The anonymous Reddit poster claimed he had beaten the online GMAT, boasting that “when things are online there is always a way to beat the system.”
It was an enticing offer for anyone willing to cheat. “If you’re interested in a foolproof way to get someone else to write your GMAT for you, let me know,” the scam artist wrote. “If you take the GMAT online test, I will be able to get two tutors (to) write the exam for you with software that prevents GMAT from detecting that someone else is writing your test.
The cheater didn’t expect any payment for the service until after a score was recorded on behalf of the candidate. “We can guarantee you a score of 700 and an almost guarantee of 750, so let me know if you’re interested,” the person added. “I did this myself and can show you my personal score. I also understand you don’t know if I’m legit so I’m willing to take payment after you get your score.”
GMAT CHEATING: CANDIDATES PAID UP TO $20K TO GET SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE THE TEST FOR THEM
That solicitation (see below) was posted more than a year ago. Only yesterday (March 9), the Graduate Management Admission Council revealed that it had canceled the scores of more than 130 candidates who apparently took advantage of the cheating scheme.
It turns out that the online GMAT test had unwittingly opened the door to one of the biggest cheating scandals in the history of the test. Although the scam reportedly existed for two years, GMAC only discovered the problem well after police in India arrested six people, including the apparent ringleader, 33-year-old Raj Teotia, in January. Yesterday, some two and one-half months after the arrests that GMAC announced it had canceled the scores of more than 100 individuals who participated in the cheating scheme.
According to the police, candidates paid between $4,000 to $20,000 to get a member of the online cheating syndicate to take the test for them. In some cases, they were able to achieve scores as high as 780, a result that would put the candidate into the top 1% of GMAT test-takers in the world.
It is the bigggest cheating scandal gone public since 2012 when another scam artist was indicted, along with four other men and a woman, who had taken the GMAT on behalf of nearly 600 candidates from January of 2001 to July of 2003 (see He Conquered The GMAT & Went To Jail For It).
SCANDAL RAISES SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT THE SECURITY OF THE GMAT
The disclosure of the cheating syndicate raises serious concerns about the security of the GMAT and other standardized tests and could not have come at a worse time for the Graduate Management Admission Council. The number of GMAT tests taken in the U.S. plunged to a new historic low in testing year 2021, falling to just 38,509. The drop occurred as the Graduate Record Exam, administered by Educational Testing Service, continued to steal market share from the GMAT and more business schools have gone either test-optional or have been far more generous in granting test waivers.
With more business schools making diversity and inclusion a top priority, standardized testing is also facing greater scrutiny because the tests are thought to be biased against those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Over-indexing the importance of the GMAT and GRE in admission decisions has become a barrier to admitting more diverse candidates in business schools.
The crackdown by GMAC also raises questions over the scale of the scandal. “Of course, a major concern is that there are no geographic boundaries in cyber-space: were test compromises confined to India and presumably Russia?,” asks Bob Schaeffer, Executive Director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing. He adds that the cheating “raises concerns about the security of other computer-delivered exams including GRE, overseas ACT, and soon-to-be-digitalized SAT, particularly if outside access to test makers’ online networks really could not be detected.”
CHEATERS NOW SUFFER LIFETIME BANS FROM GMAC
A spokesperson for GMAC could not disclose if more candidates will be banned from taking the test as a result of the scandal. “As of March 9, we have canceled the scores of 133 individuals who were engaged in cheating,” the spokesperson told Poets&Quants. “We are always investigating and as and when we discover more infractions, we’ll take action.”
In GMAC’s official statement, the organization noted that “based on advanced forensics and proprietary security tools, we have overwhelming evidence to cancel these candidates’ scores for serious policy violations, which include proxy test-taking (someone else taking the test on the candidate’s behalf). These test takers not only had their recent scores canceled but were also banned from future testing with GMAC and any previous exam scores were also canceled.
“Schools to which scores had been sent by these candidates have been notified of their use of unfair means,” added GMAC. “We are also cooperating with the local law enforcement authorities in India who are investigating this matter. The investigation is ongoing and GMAC is offering its support to the police, as and where required, to address this malpractice.”
Although police reports indicate that the cheating scandal found its way into test centers, GMAC’s statement makes clear that its remote test was compromised as well. “Online testing has allowed the testing community to enhance access to their exams and has been a benefit to many candidates, especially during the COVID pandemic when test centers were shut down or had very limited capacity,” according to GMAC. “Unfortunately, as with any new technology, this delivery format also creates an opportunity for malicious actors who attempt to game the system. It’s important to acknowledge the risks and inform our community of schools and b-school candidates what steps we are taking to address test security as we go forward.”
INVESTIGATION OF GMAT CHEATING BEGAN IN MID-2021
The investigation that uncovered the cheating racket reportedly began in mid-2021 after a police officer in Delhi, India, posed as a decoy customer who wanted to cheat on the GMAT. According to the police, the racketeers asked for a large sum of money and struck a deal with the decoy candidate after some negotiations.
“After the deal, the constable who posed as the candidate appeared for the exam on 26 December 2021 and scored 780 out of 800 in the GMAT exam,” a police source told the Express News Service in New Delhi. “It is a very high score that can get through any top MBA college abroad.”
The investigation would ultimately reveal that the operations of the syndicate were divided among three rings in three different Indian cities. The Mumbai group would get in touch with the candidates and manage payments; a ring based in Rajasthan would hack the systems for remote access, and yet another group of criminals in Delhi focused on providing answers to the exams.
RAJ TEOTIA IS THE ALLEGED RINGLEADER OF THE CHEATING RACKET
Identified as the ring leader of the cheating syndicate is 33-year-old Raj Teotia, who allegedly has been running the racket since 2019. Police said he went to Russia to meet and hire hackers for the gang, and also invited them to India during the lockdown to set up the software. A resident of Palwal, Teotira also has four other cases against him and was wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with a cash reward of more than $1,200 for his arrest.
Teotia reportedly had contacts in Russia because he was in the travel business. But it was his wife’s decision to take an online test that apparently motivated him to come up with a way to cheat on the online versions of standardized exams that were introduced at the start of the pandemic.
“Teotia used to work in a travel and tourism company, and that’s where he built some contacts in Russia. His wife had once taken an online exam and that’s when he started this racket,” a police source told The Print in India. “He started investing in coaching institutes to build the modus operandi and stayed in touch with the Russian hackers to understand loopholes in the online exam systems.”
5 OTHERS ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE CHEATING RING
Even before the pandemic, Teotia had become known to police who allege that he started his illegal actions in 2017 when he launched “examination labs” in Jaipur and Kota. “His examination center was blacklisted later, but he had mastered the art of opening and operating such establishments. If one place was blacklisted, he would just open a new one at a different location with a different name,” the source added.
According to the police, Teotia learned that Russian hackers had developed tools for remotely accessing online examination systems, he decided to cash in on the opportunity. He apparently “got in touch with Russian hackers through a girlfriend.”,
During an interrogation, Teotia disclosed that he and his syndicate had remotely accessed and hacked the recruitment examinations of a wide variety of entry exams, including those for the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and Forest Guard.
In addition to Teotia, five others have been arrested in the case: Arshad Dhunna (39), Salman Dhunna (28), and Hemal Shah (42) from Mumbai, and Kunal Goel (39) and Mohit Sharma (35) from Delhi-NCR. The “exam solver” was Mohit Sharma, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and who had provided GMAT coaching at several institutes. During the lockdown, he was approached on Facebook by Kunal Goel, who asked him to join the racket, the police told The Print. Arshad and Salman Dhunna and Hemal Shah ran coaching institutes in Mumbai for competitive exams. According to the police, they found vulnerable aspirants through these centers while recruitment continued on the dark web. In their raids, the police hauled away 15 laptops and nine mobile phones from those arrested.
Police sources told Indian media that the owners and employees of 23 such exam centers are now being tracked and questioned. Police also are trying to track down the ‘customers’ who paid money to the accused.
GMAC: ‘THE NUMBER OF BAD ACTORS IS VERY SMALL’
GMAC believes cheating is not widespread. “Fortunately, the number of “bad actors” – people who attempt to circumvent the security of standardized tests whether for monetary gain or in the belief that cheating will help them – is very small; however, we are ever-vigilant when it comes to detecting and deterring this activity,” according to the testing organization.
“As new information and technology become available, we will leverage it to look back at past exams and act if warranted. Actions may include canceling scores, prohibiting test takers from taking GMAC exams in the future and informing business schools across the world about the actions of said candidates and encouraging them to take strong action. When law enforcement is involved, GMAC will support investigations to help identify people who engage in illegal and fraudulent behavior, and they may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.
“Often, these services purporting to help candidates achieve higher scores are scams designed to cheat candidates out of their money. We encourage candidates to not be fooled – engaging in these types of activities can result in them being the target of extortion. In addition, candidates face the very real and serious consequences of cheating, including criminal prosecution by law-and-order authorities, who are now aware of and actively working to address this issue.”
DON’T MISS: HE CONQUERED THE GMAT & WENT TO JAIL FOR IT and GMAT TEST TAKING PLUNGES TO A HISTORIC LOW
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