Beginning this fall, individuals taking the rigorous Graduate Management Admission Test will have to submit themselves to a palm-vein scan to ensure that they are who they say they are and not a hired brain paid to bring in a higher score. More accurate than fingerprints, the PalmSecure scan is the next level of security for the exam that is essential to admissions at more than 1,800 graduate schools. In July, 140,638 people took the exam.
"We're committed to weaving the best security possible through the testing programs we provide to customers," said Adam Gaber, spokesman for Pearson Vue, the company that owns the testing centers where the exam is given.
"We chose (PalmSecure) because it is extremely accurate, easy to use, scalable and perceived more positively by test-takers who often associate other biometric technologies, such as fingerprinting, with the police and criminal activity," Gaber said.
In 2003, federal investigators exposed six proxy test takers who took hundreds of exams, including the graduate-admission test, for those willing to pay $3,000 or more for guarantees of high scores.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, the non-profit organization that owns and oversees the graduate-admission test, first used biometric identification in 2006 when it began digital fingerprinting.
"We've had people come back to retest, and it wasn't the same person who tested the first time," council president Dave Wilson said.
When fingerprints didn't match up, the individual would not be allowed to take the test. On one such occasion, a proxy test taker turned and ran when her identity was scrutinized, Wilson said.
When individuals register for the test now, they are digitally fingerprinted, photographed and have their signature recorded. They also are videotaped while taking the exam.
The new PalmSecure, manufactured by Fujitsu, will replace the digital-fingerprinting device, which was sometimes subject to errors due to skin irregularities or poor reads.
Palm-vein patterns remain the same throughout the course of a person's lifetime, even during serious illnesses.
Getting a palm scan is as simple as holding your hand over the device for a few seconds. The scan is 99.99% accurate, and the likelihood that it will record one person's palm as someone else's is less than 0.00008%, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Those who have taken the exam previously and had digital fingerprints taken will still have to reconfirm their fingerprints as well as submit themselves to a palm scan the next time they take the test.
The palm-scan technology is being used in some hospitals in the United States and on automated teller machines in Japan.
Trials of the palm-vein scan for the graduate-admission test will begin this month at some testing sites in South Korea and India. If all goes well, the scanners will be distributed starting in the fall and are scheduled to be in every testing center by March 2009.
Jay Bryant, assistant vice president of admissions and recruiting for the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., said the need for security with exams was underscored by the discovery in June of Scoretop.com. The site posted live graduate admission test questions for VIP site members. The site has since been shut down, and the Graduate Management Admission Council has sued the site's creator, a Chinese citizen.
"Being an international school, (exam security) is something that we are always concerned about and watching for," Bryant said. More than one-half of Thunderbird's students come from outside the United States.
"(The graduate-admission exams) are the one thing (where) every student has equal playing ground because everyone comes from a different background as far as undergraduate major and institution, different work experience," Bryant said.(By Amy Eagleburger, The Arizona Republic---USATODAY)