Cheating on college admission tests must be stopped

By Jessica Schoenfeld
On November 13, 2011

Cheating on the SATs, ACTs and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has been rampant, according to several articles in the New York Times. Numerous examples of cheating on the college admissions exams have been uncovered over the past semester.

At least 35 students in five Long Island, New York, schools are under investigation for cheating by the Nassau County district attorney's office. Some are suspected of having another student take their ACT exam.

The investigation was prompted after discovering a similar problem with cheating on the SAT, according to the Times. In September, University of Michigan student Sam Eshaghoff was accused of taking the SATs of six high school students in the area.

This is not just an issue with American students applying to college. As the U.S. has expanded into the Chinese education market, students are desperate to get a good American education. So desperate, in fact, that some of them are having other students take their TOEFLs and hiring professionals to write their admissions essays and fabricate their GPA transcripts and letters of recommendation, according to the Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education collaboration "The China Conundrum."

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which provides the SAT, ACT and TOEFL, does its best to monitor cheating - an infraction that typically results in a canceled score - but officials say it's hard to tell when cheating is present.

Students from other countries, such as China, with a strong work ethic and parents who are very willing to pay for an American education, may be an asset to cash-strapped universities. Yet, students need to be well-informed about intellectual property rights, an issue which may be viewed differently in other countries.

The ETS needs to step up and monitor these issues. Tests need to be administered by strict officials both in the U.S. and overseas, where possible. Administrators from other countries need to work together to eliminate cheating and admit only the most qualified students, rather than accepting students with a rudimentary English education who must spend several semesters in English classes before starting their university curriculum.

Identities need to be enforced; it shouldn't be so easy for one student to pose as another. The writing section on the SAT should also be considered. Whereas an admissions essay is a highly polished, revised and guided example of a student's writing, the SAT writing section is a time-pressured example of a student's work that better reflects how they will do in final exams under the strained, busy schedules of college students.

Students from other countries who wish to attend school in the U.S. should do their best to learn at least basic English before applying for college. Students, parents and administrators need to work together to prepare students to pass their exams and succeed at American schools.

Jessica Schoenfeld is a sophomore majoring in women's and gender studies and sociology.

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