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Five Questions on GMAT Test Security for … Dan Eyob

A recent scandal in the New York suburb of Long Island has put cheating on standardized tests in the spotlight. Several students were charged with taking the SAT and ACT college entrance exams for other students, calling attention to several test security issues.

Dan Eyob, GMAC’s director of GMAT test security, tells Graduate Management News what the Graduate Management Admission Council does to prevent cheating and also what happens when GMAC finds evidence of cheating on the GMAT exam:

Q: What is GMAC’s philosophy on GMAT security?

A: As the owner of the GMAT exam, GMAC strives to provide the fairest, most accurate, and most reliable measure of academic potential for graduate management programs worldwide. Schools trust the GMAT exam as the one objective measure of academic potential that is truly secure,  standardized, and comparable worldwide. GMAT test security focuses on the integrity of the exam and on fairness to the student: We want to make sure the person whose GMAT score is reported to schools is the person who actually took the exam and has honestly earned the GMAT score submitted for admission, and we want to make sure no one has access to any test content before sitting for the exam

Our philosophy is that a test that isn’t fair to everyone isn’t fair to anyone.

Q: What investments does GMAC make in security?

A: We recognize that the GMAT exam is a high-stakes test, and the temptation to take unfair advantage may be strong. We invest heavily in security because any security breach undermines the integrity of the test and fairness to test takers. When people cheat, their scores do not mean what they are supposed to mean, and that harms everyone.

We invest in advanced technology, including collection of biometrics, and we have strict security protocols at the test center aimed at making sure the person taking the test is the person whose scores are reported to schools. We also work hard on many fronts to make sure test content is not compromised. The test is developed under tight security, and GMAC has even patented software that compares written text to GMAT questions, which helps crack down on websites that sell access to purportedly “live” GMAT questions.

The computer adaptive design ensures that different test takers see different questions. This feature is expensive to develop and administer, but it makes the test more secure and gives the test more integrity. It helps make the test fair to all test takers.

Q: What does GMAC do at test centers to prevent cheating?

A: We have a strict check-in protocol at all test centers and apply state-of-the-art technologies to support this protocol.

  1. Each test taker has to bring a valid government-issued photo ID with them. Passports may be checked electronically to ensure that they are not forged.
  2. Test takers must sit for a digital photograph, which may be included in the Official Score Report if requested by the school. All test takers have to provide a palm vein scan before entering or leaving the testing room. The palm vein reader makes an encrypted, digital record of each test taker’s unique palm vein pattern.
  3. Test takers must provide a digital signature agreeing that they have not accessed test content and will not divulge it to anyone else.
  4. Test takers are not allowed to take anything with them into the testing room, including electronic devices such as mobile phones, calculators, or watches. Erasable noteboards and markers are provided by a test proctor and must be returned after the test.
  5. Test administration is monitored in person by a test proctor and is videotaped for subsequent review, if necessary.

Q: What does GMAC do when it discovers evidence of cheating?

A: Test center personnel who discover cheating at the test center have the authority to end a test early and invalidate a score. Reports of possible cheating may also come from many other sources, including other test takers, the palm vein reader, or from electronic surveillance of websites that purport to have “live” questions. We investigate each case thoroughly.

When we have evidence that cheating has occurred, the test taker is typically notified and given a chance to respond. If we determine cheating has taken place, we have the right to cancel scores and bar test takers from testing again. We inform schools of both canceled scores and the reason for the cancellation.

Canceled scores are noted on Official Score Reports, along with the reasons for cancellation. We may also cancel scores after they have been reported, and if so, we notify score report recipients of the cancellation and why, even years after the fact.  In either case, informing schools is an integral part of the process.

Q: What is GMAC doing to keep a step ahead of cheaters?

A: With the palm vein reader, we are now able to make both “one-to-one” and “one-to-many” matching.

In one-to-one matching, the palm vein reader ensures that a test taker’s palm vein pattern matches the pattern provided by the same test taker either at a previous test sitting or earlier in that testing appointment. In one-to-many matching, the palm vein scan ensures that a palm vein pattern provided by one test taker doesn’t match the palm vein pattern provided by any other test taker. We can tell before the official GMAT scores are released whether a test taker has sat for the GMAT exam under a different name.

If there is an inappropriate match, the score is canceled, score report recipients are notified, and both the proxy tester and the person whose name the test taker was using may be barred from future testing.

GMAC provides more details about GMAT test security on gmac.com.

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