Highly selective American universities ask for TOEFL scores from students applying from other countries where English is not the native language (and from non-native English speakers attending high school in the U.S. too). Indeed many highly selective schools have minimum TOEFL requirements. But even if a particular school doesn’t have a minimum requirement, it’s not as though a highly selective school is likely going to admit a student with a 90 TOEFL score because a 90 TOEFL score tells a college admissions officer that this applicant has difficulty with the English language. So when students come to us and say, “But I have the minimum requirement,” you can imagine our response. It goes something like, “That’s great. But you’re not getting in with that TOEFL score.” A bad TOEFL score will absolutely preclude an international student’s admission.
This is all by way of background as we write about how U.S. authorities have arrested four Chinese nationals for a TOEFL cheating scheme. As reports Nate Raymond in a piece about for “Reuters” on the TOEFL scandal, “U.S. authorities said on Thursday they arrested four Chinese nationals who were involved in a scheme to falsely take college entrance exams. Yue Wang, a Chinese student at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, agreed to sit for the TOEFL, the English-language exam widely used to assess foreign applicants, for the trio, federal prosecutors in Boston said. Shikun Zhang, 24, Leyi Huang, 21, and Xiaomeng Cheng, 21, used the exam scores to gain admission to Northeastern University, Penn State University and Arizona State University, respectively, according to prosecutors. Zhang, Huang and Cheng paid Wang, 25, nearly $7,000 take the test after they had failed to meet the universities’ minimum scores, according to charging documents. After they were admitted, the three were issued student visas by the U.S. State Department. They face immigration-related charges of conspiring to defraud the United States, prosecutors said.”
It seems like every few months we report on another testing scandal in Asia. It’s hard to keep track. It’s students like these who make admissions officers think twice when honest, bright, and motivated young people across Asia submit strong TOEFL scores. And that’s quite unfair.