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Hacker Exposes Evidence of Widespread Grade Tampering In India

timothy posted about a year ago | from the something's-fishy dept.

Education 304

Okian Warrior writes "Hackaday has a fascinating story about Indian college student Debarghya Das: 'The ISC national examination, taken by 65,000 12th graders in India, is vitally important for each student's future: a few points determines which university will accept you and which will reject you. One of [Debraghya]'s friends asked if it was possible to see ISC grades before they were posted. [Debraghya] was able to download the exam records of nearly every student that took the test. Looking at the data, he also found evidence these grades were changed on a massive scale."

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304 comments

and how many people just cramed the test (-1, Offtopic)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43924929)

and how many people just did cramming for the test and have little to know real info on what it as about?

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (2, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#43925073)

Have you seen the curves? They don't even approach a poisson distribution.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925649)

Why would you expect a Poisson distribution?

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43925813)

Are you trying to mock educational standards by pretending to be someone who failed statistics?

Poisson distributions have to do with frequency of repeatable events over time. You meant Gaussian or Normal distribution.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (0)

emilper (826945) | about a year ago | (#43925843)

the test results does not have to be a smooth curve, poisson or otherwise

for example there are 10 questions and you get a number of points if you answer a question right, or you get none if you do not. If the number of points you get for answering each of those questions are not the same, the curve will not look smooth and there will be gaps.

the jagged lines do not indicate cheating, at most poorly designed exam questions

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (4, Informative)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year ago | (#43925153)

The test results were manipulated. There are missing scores (from 1-100) on a test taken by 150,000 students. That is not possible. They have been bumped up to passing. The graphs show jagged peaks separated by gaps rather than a curve. Unless his data is incomplete or has been manipulate, there is no reasonable explanation for the jagged charts.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (2)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43925233)

"There are missing scores (from 1-100) "

Without knowing how many questions are given in each section, and how they're scored, that's not possible to say. The set of possible scores doesn't necessarily include every value from 1-100.

If there are 30 questions in a section, and it's scored on a straight percentage basis, you're going to see discrete peaks every 3.33%, and nothing in between. Gosh, just like on the graphs.

That doesn't explain the odd overall distributions, however.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43925281)

...I'll just add that if the scores are integer rounded, the data points will have an uneven x axis distribution, 0,3,7,10, etc. That will make it appear that points are missing visually, too. Just like on the graphs.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (3, Informative)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year ago | (#43925315)

It definitely does not represent standardization to a score of 100. It's not an even distribution of peaks. It is pushed up above the failing mark, and there is no gap from 94-100. Furthermore, all the different tests in different subjects show the same gaps. This is not reasonable at all.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (0)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43925509)

You're making uninformed assumptions. My example was for a simple case, merely to illustrate.

Why don't you tell us exactly how many questions are in each section? What type of questions, T/F, multiple choice, etc. Any bonus questions, or bonus points available only when a question or score is achieved? Is there a time component? Is a "curve" applied above a certain percentile to differentiate between test takers? Any essay questions requiring subjective scoring?

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (5, Informative)

CurunirAran (2811035) | about a year ago | (#43925411)

The Indian system of education doesn't work like that. Here's a post I made on another forum: You can theoretically attain all marks in the 0-100 range because there is no scaling up. Each paper has components that together total upto a 100. For example, there could be 10 1-mark questions, 15 2-mark questions, 4 3-mark questions, 3 4-mark questions and 6 6-mark questions. Each question can be graded to a fraction of it's worth. So you can get 1.5 on a 2-mark question, 0.5 on a 3-mark question, etc. Thus theoretically, all possible combinations of scores are possible. The absence of certain scores is evidence of tampering. SOURCE: I appeared for the CBSE exams last year. The system is similar, though not the same.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925423)

The author answers your objections. First, the missing values didn't have consistent intervals (it wasn't always every 3 points). Second, the grades from 32 to 34 didn't appear in the data. That gap seems unusual. Third, there weren't gaps from 94% to 100%, so it's known to be possible to attain percentages that aren't divisible by three, for example.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43925441)

There are fragments on the curve with no missing integer values. The marks for the individual questions themselves are docile - there's no reason NO ONE would get a particular score, other than tampering. The dips you see in the curves are ZEROES. As in not a single person getting such mark.

Plus, this just doesn't make sense (2)

KingSkippus (799657) | about a year ago | (#43925491)

So let's say that some numbers are "missing." Why would someone manipulate the exact same numbers to be missing across all of the exams? I mean, I could see bumping a 32, 33, or 34 (non-passing) up to a 35 to have pity on some poor schmuck who came really close to passing, but why would, say, someone change a 93? I mean, not just for one student, but all the way across the board? What possible motivation could someone have to say "That's got to be either a 92 or a 94, we can't have any 93s"?

I'm inclined to believe what the poster above said. They're simply rounding numbers based on the number of questions on the test to some nearby value in a way such that not necessarily every integer between 1 and 100 is represented. In other words, if there are 40 questions on the test, you'll have scores of 3 (rounded from 2.5), 5, 8 (rounded from 7.5), 10, etc. You will never have a score of 76 or 94 or 61. I strongly suspect that if he knew exactly how the test was scored, the "missing numbers" explanation would be pretty obvious.

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (2)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about a year ago | (#43925883)

You need to read TFA http://deedy.quora.com/Hacking-into-the-Indian-Education-System [quora.com] that should give you an idea of what the person in the article talks about with tampering data. Even with 1 question asked in the test, the score range should not be this ugly or the evaluation/grading method is not up to par. TLDR summary, it is statistically impossible to miss that "many" score points between 1~100 from this size of data.

On a side note, I am not sure whether the person is going to jail... I hope there won't be "mysteriously missing or injured" person because India culture is not a western culture...

Re:and how many people just cramed the test (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#43925767)

Of course there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for it: The grades are deliberately manipulated to fit some preconceived distribution. Lots of school systems do it very openly. The only surprising there here is that either the school system didn't disclose that they do it or that some idiot wrote an article without checking first. I don't know which: TL;DR.

Well... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43924939)

Sometimes you have to do the needful to get into the school you want.

Re:Well... (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year ago | (#43925235)

It's being done by the tester, not the students, possibly to keep some people (in specific regions) out of the school they want.

Re:Well... (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#43925313)

It's being done by the tester, not the students, possibly to keep some people (in specific regions) out of the school they want.

It would be interesting to see if the anomalies correspond to cutoff scores for various educational tiers; i.e. if Tier 1 schools require a minimum of say 70 do you see a spike at and after that with a corresponding empty value and or dip just below that. If the anomalies correspond to the cutoff scores for admissions then that would seem to indicate scores were adjusted to help students get in. If you see a spike just before the cutoff and a blank then it may be students were down graded as well.

Re:Well... (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43925675)

Now just graph the scores of the Brahmen. If there is widespread systemic cheating in India it is a safe bet it's being done for the benefit of the Brahmen kids.

They don't just turn into air thieves when they get to the USA. Their parents taught them to be air thieves. They're entitled.

Re:Well... (3, Informative)

richlv (778496) | about a year ago | (#43925819)

i believe that was a joke, aimed at the 'indian english'. just sayin' :)

Re:Well... (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year ago | (#43925879)

I was whooshed...

in jail by the end of the day (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43924963)

This would be true in the US and the UK, and India doesn't even match up to those "high" standards. He'll be in jail because someone with power will be embarrassed by this.

Re:in jail by the end of the day (3, Informative)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about a year ago | (#43925005)

Good thing he's living in the US then.

Re:in jail by the end of the day (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43925099)

Just wait until the Central Indian Agency will snatch him and bag him.

Re:in jail by the end of the day (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43925639)

Yeah, because nobody in the US would go to prison just for typing publicly-accessible Urls...

Re:in jail by the end of the day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925033)

my thoughts exactly i hope someone puts him in a job to secure these systems and not nail him to the wall.

Re:in jail by the end of the day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925149)

not embarrassed.

afraid.

Re:in jail by the end of the day (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43925327)

Can't access the page right now. Here's hoping he tried to contact some proper official, and the official demanded a bribe in order to investigate, so he published it on his blog instead.

Not that that will save him from getting dragged over the legal coals, just that would be extra embarrassing.

Protocol breach (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43924989)

Why did this guy name names of his friends?? WTF is he thinking?! "Grades changed on a massive scale, maybe you can't hurt me but here are some names of my friends you can screw over."

not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID num (1, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43925007)

not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID numbers

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925193)

According to my attorney (a former IT person who went to law school), that qualifies as hacking.

He was helping me with a child custody issue, but he had a case where a woman was accused of hacking. He said clearly she couldn't do it as she could barely use a webbrowser and she was accused of a fairly sophisticated attack. He was thinking about using me as an expert witnesss, so we got talking about the subject. He said he'd obviously argue it wasn't if he was the defense attorney, but that case law present was changing GET parameters qualifies as hacking.

That truly scared me.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925337)

Why should that scare you? The law is not some mechanical code, ignoring human factors like intent.
Just because a website is put together incompetently and you can access data so trivially doesn't mean you have permission to do so.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (1)

the biologist (1659443) | about a year ago | (#43925477)

Actually it does mean you have permission to do so. It doesn't mean the owners meant to give you permission, however.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925881)

Actually it does mean you have permission to do so. It doesn't mean the owners meant to give you permission, however.

No, that's not what permission means, in law or even in regular usage.

Permission means that someone consciously intended to grant you access. It does not mean that they failed to deny you access.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925489)

Just out of curiosity, do you favor the RIAA's position on IP, then?

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about a year ago | (#43925831)

This is ridiculous. I've seen twitter notification mails which miss a slash in the middle of the URL that they are sending. So, is adding that slash back a crime?

With typoes and various bugs so prevalent in web server software all over the world, it's unreasonable to postulate malicious intent for changing URLs.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925579)

Opening an unlocked window to a house you don't own or rent is "breaking and entering". There's a "Bait Car" show in the US where the police leave an open-door car on the street. They arrest anyone who open the door and takes anything. It's worse for those who drive the car away.

I can imagine "modifying GET parameters" is similar legally to an open car door. I am not an attorney.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925199)

A few years back, when i was in high school, they had this exact flaw also, yet they had directory listings enabled... You knew a single url, and you got links to every kids grades. They fixed this and changed the way it gets the url, but i later wrote a script to bruteforce those hexadecimal based urls.
However, at the end of the year, the kids would use this system to choose which classes they took the next year. My friend and i had fun changing some kids classes around.

Back on topic, its not even authentication at any point. Its like someone leaving their shades open, and then suing you for invasion of privacy when you happened to notice that they were laundering money in their living room.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (5, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | about a year ago | (#43925523)

Back in late 2009 and early 2010 I was scraping jail inmate registry records for Scott and Dakota County, MN. This was simply a script which incremented the ID numbers by one several times a day and put them out into a CSV. I uploaded these to Google Docs and had Docs Widgets build simple charts based on those data for a rolling ~6 month window of inmates.

As I started looking deeper into the data I started noticing I had ages lower than 18. Odd I thought but sure enough, Scott County was including their juvenile records in the data mixed with the adults even though it wasn't shown on their public website.

I contacted the County and they fixed the bug (you can read about that here: http://www.lazylightning.org/scott-county-quickly-fixes-juvenile-jail-roster-issue [lazylightning.org] ) but I was still surprised at the relative lack of security for juvenile records:

Within mere minutes of my e-mail they were on the phone with me and informed me they closed the hole. After mentioning that the only way someone may have been able to retrieve a juvenile record is if they âoeguessedâ the booking number, I replied that the booking numbers are sequential and thus âoeguessingâ is as simple as incrementing by 1. After our short discussion they asked me to let them know immediately if I noticed anything else with their data and the call was ended.

It's surprising how lax security is anywhere and to the poster elsewhere in this thread that said this is what you get when you outsource to India, this particular web stuff was not performed with outsourced talent so that comment was nothing short of asinine.

Re:not even hacking just URL typing with fixed ID (1)

mathew42 (2475458) | about a year ago | (#43925853)

This reminds me of back before 2000, when a new grad was asked to write a simple website for businesses registering for GST in Australia. He used the same technique with no authentication on the URL. It wasn't a pleasant experience to turn up at a client site and be greeted by the question "Didn't your company build this website?" and to be shown the newspaper article. As the GST was highly political the Australian Federal Police (AFP) paid a visit to the office.

Caste system (1, Interesting)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#43925009)

Any chance this has to do with the horrible caste system there? Id like to see whos grades were changed. I wouldnt be surprised if they failed people of lower social standing to not let them move up.

Re:Caste system (3, Interesting)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year ago | (#43925437)

There is nothing in the article that indicates caste has anything to do with it. Most of the discussion suggested that the cause may have been to "bump" almost-passing grades to passing grades (and presumably other achievement tiers as well).

Re:Caste system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925471)

Any chance you haven't updated your info recently?

The maltreatment of Dalits in India has been described by some authors as "India's hidden apartheid".[132][133] Critics of the accusations point to substantial improvements in the position of Dalits in post-independence India, consequent to the strict implementation of the rights and privileges enshrined in the Constitution of India, as implemented by the Protection of Civil rights Act, 1955.[134] They also note that India has had a Dalit president, K.R. Narayanan, and argue that the practise had disappeared in urban public life.[135] Several people from Dalit backgrounds have been elected members of Parliament and held senior political posts like chief ministers in several states.

Sounds like progress to me. And don't fool yourself that your society doesn't have some form of social hierarchy.

Remember how low the US is ranked (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925013)

Other countries might not actually be doing better in education. They may just be moving the bar.

Re:Remember how low the US is ranked (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43925369)

The US has never been high on education.
At least from K-12, College Education in the US is rated quite high though.

If you have ever worked with a lot of these students from non-US background. You find that they are quite booked learned, however tend not to be very good in the practical matters of actual work.

For example in Computer Science, it is good to know how Big O works and how memory allocation, and following an object oriented structure works. However you need practice to know when and how to use the skills learned.
Ok I have a double nested loop, I know that my be O(n^2). But only experience may allow you make a different method that does the same thing in speed of O(n).

Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about a year ago | (#43925017)

Looks like his observations might have been the result of standardizing the test scores... IE if you have a test that only scores 50 max and you scale it to 100 obviously you aren't going to have many odd numbers in the results.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925121)

Looks like his observations might have been the result of standardizing the test scores... IE if you have a test that only scores 50 max and you scale it to 100 obviously you aren't going to have many odd numbers in the results.

He points out that in some of the tests all scores of 94-100 inclusive were obtained, so it's not a case of leaving out odds or a regularly-spaced set of numbers based on a simple scaling up/down.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#43925195)

It also doesn't explain why even numbers would be missing. Or why the bell curve in his final graph would be skewed.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (0)

telchine (719345) | about a year ago | (#43925197)

Oh well, if Reddit users say it then it must be true!

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about a year ago | (#43925205)

I agree. The distributions are most likely the result of some doubling of actual scores, combined with a small amount of manipulation.

It's clear that there was some rounding-up done near the pass/fail line. It's also clear that there is some extra or different standard of rounding/normalization for those scoring above 90 (or 93).

The fact that they aren't transparent about it is lame, but very Indian.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (2)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43925209)

Not all his observations. The notable lack of scores leading up to the pass point and the sudden spike at that exact point are particularly notable.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925269)

Can you really blame teachers for helping their borderline students pass? It happens all the time.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43925601)

On a test like this? Yes, I can blame them. The thing is, we can't assume it's the teachers themselves doing it. There would be a bit less consistency.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (2)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year ago | (#43925211)

I thought so too, but the problem is when you overlay the various tests for different subjects, they all show the same missing points. Standardizing different tests (in different subjects) would not produce identical gaps when overlaid unless all 150,000 students performed exactly the same for each subject – which is just not believable.

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (1)

Eevee (535658) | about a year ago | (#43925275)

if you have a test that only scores 50 max and you scale it to 100 obviously you aren't going to have many odd numbers in the results.

The thing is, you'll have no odd numbers when you double the values. It's those odd numbers that only occur up in the 90s that stand out--if they are scaling like your theory, then the scorers are screwing with the upper values. If they aren't, they're screwing with the lower values to make those jagged peaks. (And there's still the issue of the missing "just below passing" scores.)

Re:Reddit threw the findings into doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925577)

Erm... in your example you wouldn't have ANY odd numbers... he also has a fair explanation of just this criticism of his report. RTFA.

That was a great article.. (4, Insightful)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about a year ago | (#43925059)

More for the discussion of statistics than for the really sad excuse for security on those pages..

Re:That was a great article.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925535)

I though it was great because it shows a young kid with curiousity, technical and mathematical aptitude and a huge interest in investigating and understanding things.

It's a damn shame that, like someone else has pointed out, this will probably just land him in trouble with the authorities.

outsourcing to india (4, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43925069)

this is the type of coding that you get in India stuff done on the cheap and likely to coded to spec with no thinking about how bad of a idea this is.

Re:outsourcing to india (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43925355)

He is a twelfth grader. This is one off code without any lasting value. Writing a generalized code for this purpose would be an over design. Next thing you will be complaining people doing mental arithmetic to figure out how much that shoe on sale is going to cost are not modularizing and reusing their mental faculties. Jeez. Give that boy a break.

Re:outsourcing to india (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925609)

Grandparent is talking about the code that he hacked, not the code he wrote.

Re:outsourcing to india (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925631)

He's talking about the people that wrote the website distributing the scores.

or.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925081)

Or it is an artifact of the scoring system.

Re:or.... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43925237)

A chunk of missing grades before the pass point and a spike at the pass point is not an artifact of the scoring system. The missing numbers, however, could well be.

Just like the SAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925087)

A lot of this can just be explained by curving scores to a pre-determined pattern, just like every other standardized test. Plotting SAT scores will get you the same hedgehog curve, since you can't get a score that's not a multiple of 10 IIRC. The IT failure here is still inexcusable.

Re:Just like the SAT (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year ago | (#43925157)

The problem he pointed out is that there are parts of every graph where the non-multiple case applies. This refutes the "every score is a multiple" theory, unless multiplication was not the final step. If there is a step after multiplication, how are bonus points awarded?

Ha, the joy of working with indian engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925151)

And after that, they will come saying:
- I am an engineering graduate of a super indian university Sir, I swear that I can code your new SW in 3 minutes for $5! (while shacking their head!)

Makes you wonder why 10 months after you get some crap that is barely working!

cyrille

Why the Education Board? (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year ago | (#43925177)

If there was tampering, why is it the assumption of the education board doing the tampering? Maybe other students found this obviously easy "hack" but improved upon the method to actually modify the data.

Or just buy degree (5, Interesting)

anvilmark (259376) | about a year ago | (#43925183)

Nothing I hear about education fraud in India surprises me since one of my Indian coworkers explained how people "buy" degrees from Indian universities.
University employees can be bribed to create the records for an entire curriculum, spanning multiple years of attendance. This record is indistinguishable from a valid one and generates a real diploma. The University will confirm education because "it's in the system".
I think he said it cost about $3000 USD or so for a Masters degree.

Re:Or just buy degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925319)

Wait till he is disappeared... or mysteriously goes offline... or finds himself jail painted terribly by the media and the politicians..

in 3... 2... 1....

Re:Or just buy degree (1)

kevinT (14723) | about a year ago | (#43925445)

Does that "University" have an on line program? I have a "friend" that would be very appreciative if ... "they" could get a BS degree documented. ....

Massive "scale" is the appropriate term... (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | about a year ago | (#43925191)

I think his results could be explained if the calculation of the final mark in a subject area involve some dodgy math to scale the result such that some intermediate step compresses the possible result to a discrete range of say 50 or so values which are then scaled / normalized to a 0-100 range. This expansion will result in every other final score value being impossible to obtain.

They may be scoring different parts of the exams with different weights, and then combining and scaling the results together, and I could imagine that process could produce the distribution he's seeing even without malicious intent of some sort.

This seems much more likely than some conspiracy to adjust grades which managed to produce so specific a set of results. The testing board may be playing with the overall weighting and projection of the raw scores onto a final normalized 0-100 range, but then that's what such organizations do to try to account for variations in the test questions from year to year, and I think in the US the SAT people do very similar things.

In other words, his data don't immediately indicate any per-student grade manipulation that I can see. The author is also a bit too proud of his accomplishment and indicates that he's clever, but perhaps also a bit young and naive.

G.

Re:Massive "scale" is the appropriate term... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925297)

In other words, his data don't immediately indicate any per-student grade manipulation that I can see. The author is also a bit too proud of his accomplishment and indicates that he's clever, but perhaps also a bit young and naive.

Well judging by the words he throws around to make his data scraping seem much more complicated, he definitely thinks hes clever.

Re:Massive "scale" is the appropriate term... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925373)

I think his results could be explained if the calculation of the final mark in a subject area involve some dodgy math to scale the result such that some intermediate step compresses the possible result to a discrete range of say 50 or so values which are then scaled / normalized to a 0-100 range. This expansion will result in every other final score value being impossible to obtain.

There's a tendency at least at $DAYJOB to map scores to grades as a piecewise linear function, usually of 2-3 pieces. If they map all the low scores in one piece to 0..35, the "normal" scores to 35..90 in another, and the very high scores (usually the top third or so of the points achievable) to 90..100, that would seem to explain the data (with your discretization argument applied to the "normal" scores in the middle part).

The gap at 30..35 is also not so hard to explain. Standard procedure here is to reconsider the not-quite-passing cases carefully, and try to find arguments why they veer more on the barely-passing or more on the not-passing side. At least in the barely-passing case, the grades must then be adjusted to match.

that explanation doesn't fly (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#43925539)

There are ranges where every integer is represented, other ranges where every other one is missing.

The real smoking gun is that several grades just below a passing grade appear to be promoted up to pass.

Re:Massive "scale" is the appropriate term... (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43925669)

When all the scores for 2 to 3 places immediately below the failing grade are missing, you don't see a problem?

Re:Massive "scale" is the appropriate term... (1)

Torinir (870836) | about a year ago | (#43925715)

Actually, given the consistent spiking at specific grades on the ISC and ICSE charts, there may be some significant "grace" marking going on, and not just at the pass mark, I'm talking larger than normal shifts between valid marks (around the 70's and 90's). Both the ISC and ICSE tests are 40 questions on every subject, so there shouldn't be any marks at 96, 98 and 99 too, yet those graphs suggest that some students did get those marks.

E-systems WILL be manipulated if motivation exists (0)

Catbeller (118204) | about a year ago | (#43925225)

E-voting, e-grading, any system that people have motivation to cheat with will be used to cheat. This is why e-voting is a recipe for wholesale theft of the future. Combine wealthy interests which own the e-voting companies with motivation numbering in the trillions of dollars, and voting is and will be a farce. Shut it down.

Re:E-systems WILL be manipulated if motivation exi (1)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year ago | (#43925775)

oh please, people have been stuffing ballot boxes since voting was invented. computer systems aren't inherently any less secure than analog ones. go live in a shack in the woods if you hate progress so much.

Wont jump to conclusions. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43925261)

The major revelation is there are certain totals nobody got. I mean, no one got 78 marks or 67 marks out of 100 in a subject. By itself it is not evidence of tampering. If all the questions had only even number of marks, then nobody would get odd number of marks in total. From what I recall from my high school final papers, there were a few one mark questions, some five marks and some 10 mark questions. But that was decades ago. Now with the rise in objective questions etc, it is possible the entire paper was so structured it is impossible to get some totals.

On the other hand, even if there are a sprinkling of one mark questions, the graph would be expected to be uniform. Anyway, good job of a twelfth grader to hack javascript at this level.

Re:Wont jump to conclusions. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43925323)

That boy is good. He proved that all marks are attainable. There is massive award of "grace" marks.

Re:Wont jump to conclusions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925407)

The major revelation is there are certain totals nobody got. I mean, no one got 78 marks or 67 marks out of 100 in a subject. By itself it is not evidence of tampering. If all the questions had only even number of marks, then nobody would get odd number of marks in total. From what I recall from my high school final papers, there were a few one mark questions, some five marks and some 10 mark questions. But that was decades ago. Now with the rise in objective questions etc, it is possible the entire paper was so structured it is impossible to get some totals.

On the other hand, even if there are a sprinkling of one mark questions, the graph would be expected to be uniform. Anyway, good job of a twelfth grader to hack javascript at this level.

True, we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Some of it sounds too good to be a coincidence though- "32, 33 and 34 were visibly absent... Coincidentally, 35 happens to be the pass mark."

Re:Wont jump to conclusions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925417)

It depends on how many questions were on the test.

If there were 100 in each test then all 100 grades would be attainable. If there were 20. Then yes there are grades you can not get and you would see a spiky graph. However there are noticeable drop offs in numbers as specific ranges 85-90 and 30-40. That is not explainable. There are also graphs where everyone is hovering around 95%. Either the test sucks, someone is pumping it up, or they are all just that smart (unlikely given the other graphs).

Re:Wont jump to conclusions. (1)

CurunirAran (2811035) | about a year ago | (#43925449)

Stuff hasn't changed. I gave the CBSE exam a year ago, nothing has changed.

Well, duh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925299)

Convert a mark out of 60 (OK, not exactly 60, but somewhere around there), to a mark out of 100 and you get a distribution like this. The only oddity is the extended gap just below 35 - but this is also understandable. Most students with a mark of 34 will request a remark, and you will usually be able to find one extra mark. As a result, most markers will just bump 34 to 35 to get rid of that hassle.

OK BUT IT IS INDIA !! ALABAMA'S ALABAMA !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925359)

So it is a, WHO CARES !! It is not like Indians do not have a million more important problems !!

Look at the bright side (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925379)

You might have a person with an IQ of 140 helping you next time you call customer support.

Education in India (5, Informative)

cfulton (543949) | about a year ago | (#43925383)

I lived in India for a year. What I can tell you of the eduction system there is that it is not the juggernaut of higher ed that we are told it is in America. I had one person working for me as a developer who had a degree in Computer Science. We were getting ready to set up some servers with our application server software. He was very excited since he had taken several courses in UNIX but had never actually been on one. They had done all the course work with pen and paper:

What does "ls -l" do? Please describe below.

That kind of thing. So, I'm not surprised if institutions are manipulating test scores. India is more about the perception of computer savvy developers than the reality of it.

His Conclusions Seem Unfounded... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925419)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but having read through these results, I'm pretty convinced that he sees numbers that are not showing up in scores and is therefore inferring there is widespread grade tampering. That doesn't seem particularly well backed up by his own published facts.

It may have been more interesting to consider the distribution of scores instead of the irregularity of scores to determine if there was some kind of tampering. Either way, this feels like a leap that is weak at best.

Re:His Conclusions Seem Unfounded... (1)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year ago | (#43925643)

yup. there does seem to be some evidence of grace scores down near the passing level, and it'd be interesting to theorize about the bimodal distribution he's seeing in places, but the jagged graphs are what he seems to be most concerned about, which are most likely simply a product of how the test was weighted or curved or whatever.

Certifications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925443)

Same goes for certs from India. While staying there, I got plenty of industry certificates, just by paying "training fee" - in India, if you pay training, the perception is you get the certificate.

Looks like mark scaling (1)

Excelcia (906188) | about a year ago | (#43925553)

The results look to me like some sort of scaling. In fact, if you load up Gimp, take a photo and go into levels and compress the input levels, when you go back and look at the levels again the graph will look almost identical to what these marks graphs look like. It looks to me like the marks spread is being expanded and the algorithm isn't smooth.

i think he's mostly wrong! (1)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year ago | (#43925615)

the thing he seems most concerned about are that out of 200,000 or so students, there are many marks that were not received, especially in the middle sections of the grades. values like 81, 83, 85, etc. were earned by zero students while values like 80, 82, 84 were received by tons.

this seems absurdly easy to explain.

say students are graded on a 50-point scale, which is then doubled (eliminating half of all possible values), and then some kind of curve is applied, which bends some values into other-wise unattainable scores, especially at the uppermost and lowermost values, but shifts things a little in the middle too, so that things don't work out exactly that only even values are attainable or whatever. that would result in a similar-looking distribution.

his numbers DO show substantial evidence that people just below passing are being bumped up to passing grades. although again it's hard to know for sure without knowing how the exam is weighted.

War Games?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43925695)

... and a ticket for Paris...

Finally... (1, Informative)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43925739)

Was I the only one reading the article thinking, "Finally, a developer from India that can think deeply about a problem without being told what to do, and then write software that works..."?

Some basic problems with this story (2, Insightful)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#43925745)

"Hacked" means "retrieved from a web server in the way they were intended to be retrieved." The fact the webserver was completely unsecured is, however, worrying.

"Widespread grade tampering" means "statistical evidence that the final grades are not the raw grades, but have been adjusted according to some system as yet unidentified." The nature of the adjustment is as yet unidentified - it could be nefarious, or is much more likely to be according to policy. Pretty much every school system in existence does this.

So the headline should really read, "Student stumbles across results on unsecured website and doesn't understand the grading system." It's not really news.

Why is this surprising? (5, Informative)

prattle (898688) | about a year ago | (#43925809)

If the author is surprised (by the grades, not the security), it is because he has never been a teacher.

1. Teachers have to ensure that their class marks have a certain average and median before they submit them. There can't be too many failures either.

2. Teachers know not to give a grade of 49 if the pass is 50 since the student will argue to get that missing point. If you want to be safer, just don't give out anything in the forties.

3. If a test gives letter grades, that equates to a particular number. A = 85, A- = 83, and so on. In that case, no one gets an 84, ever.

What!? (2)

X86BSD (689041) | about a year ago | (#43925847)

Cheating and corruption in *India*?! No. Fucking. Way! I expect nothing less in the rape capital of the world. P.s. my wife is indian and I have first experience with how corrupt and vile that country is. From cops, to repairmen to government officials.
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