College Board officials announced Monday that they will not include scores on a section of the 10-part SAT given Saturday after students and proctors were given different information on how much time would be allowed to finish the questions.
The officials said the confusion stemmed from a printing error. Some students may have panicked since they had read in SAT booklets that they were allotted 25 minutes to finish while proctors told them they had only 20 minutes.
"On Saturday, June 6, Educational Testing Service (ETS) informed the College Board that there was a printing error in the standard test books ETS provided to students taking the SAT that day in the United States," the Manhattan-based testing agency wrote on its website. "We apologize for this error."
It was unclear how many students were affected, but the test was administered nationwide.
"My first reaction to this was, 'Holy moly!' these kids are already stressed about taking the SAT," said Roberta Gerold, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the Middle Country School District. "That can throw a kid. It can take seconds to minutes for them to refocus."
Gerold said that as many as 500 students took the exam in her district on Saturday.
The solution, College Board officials said, is that the section will not be counted in the overall score, though students will still receive valid scores for their performance on the exam overall. They reasoned that they designed the exam with equally difficult reading and math sections so that if one portion is compromised because of a fire drill or other logistical problems, they may use the other sections and still yield an accurate assessment.
"After a comprehensive review and statistical analysis, the College Board and ETS have determined that the affected sections will not be scored and we will still be able to provide reliable scores for all students who took the SAT on June 6," the organization wrote. "We expect to deliver scores within the usual timeframe."
Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a group devoted to eliminating problems its sees in standardized testing, said the glitch puts a spotlight on the exam that is critical in the high-stakes game of college admissions.
"They have admitted that administration of a portion of last Saturday's exam was not 'standardized' since some students had 20 minutes to complete the items while others had 25 due to the test-makers' error," he said.
In a statement, Schaeffer said: "How do they assure all reported scores are consistent, accurate and fair? This foul-up will further accelerate the movement for college and university admissions offices to drop SAT requirement."