office announced that it had initiated search and seizure in 6 language institutes in the Gangnam area that were deemed suspicious.  One of these search and seizures was done on the 21st, and in two more search were done on the 27th.

Moreover, the prosecutor said that it found evidence of language institutes buying tests from brokers or hiring students to leak tests from Southeast Asia.

Also, it has been confirmed that one of the 8 accused institutes was established by Jeffrey Son, the main culprit in the case from 2007.

On January 27th, 2007, Son, who was charged without imprisonment after the incident, uploaded answers on his own internet café to the SAT that was to be taken in New York the same day."

He was able to acquire leaked tests from brokers or hired students by taking advantage of the time differences in the two countries.

Many parents of Korean international students in the area responded rather nonchalantlyto this incident.  They believed that suspicion intensifies only when the incidents are exposed through official investigations, but the leaks will not be stopped in the near future.

Prejudice towards Korean students reduces their opportunities

The parents were more concerned about the possibility of innocent students being affected by this incident.  EunMi Lee, a mother of an 11th grader, heatedly argued that "it's unfair for hard working innocent students to compete with the students who cheat their way to elite universities."

Also, the possibility of Korean students being affected by Koreans' deteriorating reputation has been pointed out.

An education expert said, "Many high school and college admission officers are questioning the legitimacy of SAT and SSAT scores sent from Korea, and they are also aware of the possibilities of purchased essays being sent for admission applications.  When competing with students from China, India, Singapore and other countries, Korean students will be at a disadvantage."

However, despite the strong opposition from Korean students and parents in the United Sates, it is unlikely that the circumstances in Korea will change.

Another parent stated that it is a trend in the Gangnam area for the instructors who are accused of leaking tests to gain popularity and higher salaries, and that the official investigations operated by various authorities are essentially useless.

Kang, who moved to Boston from Gangnam a year ago, revealed that "in these cases, the accused teachers will gain popularity for their guarantee of raising students' scores."

What is causing these test leaks?

The question of continuous SAT leaks can be answered by the agreement between parents who are seeking to send their kids to elite universities and the teachers who are looking for higher salaries.  [...]

Competition between institutes is another cause of the problem.

According to Open Doors, the number of students in Korea applying for the universities in America has been decreasing since 2006-2008.  With an increasing number of language institutes, the competition to gain the title of "guarantee of higher scores" and "best predictions of tests" has been intensified.

Sophia Park, the president of Wise Prep, added that "the institutes had to compete to acquire leaked tests as the ability of obtaining these tests overshadowed the teacher and institute's ability to teach."

These institutes with leaked tests were then considered to have the best "prediction" for the future tests.  Parents began to look for institutes that had access to leaked tests and this tempted more instructors to seek them.

Joon Ki Jung, the president of Boston Education World, strongly suggested that "the Korean government and ETS must take action because the parents openly prefer institutes that have accessed leaked tests over the ones that don't."

He further suggested harsh punishments such as cancelling students' scores, exposing their crimes to college admission offices, expelling instructors from institutes and revealing the names of students' parents.

03 May 2013

The Korea Times logo ETS cheating

Cheating conscience
Law enforcement must take SAT cancellation seriously
The Korea Times editorial    2013-05-03 17:37

The College Board, the administrator of the U.S. Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), has called off the exam scheduled for Saturday, citing the possibility that some test questions had been leaked.  This is the first time the test organizer has canceled a round of the college admission tests.

Judging from a statement released by the board, the cancelation was made in response to information from the prosecution "regarding tutoring companies in Korea that are alleged to have illegally obtained SAT and SAT subject test material for their own commercial benefits."  In February, prosecutors raided eight private academics that provided SAT lessons in southern Seoul over suspicions they were selling questions from SAT tests they sourced in Southeast Asia.

The cancellation of the test could trouble innocent exam applicants who have been preparing hard to enter universities in the United States.  This is all the more serious, given that the June exam can also be canceled although the board still says it will go ahead on schedule.

In fact, SAT tests have been leaked several times.  In 2007, the ETS, the board's vendor for global test administration and security, canceled the scores of about 900 Korean students after discovering exam questions had been leaked.  In 2010, police conducted an investigation after suspicions emerged that SAT tests had been leaked.  [...]

The government needs to be aware of the seriousness of the situation and take measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.  Law enforcement should conduct a thorough investigation and let the suspects, including parents and students, pay the price.  They must consider disclosing the list of prominent figures involved in the incidents, if necessary.

03 May 2013

Chosun logo ETS cheating

Cheating on Standardized Tests "Rampant"  /  May 03, 2013 12:51 KST

TV hosts, staff of major business conglomerates and elite university students are among scores of Koreans accused of cheating on standardized English-language tests.

The revelations come on the heels of an investigation into alleged leaks of SAT questions that have prompted the U.S. College Board to cancel the test scheduled for this Saturday in Korea.

Kwanak police in southern Seoul on Thursday said 50 people have been booked on charges of cheating on their TOEIC and TEPS last month.  Among them are students of the prestigious Seoul National, Yonsei and Korea universities.  [...]

06 May 2013

Chosun logo ETS cheating

SAT Scores of All Cheaters to Be Voided  /  May 06, 2013 12:09 KST

The U.S. firm Educational Testing Service said it will void the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of more Korean students if further evidence of cheating emerges.  It will comb through past papers and inform universities where cheaters have already applied.

ETS made the announcement shortly after the SATs in Korea scheduled for last Saturday were canceled after a police investigation into alleged leaks of test questions.

In an e-mail to the Chosun Ilbo on Friday, ETS said if there is credible evidence that applicants gained an unfair advantage either individually or as a group, it would take necessary steps to protect the credibility of the SAT.

The company added that although tests have been canceled before at individual testing centers, this is the first time an SAT was canceled for a whole country.

It pledged to support all efforts by Korean investigators to bring the guilty to justice.

07 May 2013

Korea Herald logo ETS cheating

Officials to investigate hagwon over SAT cheating
By Oh Kyu-wook (    Published 07-May-2013 17:49   Updated 07-May-2013 22:17

Seoul education authorities are launching a sweeping investigation into test-prep schools after the Scholastic Aptitude Test was canceled last week due to an alleged leak of questions.

The organizer called off the U.S. college admission exam for Koreans scheduled Sunday amid growing concerns that a number of private institutes had obtained the exam questions illegally.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said it would investigate more than 60 SAT preparation institutes in the city, particularly in the Gangnam District, where a majority of the schools are located.

There are currently 68 registered private institutes in Seoul that provide SAT preparation classes, according to the education office.

The education office announced that an 18-member investigation team will conduct the on-site inspection until the end of this month.

The investigators will look into how the schools obtained the test materials and whether they had hired unqualified foreign teachers.

If the schools are found to have performed any illegal activity, they may face fines or even closure, the SMOE said.

The prosecution has already investigated more than eight private institutes since February over the allegations that they leaked exam questions to students.  [...]

It is not the first time a leak of test materials has been reported.  In 2007, some 900 test takers in Korea had their scores canceled after allegations that there was a "security breach" of the SAT early in the year.

The SAT is currently offered several times a year in more than 170 countries, taken by thousands of students around the world who want to apply to U.S. colleges.

31 May 2013

The Jason Lim article below focuses attention on three defects of ETS testing methodology:

  1. Students are short of, and hunger for, practice examinations that resemble the evaluation examinations that ETS is about to administer.

  2. The absence of maximally-relevant practice materials arises from the ETS habit of recycling examination questions, or recycling even entire examinations.

  3. As it is ETS exam-question recycling that create many cheaters where otherwise there would be few, it is ETS responsibility to stop exam-question recycling so as to provide the needed practice materials and to prevent the cheating.

The methodology for avoiding the many defects of preview cheating and recycled-exam cheating is described at Explicit Transformational Syllabus (XTS).  The Lim article's recommendation that used SAT questions be retired and released comes with two drawbacks: it puts the ETS to the huge cost of manufacturing a new exam at each testing session, and the successive new exams would come with no guarantee of equal difficulty.  The only methodology able to generate an unlimited number of unique exams, each of them guaranteed to be equal in difficulty, is XTS methodology.

The Korea Times logo ETS cheating

What's the big deal about SAT cheating?
Jason Lim

By Jason Lim     2013-05-31 17:40

Koreans are once again beating themselves up because of the SATs.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SATs on behalf of the College Board, withdrew the biology section from the June 1 SATs.  This came after the wholesale cancellation of the May 4 SATs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "the latest decision marks the third SAT cancellation for South Korea within the past month due to suspected cheating with leaked test materials.  Test-prep center officials say the exam booklets are illegally sold for thousands of dollars to students and their parents from brokers."

And this happened because the Korean law enforcement authorities raided a Hagwon suspected of involvement in enabling cheating and discovered that staff there were leaking test questions.  So, they informed ETS accordingly, leading to the cancellation.

The general diagnosis [...] seems to point toward Korea's hyper-competitive culture of academic excellence as a means of getting ahead in life.  [...]  It's true that cheating is all around us.

But is this recent case of leaking SAT questions cheating?  Or have we become so accepting of the"fact" that Koreans are cheaters that we fail to defend ourselves even when there might be cause to do so?

In full disclosure, I was one of the first groups of SAT instructors in Korea.  During the summer of 1997, I taught a group of twenty plus Korean students the verbal section of the SAT.  They were mostly Korean students who went to international schools in Korea and wanted to go to college in the U.S.

The text I used was Barron's, since that was widely available in Seoul's bookstores even then.  It had sample questions and tests that mimicked the actual SAT tests.  Accordingly, the organization of the mock tests, question types, and difficulty levels were made to be as similar as possible to the real thing.

But it didn't feel authentic.  It just didn't feel real.  And that's because it wasn't.

Let's face it.  Nothing is real except the real thing.  And solving real problems is the best way to prepare for the test.  This is true for all tests, whether they are SAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or any other standardized tests that are administered by ETS.

Ultimately, this means that I would have used real test questions to prepare my students if I had been able to gain access to them.  And I know that I'm not alone in this.  I am sure any teacher worth the name would want get their hands on the best possible material for the students.  This is not just a matter of standing out from the crowded SAT marketplace and getting a leg up on the competition.  It's also a matter of wanting to do your best for your students.

In the late 1990s, I also taught GMATs.  For this class, I actually used real GMAT questions that had been retired because they were made available.  I did this because this was the best preparatory material available for my students.  And it made total sense to study from questions that had actually been on past test questions.  It just makes total sense to solve actual SAT questions to prepare for the SAT's.

The reason this is not allowed is that SAT recycles its questions instead of retiring them after a sitting.  Supposedly this is done to even out the levels of difficulty for different versions of the test.  But that's a choice made by the test makers to make their jobs easier.  And it goes against the natural urge for students to study and the teacher to teach from the best possible preparatory material available.

So, the question we should be asking is, "Why shouldn't SAT makers change their processes in order to eliminate this dilemma that leads to 'cheating'?"  It's their process that's creating a distortion between supply and demand.  Even worse, it's their process that's making cheaters where there need not be any.  [...]

But the more recent SAT "cheating" scandal points more to a systemic flaw with SAT makers themselves, not some imaginary moral flaw in Korean society.  Koreans shouldn't be so quick to buy into their own guilt.  Rather, they should be asking, "Why can't SAT be more like GMAT?"

Jason Lim is a Washington, D.C., based expert on innovation, engagement and organizational culture.  He has been writing for The Korea Times since 2006.  He can be reached at, facebook/jasonlim2000 and @jasonlim2012.

17 Jul 2013

The Mills High School scandal is particularly helpful in detailing the nature and extent of the harm that the Educational Testing Service inflicts by relying on examination methodology which permits cheating, and a harm which being intentional is of the sort which civil litigation is able to redress and compensate.

In the Mills High School case, cheating is neither proven nor alleged, but was only been made easier by the school's violation of ETS seating rules, over which the ETS-harmed examinees had no control.

The heavy concentration of Asian surnames among the complaining students raises the question of whether the harsh and collective ETS punishment is not an attempt to protect its central mandate — to preserve the right of the ruling class to bequeath the next-generation's power to its own offspring, and to protect the ruling class from being infiltrated by the offspring of those perceived to be intruders, offspring who aspire to qualify for entry into the ruling class not by inheritance but by academic outperformance.

Why We Need Our Scores Back
Formal Letter and Public forum for 2013 AP Test Takers

July 17, 2013





We, the 2013 AP test takers of Mills High School, issue this letter and the following public forum in regards to the recent news of our AP test cancellation.

According to a letter we received from Mills High School dated July 11, 2013, "the invalidation of these tests was the result of ETS's determination that there were seating irregularities."  The letter goes on to say, "It is important to note that these scores were not invalidated as a result of student misconduct."

As students, we enrolled in the AP curriculum, immersed ourselves in the subject, studied intensely for an entire year, paid for the AP tests (the cost of each test was $90), and took the examinations with the understanding and agreement that as long as we adhered to the AP testing rules and procedures on test day, we would receive our scores.

We abode to all the procedures and instructions issued to us by the Collegeboard according to how our test proctor and school administration presented the information to us.  Mills AP test takers were NOT responsible for ANY aspect of test-day organization or set-up, which included seating assignments.  In addition, Mills AP test takers did not participate in any form of misconduct, as the formal letter from the high school principal clarifies.

It is absolutely unfair and, frankly, illogical, for all of our scores to be invalidated.

As such, we are writing to ask the Collegeboard to return our scores to us.  We would like to request the Mills High Administration and the San Mateo Union High School District to help us advocate for this result (including legal advice) as we feel this is only right.

The Collegeboard's cancellation of all our scores is not fair in any way, and does not correlate to how they have handled similar issues in the past. More details are included in the e-mail written by Chris Norma and sent to Cynthia Clark, Director of Curriculum of the San Mateo Union High School District.  The issue of delayed AP scores, and score cancellation has already, and will affect Mills AP test takers for the following reasons:

1) Revocation of college enrollment/acceptance and loss of class credit

For many 2013 Mills graduates, the deadline for sending in AP scores to their colleges has already passed or will be coming up soon.  Many Mills 2013 graduates risk the possibility of the revocation of their college enrollment/acceptance and loss of class credit if they are unable to provide their AP scores by a deadline as is a "condition for enrollment" in many colleges' contracts.

Many Mills 2013 graduates needed their scores LAST WEEK.

2) Class enrollment

Many Mills 2013 graduates need their AP score results in order to enroll in college courses.

3) Class standing

Many Mills 2013 graduates might have been eligible for a higher class standing (ie: entering college in the fall as a college sophomore) with the scores of the AP tests taken in May.  This affects family college plans such as college tuition, college graduation, etc.  Who will be responsible for this loss in time, money and effort?

4) College Applications

Returning Mills students who took the May 2013 tests put their best foot forward with the understanding that colleges receiving the students' AP scores along with their college applications will be seeing scores that the students achieved to the best of their ability. Retaking tests in August, three months after they last studied the AP curriculum will not be an accurate representation of these students' best abilities.  In fact, it will be setting them at a disadvantage with the rest of the applicant pool.

5) Retaking the tests is not feasible

Our retake scores will be compared to those of AP students who took the test in May.  The retake, scheduled for August 5-12, gives us less than three weeks to prepare for a year's worth of material (in most students' case, for more than one class subject).  The standard review time allotted during the academic year is six weeks.  Forcing us to retake the examinations violates Collegeboard's principle of equal opportunity — that "no one has an unfair advantage."  Individuals taking the retake in August are already at a huge disadvantage.

Our retake scores will NOT be an accurate OR fair representation of our abilities nor will it accurately reflect "the culmination of college-level work in a given discipline in a secondary school setting" as stated on the Collegeboard's website.

Furthermore, Mills AP students who are out of the country or on vacation for the summer will be unable to retake the tests.

Many colleges begin curriculum in mid August to late August, and Mills 2013 graduates will be unable to travel back from their colleges for a retake.  Moreover, retakers may not have access to preparatory materials such as review books, practice tests, etc. due to a variety of reasons.

Students should not be retrospectively punished for a lack of test proctoring auditing by the Collegeboard.

The Mills AP test taking community is not interested in retaking the tests at this time NOR is it interested in directing blame upon any persons.  We are merely asking for the return of our AP scores as is our right so we can start our college careers/college application process.

Thank you for your time, consideration, and support.


Mills High School 2013 AP Test Takers


Christopher Tarangioli on July 17, 2013 at 9:00 PM said:
My AP scores were due two days ago and now I must input all information regarding my AP tests by July 26, meaning that I will also miss this deadline.  Not only will I have lost hours upon hours of time studying and actually completing the AP tests, I, and many of my fellow Class of '13 graduates, will lose out on many AP credits putting us at a disadvantage that we all worked so hard to avoid.  Many of us will have to spend a lot more time and thousands of dollars more at college in order to make up for this mishap.  It is not reasonable to force us to retake the tests since none of us will be prepared 3 months past when we actually took the test.  This issue was not caused by the students and we do not deserve to be punished for it.


Jad Ghawi on July 17, 2013 at 9:26 PM said:
I took AP classes specifically to help me with my major of engineering in college, since it is very hard to graduate in four years with this degree.  Without said credits, I may have to pay for another year of college, that my scholarships will no longer cover.


Vishnupriya. B on July 17, 2013 at 9:46 PM said:
I support this message!

During my junior year I took four AP classes, and I spent a lot of my time studying and preparing for my tests (AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Physics, AP U.S. History).  When I took my AP tests I was fully prepared and I did the best that I could, and I thought I followed all the rules properly.  Today I found out that I have to retake ALL four of the tests I took.  We were not aware that our seating arrangement went against the rules.  Please reconsider you decision to not send our score, because our retake would not be an accurate representation of our knowledge in the various subjects!
Thank you!


Melisa Lu on July 17, 2013 at 10:38 PM said:
Many of the reasons for my personal disappointment over this matter have already been clearly explained in the article, but I am determined to go into more detail about my own thoughts and circumstances.

Firstly, my cumulative AP scores were not sent to my college by the due date because of the invalidation, despite College Board's promise to deliver them. As a result, my record is now on hold, and I am unable to enroll in any courses during orientation.  My admissions offer is also in danger of being withdraw if there is continued delay.

For a month and a half now, I have been planning to attend the University of California, Irvine's Freshman Summer Start Program (FSSP), which begins on August 3rd.  As retakes are between August 5th – 12th, chances are I will have to forfeit the opportunity to attend this program for the sake of retaking four AP exams that I may or may not even pass.

We had approximately nine months to prepare for AP exams; to be provided with only two to three weeks to prepare for retakes is not a sufficient nor adequate amount of time.  It places us at a severe disadvantage with all other students who took the test in May  If the point of AP exams is to test students on their knowledge of college-level coursework, then this invalidation of scores is not doing the purpose justice.

My peers and I should be punished for something that was out of our control; we correctly followed procedures as told and completed the exams with order.

It is my most sincere belief that we have earned our scores through hard work and determination, and deserve to receive them just as much as the other AP student test-takers.

Please hear us out; listen to our pleas.


Jennifer Kao on July 18, 2013 at 12:01 AM said:
I've been keeping my college enrollment process on hold ever since the AP scores have been delayed, and I can't keep it on hold any longer.  I risk the possibility of having my admission to my college cancelled without further notice if I do not submit my AP scores by a certain (already extended) upcoming date.  A block on my college registration as caused by my inability to submit my AP scores may prevent me "from paying registration fees, receiving financial aid funds, moving into University-operated housing, using my student card" and cause me to "not be an officially registered student" as is stated by my college.

I don't need my scores today.  I don't need my scores tomorrow.  I needed my scores YESTERDAY.

There may have been seating irregularities but the main issue here is that Mills AP student test takers did not do anything wrong.  As such, we should not have to face the consequences for which we are now (3 months after last touching our testing material and 1 month before we start college) very poorly prepared for.  Actually, we are NOT prepared AT ALL.  PERIOD.  We are being punished for a wrong we did not commit, and that is not fair at all.

When I signed up to take the tests, I trusted that I, as a collegeboard consumer and student, I would get my score by the promised score release date if my peers and I obeyed the rules.  Now that my peers and I have taken the test without any student misconduct, yet still cannot receive our scores, I am not sure who to trust anymore.

If there is an issue with the testing that is not at the fault of the students, then College Board should work with whomever involved to fix that for future years rather than punish innocent student test takers who (as far as we knew) were taking a legitimate test.  That seems like a more reasonable solution rather than set up a retake that I, as a test abiding student, am completely uncomfortable and unwilling to take (since we shouldn't have to in the first place).

Please take our concerns deeply into consideration as soon as possible (this is a time sensitive issue for most of us) and give us our rightful scores back. That's the ONLY right thing to do at this point.


Erika A. Lee on July 18, 2013 at 12:42 AM said:
CollegeBoard lists earning college credits and skipping introductory college courses as rewards for enrolling in AP courses.  By withholding our scores for the 2012-2013 school year, CollegeBoard is robbing students of their opportunities to advance in their college careers and is also robbing students of their effort.  The scores that are currently being refused to me could potentially allow me to get credit for my entire freshman year, saving me one year of college and over fifty thousand dollars in tuition.

As an institution that promotes students to "speak up" and "be heard," CollegeBoard, along with SMUHSD, should HEAR US and allow US to report our scores.  I want to "put AP to work for me" and get my so-called reward of college credit!  By withholding these scores from the hundreds of Mills AP students, the CollegeBoard is being hypocritical of the very things it stands for.

Why should seating arrangements detrimentally impact our futures? Students who were not satisfied with their seats were given the option to speak out and move to a seat more suited to their liking.  The Mills student body took those tests fairly, "properly" seated or not.

I just want the scores that I deserve.

Erika A. Lee c|o 2013


Prathna Maharaj on July 18, 2013 at 1:08 PM said:
I, Prathna Maharaj, support this message.

As a recent Mills graduate and soon to be college freshman, I had put very much time and effort in to my AP classes hoping to get some recognition for this work.  Due to the invalidation of our AP scores, I may have to face an extra year in college since certain classes that I would have otherwise been exempt from have a high volume of students.  The news of the cancellation of our scores came two days AFTER the deadline to submit scores to my university.  This caused extra hassle for both me and my counselors at Davis to try and figure out what is to be done.  Without these scores, registering for classes will be an even greater challenge because I will be registering for courses without knowing if I will ultimately pass the SIX retakes I will be forced to take.

Overall, the effort made by the Mills AP students should not be ignored due to the mistakes made by testing and school administration.  As students, we deserve to get what we worked so hard for all year: AP scores and credit.


Tarum Fraz on July 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM said:
I, Tarum Fraz, support this message.

The invalidation of our AP scores have caused us, the AP students, many dilemmas, problems, and stress in regard to our collegiate plans.  I received the letter stating the cancellation of my scores yesterday, July 18th, when my AP exam scores were due to my college on July 15th.  UCSC granted me an extended deadline of August 9th to turn in my scores, but that is around the time retakes are scheduled.  After having my admission threatened, I called admissions just to find out that the scheduled retakes will most likely be "too late" to turn in.  Also, I will be enrolling in fall classes next week at orientation, where I would have needed my scores in order to skip classes that I did not need. Basically, retakes are not a viable option for me, and for many other Mills graduates, simply because they would not count.  It is very disappointing to see an entire year's hard work go down the drain due to an issue that was not caused by the students.  I did not hear of any cheating situations, and as stated above, students were given the opportunity to switch seats if they felt the need.  This is a very unjust and unfair situation that is negatively affecting our future.  If anyone knows Mills high and their students, they know how greatly we cherish and work towards our goals.  As a result of countless all-nighters, hours of doing homework, and weeks of preparation for the AP exam, we have our scores invalidated, and are given the unreasonable option to re-take the exam.  This simply is not fair.  I therefore respectfully request the return of our well-deserved AP exam scores.


Annie Zhou on July 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM said:
I, Annie Zhou, support this message.

Three hundred twenty-one students took at least one AP test this year, and each one of these students will be affected by the invalidation of these scores.

For me, this will mean that I will not be receive exemption from unnecessary introductory courses.  I will not be saving myself from attending an extra couple of months of college, and I will not be saving myself up to $30,000 like I thought I would.  Even if I were to cram five tests' worth of college cirriculum in two weeks and do well on the retakes, the scores would not arrive in time for me to register my classes.

Did I, or any of my peers, engage in misconduct?  No.  Should we be penalized?  No.


Alex Chan on July 19, 2013 at 3:03 AM said:
While the invalidation of my scores has not affected my enrollment/schedule this fall at university, it will affect my class standing.  Priority for registration at UCLA is determined by class standing (senior, junior, etc…).  Without the units that come with these invalidated AP scores, I'll be going into university with half the units I should.

What does this mean?

It means my peers who have taken the same number of APs as I, but have actually received their scores, will be prioritized above me for registration come winter quarter because they'll have more units than I.  They'll be able to register for the numerous IMPACTED pre-requisite courses required for my and many other life science majors.

It means I may have to forego any future plans to participate in innovative research or studying abroad in places I've only had the pleasure of googling because that time has to be spent taking classes I would have already taken if I had the units from my APs.

These courses and tests were not only suppose to be a means of challenging my intellect, but they were also suppose to give me a head start.  I studied and worked tirelessly for my head start and it is unacceptable for it to be taken away from me or anyone else based on a lame technicality.

It's easy to say that these are just test scores, but they're not just that.  College Board NEEDS to reconsider and CHANGE their decision.  They need to understand that their decision will have a ripple effect on the lives of all 321 individuals that had their scores invalidated this year.

19 Jul 2013

San Mateo County Times logo
Mills High School's AP test scores invalidated, students cry foul
By Aaron Kinney    19-Jul-2013

MILLBRAE — In a rare move that has Mills High School in an uproar, the College Board and Educational Testing Service have invalidated the Advanced Placement test results of as many as 224 students, citing "seating irregularities" when the 11 exams were taken in May.

Students are now demanding that the College Board reinstate the test scores, which have not been disclosed, rather than readminister the tests next month.  They claim their scores may suffer in retaking the exams, and some graduating seniors say the delay is disrupting their college enrollment.

Incoming senior Gavin Wong learned of the problem Wednesday, when his family received a letter from Mills about the cancellation.  The school said that, despite the seating problem, the scores "were not invalidated as a result of student misconduct," according to a copy of the letter provided by Wong.

"Students aren't to blame," said Wong, 17, "but we are being punished harshly."

ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said the school's failure to follow administration guidelines on roughly 600 tests may have enabled some students to gain an unfair advantage, though ETS has not investigated whether there was any cheating.

"In situations like that it's impossible to tell one way or the other," Ewing said.  "That's why we had to cancel it."

As the developer of AP and other standardized tests, ETS issues detailed guidelines to schools across the country and abroad for administering the exams.  Those protocols cover seating, Ewing said, including the allowable distance between individual desks.  In cases where more than one student is at a table, the guidelines enumerate how big the table has to be and where the students are permitted to sit.  [...]

Students at Mills have created a website ( on which numerous students have outlined their concerns.  Several commenters identifying themselves as students said not having their scores is affecting their ability to register for college classes.

Gavin Wong's brother, Mitchell, an 18-year-old incoming freshman at UC Berkeley, said he took four AP tests, and not having his scores has kept him from opting out of introductory English.  Not being able to skip ahead to more advanced classes, the Wongs said, could ultimately cause financial problems for families of Mills students who had planned to graduate college early but are forced to add an extra semester.

The Wongs said they did not notice anything unusual about the seating during their tests and that students were well-spaced.

Based in Princeton, N.J., ETS distributes and scores more than 50 million tests a year.  It develops, administers and scores AP tests for the College Board.

The organization will readminister the tests to Mills students in the next two to three weeks.  The Wongs said they were much better prepared to take the test in May after an entire school year's worth of preparation.  Students are rusty now, they said.  Some have travel plans; others were hoping to arrive at college early.

But ETS does not plan on reinstating the scores, said Ewing.  The school's failure to follow guidelines is a "dealbreaker."

"We can't report these scores," he said.  "We have to report scores that are valid to universities and colleges."  [...]

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