Group effort by team of experts and the limited view an invigilator gets from webcam -- that's how scores of students in India are cheating in GRE or Graduate Record Examination, the entrance test for graduate studies in the US and other western nations. Four GRE aspirants told NDTV how the cheating is conducted in the home tests that started after the Covid outbreak. The key, they said, was a room with multiple doors, which helps connect the examinee with the expert team outside that solves the paper.
India is one of the biggest centres of the GRE, third only to China and the US. More than 85,000 students took the test in India last year.
The rampant cheating was flagged by a top GRE Coaching institute, which said its coaches are now offered money to help students cheat. But the response of ETS or Educational Testing Service -- the organisation which conducts the exam -- has left much to be desired.
The rules of the online exam say those taking the test must be alone in the room. The human invigilator will take a 360 degree view of the room through a webcam before the exam begins. But the loophole, the students told NDTV, was that once the test begins, the invigilator can only see a very limited area captured by the examinee's webcam.
The cheaters ensure that the room has multiple doors, which enables a second person to come and go as he pleases.
Once the exam begins, this person stands outside the invigilator's line of sight and click photos of the questions on screen. The questions are then passed to the experts sitting outside, who solve the paper and convey the answers to the examinee. This process is repeated for each section of the exam.
Since the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE are multiple choice, cheating was easy, the students said.
"Some test takers use the help of their friends and others pay tutors (employed at GRE coaching institutes)...one of my friends scored a 326 (out of a possible 340) like that," one of the students told NDTV.
"The helpers slip in and out... one doesn't really need to be a wizard to cheat on this home-based GRE," another student said.
Manya-Princeton Review, the top GRE coaching institute in India which flagged the issue, had asked ETS to discontinue the "GRE from Home" option, to protect the credibility of GRE scores in the region. The institute said its centers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana got numerous phone calls asking them to take the test for students for a lump sum. Hyderabad, it said, is the epicenter of the cheating.
In their response dated January 7, ETS indicated that they are aware of the cheating.
"Our office regularly cancels scores of test takers, and for some offenses, bans test takers from taking any ETS assessment for a period of time... We also continually work with our Programs to enhance security through our different types of test administration offerings," the ETS said.
The institute has now flagged the issue to the government think-tank NITI Ayog and Ramesh Pokhriyal, the Minister for Human Resource Development, asking them to take "some strict action" to protect the "impression and imagery of the education system of India".