Julia Tyler an executive vice president at the Graduate Management Admission Council, the makers of the GMAT recently wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times about cheating on standardized management exams. It happens. So who is responsible for doing something about it? It would be easy for the test makers to absolve themselves of responsibility. After all, they are just writing tests. But Tyler bravely argues that their responsibility runs deeper than that.
The easy position for the testing companies is to say that this is the responsibility of the schools and the companies that recruit from them. Business schools admit and educate the students and the companies employ them, after all. Moreover, the graduate management admission test and other admissions exams set out to predict success in the academic components of an MBA, not the ethics of the would-be student. True – but not good enough.
While admissions tests do not probe moral competence, occasionally administration of the test highlights unethical behaviour. Neither testing companies nor business schools can ignore this. Application to business school is a “high stakes” investment and how a candidate handles the process can be an indicator of personal ethics.
In The MBA Oath, a book we’ve written about the oath coming out this month, we use the analogy of earthquakes to describe the financial crisis. When a student cheats on an admissions test, there is no earthquake, but there is a fracture in the system. As Ms. Tyler describes it,
On the face of it, cheating on an admissions test is a victimless crime. But what about the candidate who is denied a place because of this act of individual selfishness? Corruption undermines business. Corruption and cheating have no place in management education. Knowing a student is cheating therefore demands action before they can take greater risks in a broader context.
She argues that business schools cannot merely trust that these tests are being administered securely any more than than test makers can just trust that students are taking the tests without rigorously building their security. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that these tests are administered and taken ethically.