Cheating on the August SAT?

THOUGHTS ON THE AUGUST SAT

 In SAT

As some of you might have heard, there is significant evidence that last Saturday’s August SAT test was similar to, if not the same as, the international October 2017 SAT.  This reuse of testing materials raises two important issues. While the College Board releases test forms from recently administered tests three times a year, the international October 2017 SAT was not one of them. However, this form was leaked illegally online months prior to Saturday’s test, and thus, some students may have seen that test prior to Saturday’s administration. Furthermore, there are reports that students who sat for the international October 2017 SAT and took Saturday’s test, were given the same form.

Unfortunately, it is common practice for some individuals and test prep firms to circulate the questions and answers immediately after a test is administered. In short order, the entire test is reconstructed and posted on various websites like Reddit, giving access to those who are so inclined. If that test is not reused by the College Board, the consequences of such activity are negligible. On the other hand, if the test is administered again, some students obviously gain an unfair advantage.

THE PRACTICE OF REUSING TESTS

As of this email, the College Board has not responded, but it’s important to note that their practice – and the ACT’s practice – of reusing tests is not new, and it’s intentional. For example, the international May SAT was recycled from a U.S. April school day test. Reuters also details examples in an investigative piece it did not too long ago.

Cheating is offensive. When I was in college, first time cheaters were suspended. Zero tolerance. At breakfast this morning, my 10-year-old daughter Bailey asked me what I had to work on today, and I told her I was going to write about cheating on the SAT. She turned to me and said, “Cheating is a real pet peeve of mine.” I laughed and said, “Mine, too, Bai.” Integrity is dear to us at Summit, and it has been for 30 years. It’s one of our 6 Core Values. Maybe to the chagrin of some students and families, Summit will never, ever use these recycled test forms. It’s wrong, it’s unethical, and it’s illegal.

There are 7 national test dates, roughly 5 separate school day tests, and Sunday testing for students with religious conflicts. So, if the College Board is to administer unique tests on every separate test date, they need to create north of 20 tests per year, or a test every 2-3 weeks. And they need to do this year in and year out. While I absolutely do not condone the College Board’s reuse of test forms, it is not hard to understand why even an organization of their size would do so.

But as long as the College Board reuses test forms, and as long as test scores are part of the competitive college admissions process, the nefarious practice of publishing unofficial test forms on the internet will continue. I don’t know the percentage of students who gained an advantage this past Saturday, but I imagine it is tiny, probably less than 0.1%. Apparently, the College Board is willing to accept that. Perhaps the bigger question is whether colleges will continue to accept that as well.

Charlie O'Hearn

Charlie O’Hearn

Charlie O’Hearn is the Founder and CEO of Summit Educational Group, a 28-year old test prep and tutoring company that serves students, families, and schools in southern New England and New York. A graduate of Yale University, Charlie is an expert in the field of tutoring and test preparation. He has written a number of highly regarded test preparation books, and he is a frequent speaker and panelist at education conferences and forums around the country.

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