Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Fake test-taker imprisoned

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org


A New York man has received a jail sentence of 2 1/2 years for fraud after being convicted of operating a fake tutoring service and taking exams for other people. It was found that Zhigang Cao, and a group of at least five others, had used fake and altered identification to write more than 590 exams. People were guaranteed certain test scores and charged about $3000 each for this service. Over the period from 1999 to 2003, Cao took in more than $282,000 U.S.

The majority of the tests were graduate school admission tests, standardized tests that included the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language. These tests are administered by the Thomson Prometric Educational Testing Service, and each has comprehensive test security measures in place. These can require test-takers to verify ID with thumb prints, photographs, videos, and other electronic confirmation.

The group used fake and altered ID, and Cao was identified in about 45 pre-test photos. One imposter was caught with a miniature video camera, intending to record the exam for future use. Colleges across the U.S. responded by rescinding acceptance letters, annulling degrees and kicking cheating students off campus.

Although grad students are assessed on other admission criteria, almost all graduate schools require some form of standardized admission test. The validity of these tests is highly dependent on keeping the exam process secure and without compromise. Although Thomson Prometric officials insist that cheating is rare, some suggest this incident may only be the tip of the iceberg.

New York man sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for test-taking scheme. Associated Press, Baltimore. March 11, 2005. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/cpress/20050312/ca_pr_on_wo/fraudulent_test_taker
Thomson Prometric Educational Testing Service (ETS): http://www.prometric.com/Default.htm
GMAT Test security – http://www.gmac.com/gmac/TheGMAT/GMATOperations/TestSecurity.htm
Graduate School Admissions Tests: http://www.jobweb.com/resources/library/Grad_School/Graduate_School_119_01.htm

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