The scam involved 13 different exams conducted by Vyapam, for selection of medical students and state government employees (including food inspectors, transport constables, police personnel, school teachers, dairy supply officers and forest guards) where the final results were rigged. The exams were taken by around 3.2 million students each year, many of whom were actually paid proxies for other undeserving students. It also included an "engine-bogie" system wherein seating arrangements were manipulated so that a paid smarter student was seated between two others to allow the latter to copy answers from the former.
Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), popularly known by its Hindi acronym "Vyapam" (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal), is a self-financed and autonomous body incorporated by the state government responsible for conducting several entrance tests in the state. These entrance exams are held for recruitment in government jobs and admissions in educational institutes of the state. The scam involved a collusion of undeserving candidates, who bribed politicians and MPPEB officials through middlemen, to get high ranks in these entrance tests. The scam also led to between 23 and 40 'unnatural' deaths of involved individuals, though unofficial figures run well into more than a 100 custodial deaths including the erstwhile MP Governor's son and deaths in staged road accidents. Cases of irregularities in these entrance tests had been reported since the mid-1990s, and the first FIR was filed in 2000. However, until 2009, such cases were not thought to be part of an organized ring. When major complaints surfaced in the pre-medical test (PMT) in 2009, the state government established a committee to investigate the matter. The committee released its report in 2011, and over a hundred people were arrested by the police. However none of the accused have been convicted as most of them either suspiciously died in custody or were released on bail.
The sheer scale of the scam came to light in 2013, when the Indore police arrested 20 people who had come to impersonate candidates for PMT 2009. The interrogation of these people led to the arrest of Jagdish Sagar, the leader of an organized racket involved in the scam. The state government established a Special Task Force (STF) on 26 August 2013. Subsequent interrogations and arrests uncovered the involvement of several politicians, bureaucrats, MPPEB officials, racket leaders, middlemen, candidates and their parents in the scam. By June 2015, more than 2000 people had been arrested in connection with the scam. These included the state's ex-education minister Laxmikant Sharma and over a hundred other politicians. In July 2015, the Supreme Court of India issued an order to transfer the case to the country's premier investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). In the same year, the Wikipedia page of Vyapam scam became the 19th most viewed page on Wikipedia globally.
Many senior personnel including Justice Bhushan who heads the Special Investigative team and Indian doctors including Anand Rai (the whistle blower in this case) are of the opinion that the Vyapam scam was functional since the 1990s when they themselves took their medical exams. They also believe that Vyapam is just the tip of the iceberg, and similar "systems" of proxies giving medical exams are operational in other states of India as well.