GRE Cheating

Reuters had an interesting article on Chinese students gaming the GRE by setting up networks to share questions. Basically those who take the test post the questions online. Blogs and SEO ensures those seeking the questions can find them. Because ETS takes forever to ensure each question properly measures what it should, the questions are acquired faster than replaced.

Educational Testing Services places physical security on the tests to ensure the questions are not leaked by people acquiring copies of the test. Unfortunately, memorization of the questions is difficult to defeat this way.

Grade Point Average and tests like the GRE are common admission requirements to a graduate program. A high score becomes an obsession to students looking to attend their chosen program. The desperate seek any edge. Some people hire tutors or educational services who help learn how to take the tests. Bookstores carry study guides. Plenty of web sites offer advice.

The difference between legitimate assistance is the questions are not the real one. Studying the actual questions is crossing the line.

We see the same cheating behavior in other high stakes testing. The testing companies are have done such a great job making their tests the metric that a high score becomes so important people must have a good one. Therefore, defending the validity of the tests requires them to stay one step ahead of cheaters. Guess that is price of attaining the dream for a testing company.

🙂

Cheating in an Information Technology Era

Some quotes from an article in the NYT on cheating. This recently came up on a WebCT Users list (usually at least once every year). Maybe the timing is right because the academic year at many schools just ended? Test administrators are usually one step behind the cheaters. There are lots of technologies that have found a niche in increasing the control of the testing environment to prevent cheating. Usually such technologies lock down the computer to prevent the use of other programs and Internet access.

Then there are the anti-technologists who want to go to pen and paper. Ick….

My brain is not wired well for cheating. Rote memorization is very difficult for me. Songs I have listened to a hundred times are still 10% outside my grasp. Quotes longer than a short sentence are pretty fuzzy. The only way I can remember things is through mneumonics that associate items or concepts with items already in my head. I can’t recall all of it; however recognition works pretty well. I can pick which is the right one. So the killer test for me was the complete two essays and ten short answer questions.

Right before I left my last job, one of my “projects” was to convert a student worker from her cramming mentality to a lifetime learner. I viewed the classes I took in school as ways to enrich my understanding of the world and tests as a necessary evil for teachers placed in a difficult position by administrators. The SAT and ITBS were scarily enough kind of fun? The questions were challenging and gave me an opportunity see that I am not as smart as I could be. For several, I wanted to go home a research how they worked…. too bad my memorization sucks. However, my former student worker sees just the classes she takes as the way to get her degree. Tests are in the way between her and the ultimate goal. So she spends long hours the night before cramming for the exam to stick every piece of information she can into her brain and hopefully be better prepared for the test. Later in the term, I asked her a question relevant to the class she was taking and watch her face get concerned as she could not recall it. I explained that she needs to pursue more long term learning techniques. She will find everything she learns useful later in life; so cramming and forgetting is really a waste of her time.

Colleges Chase as Cheats Shift to Higher Tech – New York Times

In a survey of nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over the past four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating.

“One of the things that we’re going to be paying close attention to as time goes on is the use of iPods,” Professor Carlisle added, pointing out that with a wireless earpiece, these would be hard to detect.

Several professors said they tried to write exams on which it was hard to cheat, posing questions that outside resources would not help answer. And at many institutions, officials said that they rely on campus honor codes.