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Integrity of SAT given Saturday nationwide is questioned

The College Board Wednesday would not address reports

The College Board Wednesday would not address reports questioning the integrity of the SAT administered on Saturday, after test-takers said portions of the test were the same as those given in China and South Korea in the fall. Credit: iStock

The College Board on Wednesday would not address reports questioning the integrity of the SAT administered nationwide on Saturday, after numerous test-takers said portions of the paper-based admissions test were the same as those given in China and South Korea last fall.

“We know that many test-takers had said they had seen the test in advance,” Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a Boston-based organization critical of the SAT and ACT exams, said in an interview Wednesday.

Inside Higher Ed and the Los Angeles Times published reports this week that included screenshots from social media posts showing images of a test book and people's written remarks that the same exam was given as the International SAT in October 2017.

There also was speculation that the October exam's questions and answers, which were not made publicly available by College Board, were circulating in South Korea and China — potentially giving some students an unfair advantage on the exam given Saturday in the United States, Schaeffer said.

“We don’t know how many people saw the test in advance or how much that would have changed results," he said.

College Board officials would not comment on whether an investigation was being done or if the integrity of the test was compromised.

“For security reasons, we cannot comment on the specifics of question usage and test administration schedules,” said Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan-based nonprofit that sponsors the exam.

In the past when test questions were in circulation before the exam's administration, College Board canceled the exam, Schaeffer said. If that is suspected after the fact, a notice may go out to affected students saying their score may not be the result of a properly administered exam and giving them the option of taking the test again at no cost, he said.

Nearly 2 million students in the Class of 2017 — 135,141 of those in New York State — took the SAT at least once, according to College Board's most recent data.

The total number of students who took the exam on Saturday was not available. According to College Board's website, the exam was administered at 15 locations on Long Island.

College Board has come under fire in recent years for recycling exam questions at a time when security breaches have become more common.

“In the 21st century, in an era of micro-cameras, secret messaging apps, etc., once a test is administered, it’s widely available,” Schaeffer said. There are test preparation businesses, particularly in China and South Korea, that specialize in stealing the exams, he said.

Carayol said the organization has significantly increased its testing and security efforts and resources in response to the theft and organized cheating.

“We have a comprehensive approach to test security and go to great lengths to make sure that the test scores we report are accurate and valid. In all our efforts, we’ve worked to strike a balance between thwarting those seeking an unfair advantage and providing testing opportunities for the vast majority of students who play by the rules,” she wrote in an email.

After every test administration, College Board takes additional steps before scores are released, including conducting a “comprehensive statistical analysis of certain test scores,” she said. “If we determine students have gained an unfair advantage, we will take appropriate actions, including canceling test scores and, in some cases, prohibiting them from taking another College Board assessment.”

While the SAT and its rival, the ACT, an Iowa-based organization, are used by colleges and universities nationwide in their admission decision-making process, more and more institutions are eliminating a requirement that applicants take the tests.

According to FairTest, 1,116 accredited bachelor’s degree-granting institutions nationwide are "test-optional" or "test-flexible" in making admissions decisions on recent high school graduates.

Upcoming SAT administration dates, deadlines

Register by Sept. 7 for the Oct. 6 exam.

Register by Oct. 5 for the Nov. 3 exam.

Register by Nov. 2 for the Dec. 1 exam.

For more information:

Source: College Board

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