Do we need to worry about Saturday's SAT now?
YOU DID THAT. 🎉— The College Board (@CollegeBoard) August 25, 2018
Congratulations to everyone who took the SAT today!
Here we go again.
On Saturday, we here at Monument City Tutoring were enjoying a moment of calm. Our students had already put in their hard work, we supported them, and all that was left to do was sit back, relax, and send good vibes to testing centers the country over.
Then we saw this:
If you're wondering how a student walking into yesterday's test could already have completed that same test in a practice book, you're asking the same questions we are today.
Here's what it seems has happened: the College Board had already used Saturday's test, back in October of 2017, in international testing centers only. If you're shocked and horrified to learn that the College Board reuses their tests, I only have bad news for you, because this is something they do pretty regularly. The idea behind it isn't actually completely dreadful: they can't use one test only across all testing centers internationally, because theoretically a student in Sydney could take the test, then call up his buddy in New York and tell him what was on it. Different tests are needed even on the same testing day to ensure fairness for all timezones, and to minimize the possibility of cheating. Here we run into the problem: if I'm the College Board, and I've put a whole lot of time, effort, and money into creating this test, do I only want to offer it to a small segment of my customers? Of course not! I want to maximize my investment by recycling that test with an audience who hasn't seen it yet. And if all goes well, and all of my students do the right thing, then there's absolutely no reason why this shouldn't work out just fine. Do you see where we're going with this?
The serious problem with Saturday's test is that it appears to have leaked after its first use. This means that someone - student, test prep company, or just a shady person who sees a moneymaking opportunity when he sees it - took the SAT in October of 2017, left the center, recreated the test, and sold it.
What's worse, this isn't even the first time this has happened. Back in 2016, the College Board redesigned the SAT, and hundreds of test questions were promptly leaked in an event that experts called "among the worst security lapses in college-admissions testing history." The College Board has acknowledged their inability to prevent international test prep companies from obtaining test materials and selling them on for a high price to students or other test prep companies. Back in 2016, Reuters interviewed a UCLA sophomore about his experience with one of these companies:
"His study aid was far more valuable than the practice questions that students in America use to prepare for the SAT, the standardized test used by thousands of U.S. colleges to help select applicants. Known in Chinese as a jijing, the booklet was essentially an answer key. It revealed words from the correct responses to multiple-choice questions that had appeared on past SATs - many of which would be used again on the exam Ding took.
Thanks to the booklet, Ding said he already knew the answers to about half of the critical reading section of the SAT when he took the test in Hong Kong in December 2013.
“I felt really lucky,” Ding said.
His score on that section? A perfect 800, he said."
In some cases, the article alleges, the College Board knew that the test was compromised, and administered it anyway.
So, what now?
We don't know exactly how College Board plans to handle this. Their policy is never to comment publicly on whether or not a test has been compromised, and a statement from their senior director of media relations to Inside Higher Ed today seems to be holding to that. What we do know is what they've done in the past, which is cancel the scores of students they suspect of cheating, and cancel international test dates with little warning to students. While this approach will likely catch some of the more flagrantly dishonest students, it will certainly allow some to slip through the net while simultaneously punishing the entire international test-taking community.
Our advice? Between June's grading-curve debacle and August's compromised test, the SAT is not proving itself a reliable choice at the moment. If they can, we are encouraging our students to consider the ACT as well as the SAT this fall.