ACT Inc., which runs the internationally recognized university preparation program Global Assessment Certificate (GAC) for students who do not have English as a first language, has come under scrutiny following a Reuters investigation that raises questions about
The ACT test, which is run by the organization, is recognized by nearly all universities in the United States, as well as many worldwide. As reported by Reuters’ Steve Stecklow, interviews with students who attended GAC centers to prepare for the test have brought the program’s integrity into question.
Allegations include those of one student now attending the University of California who said a GAC administrator in China let him practice answering almost half of the questions that eventually appeared on the actual ACT about a week before the exam. Another student said his Chinese center provided students with two articles that then appeared on the ACT.
Furthermore, eight teachers or administrators who have worked at seven different Chinese GAC centers described cheating in program courses, with some saying it was widespread. According to former teachers, they were encouraged to give students exam questions and sometimes even answers in advance to ensure that they passed.
According to Reuters, the website for the GAC program promises universities “highly skilled international students” and some schools award college credit for classes taken at GAC centers.
One former teacher, Jason Thieman, resigned in January after almost five months of teaching at the GAC center in the southern city of Xiamen. He said he did so after students complained that he was cracking down on cheating and plagiarism.
While a spokesman for the GAC center that Thieman taught at said the students simply didn’t like Thieman’s teaching style and that the center would never condone cheating, Thieman himself said:
“If every university admissions office that accepted GAC students knew about what was going on with the GAC, and especially with the ACT, I think they wouldn’t want to accept the students anymore. It’s outrageous.”
Christopher Bogen, director of studies at a GAC center in Zhuhai from 2011 to 2014, has said that the GAC curriculum made cheating easier because the same tests were given “over and over again.” According to Reuters, some of the tests were also available for sale online in China.
While ACT’s head of test security, Rachel Schoenig, insists that they have “taken many, many steps to address the testing activities of the GAC centers,” adding that they are facing a growing problem of “organized fraud rings,” the Reuters report seems to tell a different story. Reuters’ Stecklow emphasizes that the problems with the GAC program are very much internal and are occurring within the system governed by the ACT organization.
Stecklow cites the fact that Reuters uncovered six GAC centers – five in mainland China and one in South Korea — that have violated the ACT’s own conflict-of-interest act. In these centers, the GAC operators had access to exam booklets days, or in some cases weeks, before the ACT took place. According to ACT’s policy, that shouldn’t be allowed.
Meanwhile, among those replying to the reports are spokespersons for US colleges, including Iowa State University and the University of Michigan-Flint.
Timothy Tesar, assistant director of international admissions at Iowa State University, where 132 GAC students have enrolled since 2009, has called the reports “very disconcerting.” Jonnathan De La Fuente, international admissions counselor at University of Michigan-Flint, where college credit is given for GAC coursework, has said the reports are “shocking” and spoke of an investigation into the allegations:
“If those reports are true, we have to, as a university, look into it. I’m wondering if those [coursework] grades are even legitimate.”
ACT spokesman Ed Colby declined to make managers available when Reuters reached out on the issue, stating that ACT chief executive Marten Roorda was unavailable to answer questions for their article.