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Major test preparation company accused of mishandling practice materials

Major test preparation company accused of mishandling practice materials Science & Technology World Website


New Oriental, the Chinese education consulting and test prep giant, has once again run afoul of standardized testing guidelines.

Reuters reported on Dec. 23 that a number of New Oriental clients were given access to “practice questions” taken from actual administered exams, which were not released by the College Board, the New York-based owner of the SAT. The College Board opts not to release some test questions, as they are often reused on subsequent exams. The report noted that some students possessed full copies of an SAT exam given in Asia last month, while someone who identified himself as a New Oriental Instructor had posted 15 pages of the same exam on social media.

In addition to the SAT, New Oriental has also been accused of helping students to cheat on the TOEFL, a popular English proficiency exam. In 2004, the company lost a case brought against them by ETS, the owner of the TOEFL, for distributing exam content without permission. Reuters noted that after the case concluded, New Oriental and ETS actual formed a partnership, making the former the official provider of online TOEFL practice exams in China. Tom Ewing, an ETS spokesperson, was quoted confirming that ETS has a process in place for identifying and dealing with copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, in response to the Reuters investigation, New Oriental issued its own response, confirming that it condemns “illegal and illegitimate business practices, whether committed by competitors or any of our past employees … we are reviewing what has been raised and will take disciplinary actions against anyone who violated our policies and procedures.”

Although New Oriental has not disclosed how it gained access to the test materials, the statement to Reuters did acknowledge that its instructors are required to periodically take the exams for which they tutor.

“We believe this practice is fully consistent with industry practice elsewhere, including that of established private educational service providers in the U.S.,” the statement read. However, Reuters noted that the College Board banned “tutors and other non-students” from taking its newly redesigned exam in March, and again in December. In addition, those who did take the exam were prohibited from sharing its content, though the College Board acknowledged that this restriction is difficult to enforce.

A number of scores from SAT exams administered around Asia in October, November and December of 2014 were either withheld or canceled after allegations of widespread cheating, according to the Washington Post. A similar situation emerged in South Korea in May and October 2013, as well as in January 2007, when many students obtained access to unreleased test questions from previous exams. 

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