Lawsuit: MCATs "Compromised" By Prep Firm

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Lawsuit: MCATs "Compromised" By Prep Firm

APRIL 7--Claiming that a major test preparation firm has been illegally "tapping" the biannual Medical College Admission Test, a consortium of the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals has filed a federal lawsuit charging the Manhattan-based Princeton Review with copyright infringement, fraud, and misappropriation of trade secrets.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, in a March 21 complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleged that Princeton Review officials regularly send a platoon of "tappers" to take the test "in order to memorize confidential MCAT questions." The complaint contends that those questions were then compiled into a confidential "tap report" that was circulated to Princeton Review officials and instructors of the publicly-held company's MCAT test prep course (which costs enrollees $1400).

According to the federal complaint, AAMC officials obtained a copy of the prep firm's tap report for the April 2002 MCAT (the test is also given each August). The internal Princeton Review document included a remarkable 178 of the test's 221 questions. The next MCAT is scheduled for April 26.

Claiming that Princeton Review distributed questions "which AAMC plans to use on future forms of the MCAT," the medical schools organization charged that the company's actions "compromised" the April and August 2002 tests as well as prior exams. The AAMC noted that while the non-profit group itself sells practice material, the MCAT questions included "have been retired." AAMC represents the nation's 126 medical schools and 400 teaching hospitals.

In its lawsuit--a key excerpt of which you'll find below--AAMC charged that any Princeton Review employee who "tapped" the MCAT "made a knowingly false statement" when certifying on the test answer sheet that they agreed not to memorize or try to reconstruct test questions, In addition, test takers are required to verify that they were taking the MCAT for the sole purpose of "preparing to enroll in a health professions school."

Founded in 1981, Princeton Review is one of the country's largest test prep firms, with revenue of $89.2 million last year (up 29 percent from 2001's $69.1 million take). The company has 470 full-time employees and its stock trades for about $5 per share on the NASDAQ.