Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Year's B-School Scandal

It seems like every year there is a scandal in the MBA world. A few years back, it was the Harvard application decision "hacking" scandal, where students who followed the advice of a BW poster were able to modify the Apply Yourself website to see their decisions early. Harvard rejected them all due to their poor ethical choice (debatable, but I'm not going to get into it). Last year it was the Duke cheating scandal, where several students were expelled for collaborating on an individual take-home test. This year, it is the GMAT cheating scandal.

It seems that a site called Scoretop (which has since been shut down) was selling actual live GMAT questions to potential test-takers for $30. Then the questions were discussed on the site in a forum. Presumably, the MBA hopefuls that bought the questions may have seen them on the actual test, which means they had information that others didn't. GMAC won a court order to shut down the site and claims to have a hard drive that they are searching to discover the identities of those who purchased the questions. They will cancel the culprits' scores and notify the schools that they sent the scores to. So far no schools have come out and said that they would take action against those students, but it's within the realm of possibility that some students may have their offers revoked or get kicked out of programs if they are already enrolled. A ray of hope for waitlisters, perhaps (wink wink)?

In all seriousness, this is scary stuff. I wonder how many people purchased access to the questions without realizing that what they were doing was against GMAC's policy? I doubt Scoretop disclosed that little tidbit. Some people probably didn't even realize they were live questions and may have thought they were buying practice questions similar to those provided by other legitimate companies. I guess ignorance is not an excuse, but I feel bad for those people. On the other hand, I'm sure the majority of people that paid the $30 knew exactly what they were doing. Regardless of whether it actually helped them, I think they deserve whatever punishment is handed down to them, although I'm sure the harshness will vary by school. I guess we'll just have to watch and wait for the fallout.

13 comments:

HappyBunny said...

thank god I never come across this site.

tinydancer said...

I know, I'm thinking the same thing. I did some more digging last night and found a lot of people (posters on S2S, bloggers, etc) recommending the site. Feels very creepy now.

HappyBunny said...

I have to say it is very attempting thing to do though.

trystwithmba said...

Real scary one ! I hope I didn't even browse that site or check out some sample questions from its site during the prep stage :-)

Anonymous said...

You say that ignorance is not an excuse. I argue why?? Just for an example, if I do not get sufficient and good quality questions for practise in the material available in the market and if i get an advice to check score top and find it useful...(gives me good quality questions in sufficient number) for which i have to pay just $30. Now since i do not know that either the questions are 'live' or the source is an illegal one, why should i not go and buy it? Now is it my fault that the provider used an illicit method to provide me those things and did not mention even a single tidbit about it.? why shud i be penalised for his fault? For me the site was just a source of good questions and nothing more than that. Are the authorities not wrong in taking such a step even when they themselves accept the fact that in a computer adaptive test it is highly unlikely that the questions that appear be same. From BW :Even if a site is illegally able to obtain some real questions, it is extremely unlikely that a test taker will see the same questions on the live exam," says Larry Rudner, GMAC vice-president for research and development.
Kindly answer. So many applicants may be in dillema over their fate.

tinydancer said...

I say ignorance is not an excuse because if people a)purchased access to questions without researching what they were buying or b)purchased questions knowing that they were "real" or "live" and then didn't read the GMAT terms and conditions that state this is against their policies, then those people still broke the rules, even if it was not knowingly. It's like breaking the law. Even if you engage in insider trading, but you didn't know at the time you did it that it was illegal, you still broke the law. It's your responsibility to know the laws.
But like I said, I feel bad for people in that category. I am sure there are many people that went their on the recommendation of a friend or poster on a forum and looked around without knowing what they were looking at. I hope that GMAC uses discretion in the punishments they hand out. Because in reality, the real threat to their business is the scoretop company and others like it that would try to infringe on their copyright, not the users. They need to scare others into not trying to start this type of business, and scare users away from trying them. But unfortunately, since everyone who takes the GMAT agrees to their T's & C's, they really have the right to do whatever they want. We'll see what happens. I hope the outcome is fair.

theincarnated said...

There will always be scandals.... Our job is not to focus onto them and leave them for the policy-makers (or breakers)..... But I can't help feel sorry for the ones whose hard work will go down the drain along with the actual culprits......
BTW tinydancer....... thanx for the cool link, sure did help.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tiny Dancer,
Congrats on your admission. I am a year old whartonite.

The term "ignorance" in this context is debatable.
I am a current Wharton MBA student and personally know at least 50 people here who used www.scoretop.com and were clueless of the possibility of it being illegal :)
As far as what the school will do,
I personally think the school will think twice before letting GMAC or somebody coerce them into it - dismiss such students. There are many ways out of this if need be. For one thing no school wants to be involved in such ugly dealings.
For another , they need the money :-) imagine refunding $46K per head. The school spends more than it earns my dear! It takes a lot of $$$ to maintain these programs and the brand name

Btw, Do yo know why B schools claim "GMAt is just one of many factors in determining one's candidature. We take a holistic view of all aspects of the application!"
Just so that they can get out of situations like this!!
You are starting this year, After your course in BPUB (business and public policy) of quarter 3 you will know everything can be worked around in this world :-)
After 1 year at Wharton , I am quite unfazed by these things. I have had some particularly painful experiences with the MBA program office. I know thsi is not the worst that can happen to your life or career. That said , Wharton is still a great place to be in and i wish you luck.

tinydancer said...

Hi anonymous,
I never said that what the users of the site did was illegal. It was not. What scoretop did was illegal because they violated GMAC's copyright, and perhaps they did other illegal things to get those questions (since the owner is being investigated by the FBI). All the users did was violate GMAC's rules, which has nothing to do with the law. However, since there is that pesky contract, GMAC does have the right to take action if they choose to. As I said in my comment (maybe you didn't read it), I hope that GMAC uses some discretion in punishing users for violating that agreement. I am sure there are many users who knew what they were doing was shady, but many others probably didn't because they were ignorant (or like you say, clueless. same thing.).
I haven't even really discussed what the schools will do. I suspect many will do nothing unless this "scandal" escalates. GMAC has no power over the schools - it needs them more than they need it. But I think that since most schools have an honor code, this type of thing could fall under violation of that and they'd be able to expel or otherwise punish students if they want. I agree with you that they probably won't want to, but I guess we'll have to see.

tinydancer said...

P.S. How rude of me! I should have thanked you upfront for your well wishes. Thanks! Hope to meet you next year.

Anonymous said...

tinydancer and anonymous whartonite..thnx for detailed views... i wud like to make another pt tinydancer on your two points on ignorance. the pt a)purchased access to questions without researching what they were buying .....is highly debatable coz....1)someone researched abt the site(googled...n by word of mouth or any other means...like askin alumnis who must ve used such sites) and did not find anything wrong...(an ex: jus google it n u ll find nthng written wrong abt the site's illegal practise...except the recent scandal).....purchased the material and is happy wid it.. 2)How wud u differentiate btw who researched n who didnt coz if the site is a source of great material almost vry person will say dat its a gud site 3.not even other such GMAT sites based in US or anywhere tell us abt scoretops illicit means. 4) ther r so many such gmat sites ...ppl register n jus forget n the info remains inside the database..........ther may be more such arguments.....so when gmat is just one of many ways to determin candidature...y talk of such thngs as cancellation of scores....n one more thing...since questions r nt byhearted but actually learnt how to be solved.....n that they appear in various combinations....makes the score anyways valid even when the sample live questions are bought unknowingly......but there is a big BUT to be answered by schools....

tinydancer said...

anonymous - I never came across that site when I was studying. Actually I didn't use any websites that I had to register for. So perhaps it was wrong of me to assume that people who researched should have known the questions on scoretop were live questions. Perhaps it was not that obvious. However, I have heard (out there in the blogosphere) that it was common knowledge that scoretop provided live questions and that such questions were discussed on the website. So it seems to me that a heavy user of the site would have known that they were seeing real GMAT questions. If such people didn't think viewing those questions was shady business ... well I guess they were wrong! However, like I said, I never saw this for myself, so I shouldn't really pass judgement. Anyway, it's not up to me! It's up to GMAC and the schools.

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