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College Board Needs to Stop Recycling SAT Tests

Asian test prep schools have exposed the SAT as vulnerable to leakages. Who is to blame?
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   04-04-2016

On the 5th of March, the College Board held the redesigned SAT entrance exam. This was the first time this redesigned SAT was held. As with the earlier SAT, the Board had an eye on leakages. To counter challenges, most of which come from from Asian test prep schools, the Board imposed a new security measure – tutors and other non-students were banned from taking the exam.

But that didn’t help. American test takers took to forums like College Confidential to discuss the test in detail. Popular student websites immediately showed questions from the exam’s reading section. This made it easy for Asian test prep schools to collate the information and report it back to students.

In May, the SAT will be administered overseas. While it is unlikely to feature the same material, this rapid dispersal of test material has raised big questions. News agency Reuters has reported two documents, which contained entire sections from the exams given on 5th March. The authenticity of the documents has been verified by several people, including students who took the exam.

The College Board’s security measures (barring non-students from taking the test, shipping the material in lock boxes, and sending take-down notices, if the test material is online) has not thwarted the Asian test prep industry. The damages are compounded by College Board’s recycling of material from tests held in America. A practice which, it has confirmed, it intends to continue.

Such breaches have led to some American universities and colleges questioning the test’s value as an admission standard. Joy St. John, Dean of Admission, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, spoke to Reuters, “What they should do, step one, is consider ending the practice of reusing test content. If applicants have seen the exam material before taking the test, our ability to select students who are the best fits for Wellesley is really compromised.”

A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities have stopped requiring the tests, and some educators question their usefulness in predicting a students’ success in college. At the same time, the ACT (American College Testing) is increasing its market share in the US, attracting more test takers. Overseas, the SAT remains the preferred choice.

So whom do the leakages benefit? Many test takers feel that wealthier students with ready access to prep centres, and old graded tests, get an unfair leg up in the admissions process. The holes in test security also benefit the expensive tutoring companies in Asia and elsewhere.

If the College Board really intends for SAT to be a level playing field for all students, a reliable standard of admission for universities, and maintain its lead in the market, it urgently needs to rethink its strategies. Laying the blame on Asian cram schools is not the answer.



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