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SAT Scores in Asia Delayed Because of Cheating Probe

Fierce competition and a burning desire to study in the U.S. has led to cheating scandals that undermine the credibility of many Asian students.
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   11-06-2015
Students who took the SAT in May at two major international schools in China — including the Western Academy of Beijing — are having their scores withheld by the College Board pending concerns that students cheated.

The College Board sent letters to students notifying them of delayed scores saying it conducts investigations “when warranted based on a reported security incident.” It told students to expect waits of up to five weeks and added that “we are unwavering in our commitment” to ensuring accurate scores. The College Board, however, declined to spell out what form the cheating took when pressed by reporters.

The latest SAT snafu is not a new scandal in Asia. In 2007 and 2013, SAT exam scores of hundreds of candidates in South Korea were cancelled after it was found that students had gained prior access to leaked exam questions.

SAT exam-cheating methods appear to be evolving rapidly as the College Board, which owns the SAT, and the Education Testing Service, which administers the exam, race to tighten security in an era of mobile phones, smart watches and other tech wizardry.

In past years, students have used more conventional means such as "hired brains" to take the exam for them, as has happened in the U.S. While experts say students still try that sometimes, it's become harder as the ETS now requires students to show photographic proof of their identification when signing up for tests, among other measures.

According to reports, on SAT day dubious test prep firms have people sit for the tests at sites in time zones several hours ahead of China, memorize the first few items, then take a “bathroom break,” from which they call or text that information to their superiors. A list of correct answers is then transmitted to paying clients by simple technologies, such as emailing the file to their cell phones or loading it on programmable calculators that students are allowed to use in the test center. Chinese agents advertise on social media that they have staffers taking the test in New Zealand, five hours ahead of China, so they can get answers and share them.

A record 886,052 overseas students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2013-2014, with the largest number — 274,439 — being Chinese nationals, according to the Institute of International Education.

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