In a recent piece of outstanding journalism, an alleged scam of the GRE Home test exam came to light. The scam, in its initial stage, is so far confined to the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, slowly spreading to other states albeit in fewer numbers.
GRE is an admission requirement for several graduate programs in abroad universities. To tackle the impact of the pandemic, which saw countries in complete lockdown, the conducting agency - ETS - came out with the Home edition of the test for students. In the home edition, students take the exam from home and are monitored through the camera by a proctor.
Allegedly, the scam is being spread through the coaching centers, asking students for a hefty fee, sometimes as high as INR 90,000, to get a 300+ score facilitated by a ‘helper’. Several students came forth with the claims that they were contacted by someone who guaranteed a score of 320 and above if they paid a particular fee. Some students developed cold feet and refused the service of a ghostwriter but know a few acquaintances who availed the services and scored 325/340. The score of a student depends on the amount a parent is willing to spend.
The service of a ghostwriter/“expert” is for the first two sections - Quantitative and Verbal. The Analytical Writing Section is not covered in the scheme and is attempted by the student only. The modus operandi is that the student has to take the GRE Home Edition test from the coaching center. There, the expert will sit across the test taker. A mobile phone will be used to capture the question from an angle that is not visible to the proctor. The expert will then indicate the answer either through a hand signal or through a paper slip.
Though the testing agency has refuted these claims, there is a jump in the GRE average score during the lockdown. The average scores reported earlier used to be 270-280, whereas in the GRE At Home edition, the average score has risen to 310 - 325. The point that stuck out is students who are scoring 160 above in the first two sections scored only 2 or 2.5 in the writing section. Unusually high GRE scores during the lockdown coupled with calls from prospective test takers inquiring about ghostwriters are what led to this expose.
On contacting ETS, they assured that the GRE At Home edition is safe and stringent in its application. Students are asked to lock the doors and show the room at a 360 angle to ensure there is no one hiding in the room. Further, the software used does not allow mirroring of the screen, and students are asked to sit straight facing the camera. Finally, the entire exam is recorded.
Some teachers also maintain that cheating during the test is not possible.
This scam is the cause of major concern for prospective students, universities, and ETS itself. Some candidates and a famous coaching center -Manya Coaching Center, have raised this issue with ETS, asking them to close down the GRE Home edition immediately.
A similar scam took place in Hyderabad in 2011 where test-takers cheated to get a high score in the TOEFL. Another incident happened six years ago when several candidates were caught faking their Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).
There are grave consequences to faking your exam. It could lead to canceling of the candidature, canceling of the scores, getting banned, or even being jailed and deported.
Even with these consequences, the services or an “expert” are being offered, jeopardizing the credibility of the exam.
Our take -
There has always been a section of people who will try to find shortcuts. ETS should not take these concerns lightly as it is not only a question of credibility, it also endangers the future of many students. If the scam comes to light six months from now, students who took these services could face jail and deportation ruining their lives. A lot is at stake.
What’s your take? Is this another scam in the making? Or just another way of duping students and minting money?
Share your views below.