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Evidence of “widespread” cheating has emerged in a Chinese program designed to help foreign students gain admission into US schools, according to an investigation by Reuters.
The program, called the Global Assessment Certificate (GAC), can cost more than $10,000 a year and helps foreign students whose first language is not English prepare for college and ace the ACT college entrance examination.
Seven students who spoke with Reuters allege that school officials and proctors knew about and allowed cheating on the ACT at three different program locations.
In interviews with the students, Reuters reported that:
“One [student] now attending the University of California, Los Angeles, said a GAC administrator in China let him practice answering almost half the questions that would appear on the actual ACT about a week before the exam was given. Another student, now at a major university in the Midwest, said his Chinese center provided students with two articles that appeared on an ACT he later took there.”
Additionally, eight teachers or administrators at seven different centers also claimed that cheating occurred during the courses, and, in two instances, was encouraged by officials, according to Reuters.
US colleges are starting to take note and some are becoming concerned over the reports.
The allegations of cheating are “very disconcerting,” Timothy Tesar, assistant director of international admissions at Iowa State University, told Reuters. Iowa State has enrolled 132 GAC students since 2009, Reuters noted.
A spokesperson for ACT acknowleded the allegations and said the company takes cheating seriously.
“ACT takes test security very seriously and is committed to ensuring score validity and fairness for all examinees,” Ed Colby, a spokesperson for the ACT, told Business Insider. “There will always be cheating attempts and incidents around high stakes testing; ACT has layers of test security measures and procedures in place to deter and detect cheating attempts before, during and after testing, and we will continue to work to regularly improve our processes,” the statement continued.
Jason Thieman, a former teacher at the GAC center at Jimei University, described the pervasive cheating.
“If every university admissions office that accepted GAC students knew about what was going on with the GAC, and especially with the ACT, I think they wouldn’t want to accept the students anymore,” Thieman told Reuters. “It’s outrageous,” he continued.
Further complicating the accusations is the fact that GAC is owned and overseen by ACT, Inc.
And it’s not the first time allegations about cheating on the ACT in Asian countries has emerged.
In June, the ACT college examination was canceled in South Korea and Hong Kong, China because of suspected cheating, The New York Times reported.
The breach, related to leaked testing materials, affected 5,500 students at 56 test centers in the two countries, according to The Times. The test was canceled mere hours before students were set to take the exam.
An overall discussion of cheating at US schools by foreign students has been gaining traction recently.
A Wall Street Journal analysis into cheating found that foreign students were more likely than American students to cheat.
Citing data from 14 large public universities, The Journal noted that public universities recorded 5.1 reports of alleged cheating per 100 international students, compared to one report of cheating per 100 American students.
At nearly every school, reports of cheating involving foreign students were twice as high, ranging up to as much as eight times as high at some institutions.
Faculty interviewed about the phenomenon attributed it to the fact that foreign students either don’t understand or accept US standards of academic integrity, according to The Journal.