FOLLOWING A BBC Panorama programme which filmed students at British colleges, including Eden College London, apparently cheating on Toeic tests (see front page), immigration authorities have requested US testing giant ETS to suspend both its Toeic and Toefl tests in the UK for candidates taking the exams for visa purposes. The UK will still accept ETS tests taken overseas. Apart from Eden College, one other Toeic centre was shown in the programme.
ETS has been heavily criticised in the British press, which has focused on exam fraud, although the programme also filmed ‘immigration advisers’ allegedly committing examples of non-exam fraud such as producing genuine bank accounts from individuals in India with the same names as the students and counterfeit British bank documents for submission to immigration authorities.
Criticism of ETS has focused on its failure to spot security problems with two of its Toeic centres. These include Eden College London, which had previously been approved by a number of other bodies, including QAA, which oversees UK universities, the British Council and immigration authorities, all of which had given it a clean bill of health.
The London college has denied responsibility, asserting that the tests were conducted by freelance invigilators trained by ETS, and that concerns were raised internally in February 2013 and acted on before it was contacted by Panorama. However, the Gazette has learned that ETS requires at least one Toiec-trained school employee to act as ‘centre administrator’ at every session to oversee invigilators. The administrators must also sign a form confirming that cheating did not take place.
Testing experts have pointed out that most exam boards have systems in place to pick up ‘anomalous response patterns – everyone gets all the questions right in the same room’, precisely what appeared to happen in thePanoramafilm.
The UK office of ETS subsidiary ETS Global told the Gazette to contact its Netherlands office, which didn’t respond to us. However, Tom Ewing, director of press relations at the Princeton, New Jersey headquarters of parent company ETS, responded in detail.
Ewing told the Gazette that security measures incorporated into the exams included ‘handwriting samples, embedded digital images of the test-taker, voice matching and statistical analyses. ETS can review scores by individual, by room, by center or even by country.
‘Because of the ongoing nature of this case we are not at liberty to discuss specifics, but the fraudulent activities described in the programme, not only at two Toiec centers but other parties in the visa system, both in the UK and in India, were very sophisticated,’ he told the Gazette.
The information in this article was correct at the time of writing in late March 2014. See here for an update. Added to website 16 April 2014