GMAT: The ScoreTop.com Cheating Scandal

Students studying for the GMAT are always looking for that special edge to help them score high marks, turning to study guides, test-prep services, and online help. But from 2006 to 2008, some test-takers got more than they had hoped for — and then feared — when they purchased VIP memberships on ScoreTop.com.

ScoreTop.com was a GMAT test prep Web site that offered all sorts of practice questions. For those who really wanted an edge, ScoreTop offered a 30-day VIP membership for $30 that offered "live" GMAT test questions.

But the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) doesn't publish live test questions, for obvious reasons. What's more, the GMAC sells its older, unused questions to test prep companies, but they had not sold any such questions to ScoreTop.com. So, on the surface, ScoreTop's claims seemed like outright lies: they couldn't have legally published any GMAT questions that had ever been used on the test, much less that were currently in use.

But when the GMAC and the FBI began monitoring the content on ScoreTop, what they found was disconcerting. After users were behind the VIP wall, they were encouraged to post "jungle juice" — slang for live questions — and the GMAC did find some of their test questions, verbatim, on the site.

The GMAC goes to considerable effort and expense to research and create its test questions, and those questions are protected under copyright laws. So in June 2007, the GMAC filed suit against ScoreTop.com for copyright infringement. A year later, the courts handed down a decision in favor of the GMAC, awarding them $2.3 million and the right to seize the ScoreTop.com domain and a computer hard drive containing payment and other information. The owner of ScoreTop.com had by then fled to his homeland of China and was not represented in court.

The GMAC vowed to cancel the scores of anyone who had used ScoreTops.com's VIP access, to prohibit them from retaking the test, and to notify the schools of those who had already entered business programs. Examination of the hard drive revealed that over 6,000 people had accessed the VIP section of the site.

The GMAC softened their blows a bit and said that they would punish only those who they could prove had knowingly used the site to cheat. When all was said and done, the scores of 84 test-takers were canceled.

What can you learn from this scandal?

  • Pay attention to where you get your test prep information. Any site or business that offers real, live GMAT questions is either lying or breaking the law. The GMAC offers free test prep software, as well as a large number of study guides, on its own Web site.
  • Don't share questions. When you register for the GMAT, you're required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and you're reminded of that on test day. If, after you take the test, you share what you remember of the questions, you might have broken your contract and opened yourself up to a lawsuit.
  • Don't try to game the system. Don't waste your time trying to work around the GMAT; just prepare yourself as best you can.

ScoreTop.com is still out there on the Internet, but you won't find any test prep questions there. The GMAC has turned the ScoreTop home page into a stern warning about the dangers of cheating, along with links to information and legitimate study help.