[FOUNTAIN]Economics of cheating on a college exam

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[FOUNTAIN]Economics of cheating on a college exam

Economists often use the yardstick of costs and gains for analysis. They see that the grounds for an action are whether its benefit is greater than the cost. Of course, there are many things in life that the cost-benefit equation cannot explain, but it can sometime simplify a complicated reality.
Why don’t we use the yardstick of cost and gain to analyze the cheating scandal on the College Scholastic Ability Test? The students who conspired to cheat on the exam might have thought that the benefits from the dishonesty would be greater than the cost of being caught. Getting into a college depends mostly on the test results and consequently, the course of a student’s future might be swayed by the examination. The expected gain of academic dishonesty soars.
And based on another economic theory, of comparative advantage, the conspiring students sent out the answers of their subject of choice using the cell phone’s text messaging function. They relied on the laws of probability and considered that the answer that most students chose to be correct would be be right. One hundred students collaborated in the scheme at the same time and achieved the “economics of scale” by enhancing efficiency. They made a capital investment by purchasing a cellular phone. It might have been beyond the capability of the two test proctors to stop the cheating scheme that combined economic theory with high-tech devices.
Again in economic theory, there are two ways to prevent the cheating. One is to raise the cost. More proctors could be used and the students searched more thoroughly. The punishment if caught could be raised.
The other solution would be to lower the gain from cheating on the test. College entry would rely less on the test and each university would have a right to pick their students. That way, the expected gains from cheating on the examination would fall dramatically. The students would not be as eager to cheat under a new cost-benefit analysis.
Of course, the applicants might try to cheat on the entrance exams and screening processes used by each college. But it would be much easier to monitor tightly the tests run by colleges than beef up security for the national test.
Educational authorities are working to come up with a plan. Let’s see which system the authorities will chose.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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