Cheating on high-stakes exams has become incredibly high-tech in Korea
Recently, South Korean police officers have caught myriads of job seekers cheating on the TOEIC exam (a global standard for measuring workplace English-language communication skills) with high-tech devices. New technology such as spy films, smartphones, automatic photo-transmitting apps, and mini transmitting devices are illicitly being used during high-stakes TOEIC tests.
The Busan International Crime Investigations Unit put a man named Lee (30) and two other people under court custody for taking tens of millions of won from cheating TOEIC test-takers on November 4th, 2013. The criminals used smartphones to take pictures of high scorer’s answers and then sent it to test-takers wirelessly. One student, Um (27), at a popular college in Seoul was also arrested for leaking his answers and receiving money.
According to the police, Um took a test wearing a fake cast on his left arm under the promise of receiving 1400 dollars per test from Lee. Inside the cast, a smartphone with a wireless photography apparatus were hidden, and the pictures taken by Um during the test were sent by internet through an automatic uploading program (a kind of Cloud service). After Lee checked the answers from Um they delivered the answers to test-takers who were taking the test on a same site as Um using a wireless set. The test-takers were wearing a subminiature wireless apparatus in their ears. The machine was 2mm in diameter. The test-takers who gave money to these criminals were booked without detention.
Here are some diagrams of how the technology worked:
Earlier this month, cheating on the TOEIC exam again surfaced, this time using an image transmitting device, which demonstrates how such methods have evolved. The Busan International Crime Investigations Unit arrested a 33-year-old with the last name of Jeong on January 7th under suspicion of illegal obstruction for using an image transmitter during the TOEIC exam.
Jeong, who studied electronics in high school, built a small device using parts found at an electronics store. The device was capable of transmitting in real-time during the test. TOEIC high-scorer Lee hid the device inside the padding of his jacket, went to the testing hall, and proceeded to answer the test questions while sending out images of his answers.
Outside the testing hall, Jeong received Lee’s answers by wireless transmitter and cheated by passing the answers to the other participants in the scam. Jeong confessed, “I made small receivers and transmitters which didn’t require the use of smartphones and could draw from the answers on a skilled test taker’s answer sheet. I made this device.”
Jung-Hyuk Jo, Chief of the International Crime Investigation Unit, said, “The revelation of this kind of device, which unlike a smartphone cannot be detected easily and can transmit test answers outside the test hall, raises concerns about further test abuses on national standardized tests.”
These test-takers raised their average score from 500 points to over 900 points by cheating on the TOEIC. However, they were caught by the police while they were dealing with the money transactions. Korea TOEIC Committee requested a police investigation into Um and Kim, who got high scores but applied to take every test. These job seekers dreamed of a high score on a test they've spent millions of won on, but they can’t apply to take the TOEIC again for another 5 years.
I also took this exam more than five times to get a higher score in Korea. It is very common, and one of the basic qualifications of Korean job seekers to graduate from college and apply for a job. Applicants' average scores have increased each year. It's so sad that people cheat, but it doesn't seem to be changing.