Coaching Institutes Are Helping Students Cheat on Their GRE, Investigation Finds


Jan 12, 2021


Image Credit: istockphoto

Hundreds of allegations of GRE test-taking fraud have surfaced, especially in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, after students were given the option to take the exam from home because of the Covid19 lockdown. 

The GRE, owned and administered by the American organization Educational Testing Service (ETS), is a standardized test required for admissions to graduate schools in the U.S. and Canada. Between 2010 and 2019, India had the highest number of test-takers outside of the U.S

In 2015, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were also at the center of test-cheating scandals, suggesting a still-thriving and adaptable test-cheating operation. 

Manya Education, the largest Indian franchise of U.S.-based college admission services according to The Princeton Review, reported the matter to ETS, when the test prep agency was approached by candidates seeking ‘expert’ assistants for the GRE. Unexpectedly high scores on the test’s objective sections from students with limited capacity seemed to corroborate its suspicions.  

A key, new feature of the online GRE test has facilitated this latest bout of cheating, suggests The Indian Express. From this year, exam takers could freely move through the section being attempted; previously, the exam process allowed the test-taker to move to the next question only after answering the previous one. The free movement through the test is being exploited by some test-takers, who have a person enter the room from an angle not visible via webcam to the online proctor and take pictures of all the questions as the exam taker scrolls through it. The person would then leave the room to solve these questions and come back to help the candidate by telling them the answers using chits or hand signs. 

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Students taking the GRE say that they have been contacted by ‘coaching institutes’ which guarantee a high score if the students are willing to pay for it, reports The Hindu. In some places, students and parents say these institutes charge as much as Rs. 90,000. Most of those who take tests on behalf of others are students in their third and fourth year of undergraduate studies, who are approached by teachers from such institutes and paid to help test-takers. 

While no GRE-cheating incidents have been uncovered yet in other states, Manya Education suspects test fraud is happening in not just Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but all over the country. The education franchise has written to the Ministry of Education and NITI Aayog about the fraudulent means as well. The coaching institutes suspected of channeling such operations are well-networked across the country. Additionally, a website called passpsychometric.com offers GRE test-taking “assistance” pan-India for payment. 

While ETS is taking action against the website, it is unable to take any specific action against the suspected coaching institution-led cheating without proof of a racket. For now, ETS plans to continue with the same at-home testing rules, despite the loopholes which have allowed test-takers to cheat. A spokesperson for the ETS confirmed the organization would continue with the “at-home” offerings even in a post-Covid19 world.


Written By Satviki Sanjay

Satviki Sanjay is an editorial intern at The Swaddle. She’s currently studying philosophy at Miranda House. When not studying, she can be found writing about gender, internet culture, sexuality, technology, and mental health. She loves talking to people, and you can always find her on Instagram @satvikii.


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