Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The ScoreTop Fiasco

The story came to existence when GMAC shutdown the website and then BW covered the story (BW Story 1). The initial estimate of around 1000 violators by GMAC was then increased to 6000 and it made big news; BW published another article (BW Story 2) and there is a huge debate in their forums (BW discussion thread). GMAC tried to answer some questions with a ScoreTop FAQ, but I guess it still left a lot of questions unanswered.

This is hot topic in probably all business schools. This site is a disgrace. The well-being of the site highly depended on a snow-balling effect, in test takers coming back and reporting scores. Of course, it is well documented that Mr. Lei Shi himself appeared for the GMAT thrice, but that's hardly sufficient to run the site for 5 years. The mere existence of the site for well over five years is a clear reflection of the times we live in. When people are desperate, most of them take the easy way out. But guess what, Karma hits back!!!

It is ridiculous to see the perspectives thrown around in numerous discussions. "Test takers were innocent" say many - they're clearly not on firm footing. "How could GMAC cancel my score. I will sue them if they do so." say others - not knowing it wont stand the test of law. "Will my percentile score improve?" or "Will I get off the waitlist because of this" - question a few self centered ones! Some even have the audacity to publicly say "I scored well and got into a M7 school purely because of this website. If they cancel scores, I'll never be able to score the same again", not knowing that GMAC is never letting them sit for the exam again. Even more audacious is when someone says to this person "Don't worry! You haven't done anything wrong." Some even argue "These students must be kicked out because one of the qualities of a successful business person is to do a mistake well and leave no trace; and they have failed in that regard." I've been lost in this maze and don't know what's worse...

My opinion is certainly not going to change anything, but to me this is straight forward. In my eyes, anyone who signed up for the VIP membership has violated GMACs test policies. They clearly had an unfair advantage that others did not have. It was all but common knowledge that the JJs had live GMAT questions. Actually, this has been settled beyond debate in the court of law - the very reason why the website is down. I wouldn't be surprised if GMAC cancels scores of all 6000 students who signed up for the VIP access. But that decision involves a lot of subjective evaluation and would be a bit too rash from GMAC. I'm sure GMAC is more sensible than that. There are violators who went on to post questions in the forum from their tests - and these guys are definitely getting their scores cancelled. In theory, most of these VIP members could be students or alumni of top business schools in USA and hence the repercussions of GMAC cancelling a bunch of scores could be intimidating.

I believe GMAC will certainly cancel scores of many people, otherwise the point of the whole exercise is lost and the signal that it wants to send to such websites will not be sent. I am quite curious to see how this unfolds. If you had a VIP membership, pray!

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Iday , I was a ST member when I joined the site there was no trace of JJs. You can have a look here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20061230063431/www.scoretop.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=12066&PN=1

Any student who joined with the intention to cheat would not have used his/her own Credit cards.

How can you say that any1 signing up for VIP membership was a cheater.

I spent 4 months for GMAT prep , wherein I exhausted every question- bank OG10, OG11, Kaplan800, Manhattan etc
I signed up for VIP because of the discussions and b'coz I had run out of questions.

If GMAC was investigating the site, it should have issued an advisory at the time of registration for the test.
I am loosing sleep now , for no fault of mine.

larryshw said...

"In theory, most of these VIP members could be students or alumni of top business schools in USA and hence the repercussions of GMAC cancelling a bunch of scores could be intimidating."

Iday,

Would be highly ironic if it were true, won't it ? Here you have all these MBA alumni (and prospective alumni) mouthing words like ethics, trust, honor code, collaborative culture. ........ahh, just leave it for the textbooks guys ;-)

Iday said...

Anonymous:
I agree with your point about timing. I think you are talking about the last 1 yr of ScoreTop's existence, and I've seen that point being made in discussion forums. But I believe GMAC has complete (or at least most recent) history of Scoretop and with that, they should be able to trace back to when the JJs were actually used and take action accordingly.

I know it is kind of messy and I'm so sorry for your specific situation. Hope justice prevails.

larryshw:
It would certainly be ironic and would force schools to take a deeper look at many of their practices - from admissions to academics. No system is perfect.

j n said...

The larger issue is that when all the dust has settled, would the Bschools be attracting the same talent, or will scare away some aspirants by the possibility of continuing witch hunt. Generalization of all VIP members as 'cheats', has dimmed the business school aura somewhat. Unless GMAC cleans up quickly and removes all ambiguity on what they plan to do, the damage may be to the very institutions they claim to serve. Mind you, business school reputation is built on quality and fairplay. Hope these two are not the casuality of the hurriedly conceived thoughts of mass murder.

EveReady said...

Iday,

I must consider myself lucky. I was preparing diligently for GMAT with all OG books and Kaplan 800 etc.. Its good that GMAC took this decision, else considering the pressure that my fellow GMAT takers were taking up VIP membership.. I would also had been forced to take it. Now that its banned, it gives me great advantage to be on par with others. I believe perseverance without undue advantage does give good results.

Iday said...

@j n:
I agree. If we take a closer look, there has been some ethical violation on bschool fronts every year. How much ever the schools might hate to agree and fight, people find unethical ways to get admitted into the best of schools. It is a fact we have to live with.

@eveready:
are you saying u'd sign up for a VIP membership purely coz of peer pressure. doesnt make sense to me!

completely agree with your last sentence.

EveReady said...

Well Iday, I would not call it peer pressure, its more of equipping yourself for the best to cut out the surprise element, which can sometimes go against you. For example during our engg exam, we hear rumors of paper leak and questions start pouring in, some correct n accurate, some just cooked up. But end of the day, I will be seeing these questions only after my full preparation, at least I do that. Now the question is why I am looking into these questions if I prepared well, my answer would be "I dont wanna be UNLUCKY" and others to be LUCKY. Actually even Engg has some syllabus and scope.. GMAT doesnt. No preparation is ever enough and there can be plenty of questions to trump you on your best day. Why must others have an undue advantage when it comes to these questions? In that circumstance, I would not want to be left out. To be frank, on the optimistic side, its only the Out-of-JJ questions that will bail me out as a winner instead

I know am bit amateurish in my comments, but am afraid, thats how I was thinking abt these JJs/leaked questions etc. Please do comment back your thoughts and correct me, would be happy to oblige :-)

Have a good internship, Cheers

Iday said...

@ Eveready:
I understand what you're saying.

But the irony of the situation is that you are saying that you are glad you did not do something that you would have done, had GMAC not shut down Scoretop. That basically means you would have done it, had this not happened.

If you're glad you did not do it, why would you do it in the first place?

It could be "reworded" as "protecting myself against the undue advantage gained by other users of ScoreTop", but it still accounts to cheating my friend :) You'd just be doing what every ScoreTop user did, and from your comments i believe that you very well understand what they did!

EveReady said...

agree every word of yours na. Finally it comes down to cheating.. a small mention of this word "cheating" ruins any of the theories of illegal/fast track studies. Thanks for your comments :-)

Ricky said...

Hi Iday

I came to know about your blog pagalguy.. and have been religiously going through it.. and i really appreciate how well written your posts are.. especially the series of why mba, shortlisting, gmat .....it really helped me introspect and find out many answers.. but unfortunately, i am disappointed to find that you are of the opinion that everyone who used VIP membership are culprits.. i dont knw how u felt while ur gmat prep days.. bt i really subscribed to any and every forum.. beatthegmat, scoretop, testmagic.. and many others.. some paid, some non-paid.. even after my gmat..i hv taken memberships for vault.com, businesweek...(mba insider) both paid..my point is that a person during his/her prep would use all open options.. and scoretop VIP membership did not mention that those were live questions..nor did GMAC issue any warnings for not using a particular site.. even if scoretop made any claim that those are live questions.. how are students supposed to know that it is bluffing for making easy money or does it really have live questions.. i mean there are too many ifs.. and it would be really unprofessional on GMACs part to cancel scores of all VIP members without having enough evidence against them..

Anonymous said...

Hey Idy,

Great points and such a wonderfully thought out upright stance!

um, just curious, you have been a very active user of e.g. pagalguy. If one of these days a news channel or GMAC breaks news that this site would often use illegal/copyrighted material, and users saw them during practice, then I'm sure you will happily agree with me that regardless of whether you knew or not, used them or not, you and all other users would agree you voilated GMAC code of conduct and will willingly give up your score and admission.

I appreciate that stand, I mean, after all, there can be no innocents, right? They should have known! How dare someone actually believe they really did not know. Let's get the 6000 first and then let's also go after some more, this is so cool.

Thank you for publishing my comment!

Iday said...

@Anonymous:
Of course and I believe that is the line i am drawing here. As adults, we are responsible for our actions. What ScoreTop was doing was public knowledge - I knew the site and stayed away. PagalGuy does not involve in any unlawful activity and advices its users to steer away from doing anything of that sort in its forums. IF under the hypothetical situation where a court of law decides that pagalguy has violated any of GMAC's terms & conditions, i will have to face it.

As i have mentioned in the post, canceling all 6000 involves a lot of subjective evaluation and GMAC will be reasonable enough to go against only those with provable crimes. I guess that would apply everywhere - which is what helps me take this upright stand i guess!

Johny CAGE said...

I knew it already that it's gonna happen. & members going to panic.

I thats why made a blog post about it in advance...

Anonymous said...

"What ScoreTop was doing was public knowledge - I knew the site and stayed away."

Iday, you are being unnecessarily presumptuous here. A vast majority of scoretop users who used the VIP service genuinely did not know that anything shady was going on. I signed up for scoretop because, at it its very core, it seemed to me like a forum full of helpful people who would debate each question, analyze it and help your understand the reasoning behind the answer.

I signed up for the VIP membership, and I can say with an absolutely clear conscience that that I wasn't aware of any foul-play.

For the record, all over the scoretop website, the following disclaimer was published "these questions are "NOT" live questions and have been put together by scoretop tutors." Tell me, Iday, how is this different from what Kaplan, beatthegmat or gmatclub are doing? Am I supposed to send an investigative agency behind every test prep website I visit?

Scoretop was like any other preparation website, as far as I was concerned. Your contention that , "Even more audacious is when someone says to this person Don't worry! You haven't done anything wrong.", reveals a hasty understanding of the situation. You go on to say that that, "In my eyes, anyone who signed up for the VIP membership has violated GMACs test policies." By implication you're calling me a violator. I'm disappointed at your assessment of the situation, Iday. Intent is the deciding factor that will make or break the case, and I earnestly hope you will not pass judgment so quickly without understanding the facts of the case thoroughly.

Iday said...

@anon:
I'm not being presumptuous. I know what I am talking about. I have a ScoreTop free login and I stayed away from the website simply because it was quite well known what was going on. I mean, I am talking about posts made in the very forum.

I signed up for the same reasons you mention here - to discuss GMAT questions and share knowledge. I would have accessed the website hardly 5 - 10 times and I was able to figure out something is fishy. Now, I am not sure if it is a matter of chance or design that i happened to see those posts that screamed about live GMAT material being shared there.

You failed to notice the point i made about subjectivity. I agree that I am taking an extreme stand against all who signed up, but I've also said that it would be unreasonable to cancel everyone's scores. But there are violators who have "posted" live GMAT questions in the forum and they have left clear traces - their posts! They need to be punished for sure.

Anonymous said...

"hardly 5 - 10 times and I was able to figure out something is fishy"

I honestly wasn't able to find out something was fishy, Iday. If I had the slightest inkling of fowl play, I wouldn't have used my credit card to pay. If I really wanted to cheat, my means would've been far more elegant than signing up for the service with my name and email address. I used the VIP membership because I wanted more practice questions, and mind you, I had exhausted all the other test material I could lay my hands on - OG, Kaplan and the 1000 series on scoretop. My expectation from the VIP questions was to get a set of unique questions that I hadn't seen before, so that I could tackle any surprises on my big day.

"because it was quite well known what was going on"

No, Iday. It wasn't well known. You're speaking for all the users of scoretop based on your experience with the site. This indicates presumption to me. On this one point, we'll probably have to agree to disagree

Having said that, I think those who knowingly posted live questions should definitely pay for their actions. But alleging that everyone who used the VIP service is necessarily a cheater seems extremely unfair to me.

Iday said...

@anon:
First of all - i appreciate your efforts to try and swing my opinion. I thought it hardly mattered and it was just another, albeit small, voice on the web.

I am not alleging that you or everyone with a VIP password cheated. I am only saying that something so obvious (i guess this is where we disagree) could have been noticed by others. I am sure there are many people like you who used the website only as a source of unique questions - but they're all in your same position. Exactly why I am saying that this decision involves a lot of subjectivity.

To people who posted questions - they should be screwed. To people who knew and used these questions - damn them. For people like you - i hope this is a good lesson to be careful of what we sign up for and hopefully no harm will be done. As i said in my post - i really hope Karma prevails.

Iday said...

@anon:
And may be i should clarify - I have only said "In my eyes, anyone who signed up for the VIP membership has violated GMACs test policies." This does not mean i'm calling everyone a cheat. May be i should add at the end of that sentence - "Knowingly or unknowingly". I'm just saying everyone had access to the unfair material. As you pointed out yourself - intent is very important here, but no human has powers to evaluate intent; that something that people can feign!

Just having a VIP access is a clear gray area here and i will stick to it. None of us can prove or disprove any argument against those folks who only had access!

Anonymous said...

@Iday - Haha! I guess I am trying pretty hard to sway your opinion, aren't I? :-)

I got here from the clearadmit blog(which, I believe, is very widely read). I didn't have the energy to write a blog-post for this one, and your comment space seemed like a decent place to debate it. If this helps shape public opinion, so be it. I only don't want people to think that *everyone* who had a VIP membership was up to creepy shit :-)

Anyway, now that the hatchets(if there were any) are buried, let's hope GMAC doesn't screw me! *fingers crossed*

Have a good day!

Iday said...

@anon:
Aah - nice :) Glad you chose my blog as your medium :)

So you do write a blog? Mind sharing the url?

No hatchets :) I hope the best for you too. I dont think they'll be that unreasonable - they realize this is a gray area too. We'll see.

Thanks and you have a great day too.

Anonymous said...

Look who is talking.

All of you should go view this post by IDAY himself.

http://www.pagalguy.com/forum/gmat-and-related-discussions/18047-gmat-material-question.html

Cached Link - http://209.85.175.104/search?q=cache:ehGNPnzBab8J:www.pagalguy.com/forum/gmat-and-related-discussions/18047-gmat-material-question.html+iday+scoretop&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=in&client=firefox-a

Read the second paragraph.

....................if i remember correctly - the explanations are also somewhere available in scoretop, the link for which is available in some thread here. ppl who have used it have found it to be useful - so u better give it a try.

Iday said...

@anon:
Thanks to have pointed it out. But i'd have been glad if you gave the complete info. In my defense, i'd have to do it now:

My answer was (i'm copying and pasting the content exactly here):u also mention u wanna buy the og verbal book. i guess u consider urself to be in more need of verbal practice. so u might wanna try some more practice and for all that i have heard, the best PRACTICE material on the net are the 1000 Q series. I cannot give u a first hand opinions on that coz i never used them. Simply because of the reason that they dint have answer explanations but only answers. if i remember correctly - the explanations are also somewhere available in scoretop, the link for which is available in some thread here. ppl who have used it have found it to be useful - so u better give it a try.

I have accepted myself that i did have a scoretop free login. No one is aware of the origins of the 1000q series, but just that Scoretop used to discuss the answers very extensively. I have said in this post that I did not participate in those discussions. This is pretty much like the question on usage of pagalguy - if this is found to be a violation, i let myself open to any potential repercussions and i have no defense against it.

Anonymous said...

Iday...if you could know in 5 minutes that scoretop had something fishy going on...you'd surely know that 1000 Q series is also publicized as 'REAL GMAT QUESTIONS", even if they are retired, but that is not an official series from GMAC.

Check this link out

http://www.manhattangmat.com/forums/post3578.html

Means, even Manhattan.com should be screwed.

I don't know who are you trying to impress, but if you were really honest to yourself and to the world, you'd admit that if you'd have found VIP useful, you'd have used it.

People go about joining forums, downloading material, and I think a LOT of people would have downloaded those VIP sets as well...people who were not scoretop members!

Iday said...

@anon:
i dont think i said 5 minutes? did i? it took me some time really and i have already accepted the fact that perhaps i got lucky in seeing those posts that convinced me of what was going on.

I checked the post and it says "scoretop set 29". is that from one of the JJs or from the 1000q series or something else in scoretop. I'm sorry, but i am not sure what ur referring to here. As for Manhattan - this is news to me. I did not even know they had a forum; i always thought they just had printed prep material like kaplan and princeton.

I dont have to impress anyone man. And i dont think i have to prove to anyone my reasons behind not signing up for the VIP access. The post was just my take on the whole thing - as someone who had practiced genuinely for GMAT. If you dont buy it, it does not mean my opinion is at fault. I'll stick to it.

And finally, if ppl just go about joining forums and doing stuff - they need to face consequences if they have to. Me included. Once again - I've only said the members violated the rules - I've said nothing about their intentions. That is the gray area. I've only said people who posted must be punished. Read the post well before jumping on the make statements.

Anonymous said...

HEY IDAY if all of it was public knowledge and especially "you knew the site and stayed away" why did you not take a proactive action to make a complaint to GMAC. Dont you advocate to cause of truth and fairness. i guess you are once again being presemptuous.

Anonymous said...

You are such a one sided moron...i wonder what you will do in business school and life..."i knew the site was shady and I stayed away from it"...its moralistic stupid pigs like you who should be shot dead before GMAC takes any action...i bet you would have lapped up all material if you knew about scoretop...burn in hell!

Anonymous said...

well...
let me put an argumetn here...it si not out of audacity or something....

1)
it is well known pracice is THE MOST important stuff to crack..considering all the prep materials, none of them match the standard (neither too tough nor too easy), so any one who is done with practicing OG and others will try to do JJs...nohign wrong...blam the fact it is human and again this is hardwork...

2) marketing is abt exaggeration...(guess i don' ahve to tell u this)..so even if someone says....it is real...anyone (considering one is not a moron) is gonna take with a pinch of salt..u odn't believe everything typed arnd....

General observation:

GMAT..how can questions get leaked...has GMAC done anything to resolve it..or find where the leak is.....

Anonymous said...

Man..this is a nightmare. I was a Vip Member over 2 years back. looking at all this now - i seem to have been pretty naive. I never for a second realised that i was doing something illegal or cheating. I was googling for help on gmat and easily found my way to scoretop. I saw all the wonderful discussion happening and thought this would be great addition to my GMAT preparation. Just didnt strike me that it wasnt legal.

But fortunately for some personal reasons i never ended up giving the GMAT exam. Will i be able to take the GMAT in the future.