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ETS Settles Lawsuit Against Kaplan Over Alleged Misuse of Test Questions

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The Educational Testing Service last week settled its lawsuit against a test-preparation company that copied questions from the computerized version of the Graduate Record Examination to show how easy it was to cheat.

Under the terms approved Jan. 21 by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in Baltimore, Kaplan Educational Centers Inc. agreed to pay the Princeton, N.J.-based testing company $150,000 and to refrain from memorizing and reproducing ETS test questions again.

The ETS sued Kaplan in 1994 after the New York City-based test-preparation company sent 22 test-takers to sit for a pioneering version of the GRE, which is taken annually by 400,000 students hoping to enter graduate school. Unlike pencil-and-paper versions, the computerized test, known as the GRE-cat, is adapted to students' differing abilities.

A test-taker who answers a particular question correctly, for example, is given progressively more difficult questions to answer. That feature, the ETS maintained, prevented test-takers from memorizing questions and passing them on to others.

Copyright Violation Claimed

But, according to Judge Motz, Kaplan successfully proved that some questions on the test reappeared frequently enough to enable cheating to occur--a shortcoming that the ETS has since corrected.

Kaplan passed its findings on to the testing company and hired a public relations firm to publicize its accomplishment.

Among the allegations in its lawsuit, the ETS contended that Kaplan's actions had infringed on its copyright and hurt its testing program.

Kaplan, for its part, argued that its actions were legal because it was using the questions to point out security problems, not to prepare future test-takers.

"Although Kaplan does not admit its conduct was illegal," the company said in a statement late last week, "it recognizes now that some of its actions were inappropriate and that ETS was harmed by what took place."

Kaplan also pointed out that its actions were not based on any concrete evidence that widespread cheating was going on with the tests.

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  • ETS issued a statement on Jan. 22, 1998 about its settlement with Kaplan Educational Centers. ETS also issued a clarification later that day, explaining that Kaplan conceded only that "some of actions were inappropriate."
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