B-Schools Withdraw MBA Acceptances In A GRE Cheating Scandal

GRE cheating scandal

Business schools have overturned acceptances to dozens of African MBA candidates after they were suspected of cheating on the virtual GRE. The cheating scandal on the at-home GRE test, introduced during the pandemic, has caused some MBA admission officials to lose confidence in the security measures put in place by the Educational Testing Service, the administrator of the GRE.

Several schools, ranging from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business to the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, confirmed that they have overturned favorable admission decisions for MBA applicants from Africa, mainly Nigeria and Ghana. Those candidates would have started their MBA programs this fall. Admission officials told P&Q that they believe the tests were taken by someone other than the applicant who submitted the results and that ETS’ measures to secure the integrity of the exam failed.

At Ohio State’s Fisher, at least three accepted candidates have had their offers taken off the table. ‘After reading about incidents of standardized testing irregularities, and through regular conversations we have with our network of alumni and partners, we reached out to our testing administrator (ETS) to audit recent results,” says Paul North, executive director of  Fisher’s Graduate Programs Office. “That audit is ongoing, but the testing administrator found evidence sufficient for the cancellation of three results from this cycle. Those three acceptances to our full-time MBA program have been rescinded.”


North has since decided to no longer accept at-home GRE test scores as a result. “To safeguard against future instances of testing irregularities, we will no longer be accepting the ‘At-Home’ GRE test,” he says.  “We will still accept the ‘In-Person’ GRE test that is administered at a testing facility.”

The full extent of the security breach isn’t entirely clear, though some schools apparently felt the need to take back multiple acceptances for smaller cohorts. “For a couple of schools, it was material,” says Philip Miller, assistant dean of Carlson’s MBA & MS Programs. “At least 25 people in Nigeria succeeded in getting their scores through and then it scaled after they told other applicants. It is a testing issue, not a cultural or geo-political issue.”

The issue comes at a time when GRE has made significant market share gains over the GMAT exam. Boosted by a return to mandatory admissions testing at several schools, 23 of 54 business schools analyzed by P&Q showed year-over-year increases in GRE submission rates. The average increase was 7.6 percentage points, and the number of schools where the GRE is the preferred test continues to grow, with 16 schools reporting higher GRE than GMAT submission rates in 2023, up from nine schools the year before.

In testing year 2023, the latest year for which figures are available, 438 Nigerians took the GMAT exam, with 20% opting for the online version of the test. That is significantly down from the previous year when 541 Nigerians took the GMAT exam, with 19% sitting for the test at home. ETS does not break down GRE test takers for the business education market.


It is also a time when applications to full-time MBA programs have been stagnant or declining at many schools, particularly applications from domestic candidates. MBA applications fell last year for a second straight year at many schools — including all but two of the 17 top-ranked programs — and are down significantly over the last three years at many top B-schools. Yield, the percentage of admits who actually enroll, fell at a wide majority of schools in P&Q‘s ranking, including seven of the top 10 schools and 20 of the top 25 — giving B-schools even more incentive to be generous in their admissions.”Domestic enrollments are challenging in graduate programs,” confirms Miller. “There is merciless competition for every student.”

“It is shocking to see serious allegations of test-taking fraud,” says Chris Kane, head of test prep and a vice president at Menlo Coaching.  “Test scores are not only a standardized way to assess whether applicants can handle MBA course work, but also an important factor in the U.S. News MBA ranking.  MBA programs must always act to maintain the integrity of their admissions process.”

Indiana University’s Kelley School had a canceled GRE score for a waitlisted Nigerian student in this admissions cycle. “Interestingly, she was the one that shared with us that her scores had been canceled,” says James Holmen, director of admissions and financial aid at Kelley. ”  We don’t know why her scores were canceled. While we have withdrawn an admission offer for an Indian candidate whose GMAT scores were canceled by GMAC for a policy violation, we have not withdrawn any admission offers as a result of GRE score cancellations. We are, however, waiting for three admitted Nigerian candidates to send official GRE score reports for verification. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there are no issues with their scores.”


To prevent test fraud, ETS records and monitors every at-home test session by a human proctor. The proctor will typically watch a test taker via the video camera on their computer screens to ensure they comply with ETS’s testing procedures. The proctor, however, monitors several test takers at the same time. Suspicious movements could invalidate a test. At the end of the test session, the proctor will ask the test taker to erase the whiteboard or transparency sleeve and hold it up to the camera, showing the front and back.

A spokesperson for ETS maintained that it has made major investments to combat test fraud. “While we can’t speak to individual cases, we can confirm ETS can and does cancel scores for test takers who violate our policies,” the spokesperson told P&Q. “Test takers are made aware of our policies and the consequences of violating them throughout the test-taking process. This is something ETS takes very seriously. In our work, we are always monitoring, investigating, and improving security to protect the interests of both those who test honestly and those who rely on our scores to make critical decisions.”  

For over 65 years ETS has been combatting cheating and test fraud; we have invested, and continue to invest, countless hours and millions of dollars in test security and technology infrastructure to keep up with the ever-changing challenges of the standardized testing landscape. The integrity of our test scores, the institutions that rely on them, and protecting the vast majority of our test takers who test honestly remain our top priorities.”


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