Exclusive: ACT Inc raises test prices abroad to fund cheating fight

LONDON/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The maker of the ACT college-entrance exam, which has been struggling to contain an international cheating epidemic, is raising its fees for overseas test-takers by $10 to pay for enhanced security.

Students attend a lecture for the entrance exam for postgraduate studies at a hall in Jinan, Shandong Province, China, July 18, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS

The price increase was described in a letter sent last month to a college counselor in China and reviewed by Reuters. “The fee increases will cover costs for new test security measures,” it stated. ACT Inc spokesman Ed Colby confirmed the measure.

Beginning next April, the high-stakes exam will cost up to $109.50 for overseas test-takers - $51 more than those in the United States.

The ACT and its rival, the SAT, are used by thousands of U.S. colleges to help choose among millions of student applicants. Both have been swamped by cheating abroad.

ACT, an Iowa-based not-for-profit, has suffered major security setbacks in recent months. After the October sitting of the exam, ACT canceled scores for an unspecified number of students in Asia and Oceania on the writing section of the test because of a leak. In June, the exam was canceled for all test-takers in South Korea and Hong Kong due to another breach.

Starting this Saturday, all South Korean test-takers will be required to take the ACT at a single test center in Seoul. The exam previously was given at 32 South Korean test centers, including sites licensed by the ACT-owned Global Assessment Certificate program. “The move is being made to combat repeated test material breaches in South Korea,” ACT stated in a press release last month.

In July, Reuters detailed widespread cheating in the GAC program, which offers college preparatory courses ( Seven students who attended three different GAC centers in China described how school officials and proctors ignored and were sometimes complicit in cheating on the ACT.

ACT’s test-security unit repeatedly had recommended tightening security overseas, Reuters reported, but ACT executives rejected the recommendations. ACT’s chief executive, Marten Roorda, has declined to comment.

ACT recently started shipping its test booklets and answer sheets to some locations in lock boxes to guard against leaks. The lock combinations are not distributed until the morning of the test.

Read our full coverage of the testing industry and college admissions here: here

Edited by Michael Williams