The rumor mill at UCLA is working overtime, and it's all about students faking disabilities to boost their test scores:
It's a clandestine rumor that is whispered in the stacks of Powell Library or passed around the table at a study session in Covel Commons.
"My friend Juana knows this guy who pretended he had ADHD, and he got 60 extra hours to take the MCAT. He got into Harvard Medical School because of it and now he's worth millions, and he got a sweet dirt bike track put in his backyard and also a monorail."
"Oh yeah? Well I heard this guy Reuben faked a psychological evaluation and it got him extra time on the GRE and he got into the best English grad school and now he gets to add his own words to the dictionary whenever he wants. That's how 'crunk' got in the Merriam-Webster."
Some students seem to think that the greatest shortcut on the path to graduate school is to fake a disability in order to obtain accommodations when taking standardized tests...
Very sad, but probably true (reporter Daniel Miller's hypothetical examples are pretty funny, though). Students probably do think that faking a disability is perfectly okay as long as one gets a boost from it - but that isn't as easy a task as it sounds:
...after talking with several psychologists and analysts who administer psychological evaluations that determine a patient's disability and the need for accommodations, it has become apparent that the notion that it's easy to lie about a disability to gain accommodations – and that this is a prevalent practice – is a myth.
"Not to sound arrogant but I don't think you could fool me," said David Shirinyan, a clinical psychology graduate student at UCLA who worked in the UCLA Psychology Clinic...
Shirinyan said malingering is most common among law school applicants – students who face the dreaded LSAT...The LSAT, which is administered by the Law School Admission Council, was given on Saturday, so I thought I'd speak with some hardworking students after they completed the rigorous, life-draining examination to see how they felt about malingering.
"I would feel cheated out of all my hard work if I knew about people who lied to get extra time," said Ellie Altshuler, a fourth-year political science student who took the test Saturday. On Sunday, between sips of a celebratory mimosa, Altshuler also said that she did not know of anyone who got undeserved accommodations for the exam. LSAT takers needn't worry about malingerers distorting the test's curve because the scores of students who take the test with accommodations are not considered in the curve for the general exam.
Nice to see a student reporter who's done his research - he had to have contacted LSAC to get the information about accommodated test takers not being used in the final equating of scores. And I'm very glad to see someone put the word out that most testing companies have a series of very rigorous hurdles that one must pass to obtain an accommodated test. LSAC's in particular are quite extensive, especially for cognitive disabilities.
However, there's two groups that Miller forgot to talk with - parents and admission officers. It may very well be that Miller can't find anyone who knows anyone who actually got an undeserved accommodated test - but that doesn't mean they're not trying. Testing companies track the number of accommodated test requests each year, and the requests for accommodations based on cognitive disabilities has been increasing. Admissions officers, too, might have interesting information on any increase in the number of students who request accommodations after being admitted.
Is it easy to fake such a disability? No. But my guess is that people haven't stopped trying, nor will they.Posted by kswygert at December 6, 2004 12:02 PM