In late August, a Florida man whose daughter took the August 25 SAT filed a class-action lawsuit against the College Board, the company that owns the SAT. As reported in The Washington Post, the lawsuit “alleges that the College Board breached its ‘fiduciary duty by recycling old exam questions, including those that have been publicly disseminated prior to the SAT exam.'”
Allegedly, the August SAT included questions from an SAT that was administered in October 2017 in Asia. According to students who took the August test, these questions had been posted online. In addition, some students who took the October 2017 SAT in Asia came to the U.S. to take the August exam because the SAT was not given in Asia in August. Therefore, these students were familiar with some of the test’s content.
So, who’s at fault? Obviously, the lawsuit contends that the College Board is. In response to the suit, the company released a statement about how it has beefed up its security measures in recent years to prevent this sort of thing from happening. It also stated that if it determines a student had an unfair advantage on a test, it would cancel that student’s scores. Yet, how would the College Board know if an individual student had seen the questions before taking the SAT?
There have even been reports that College Board found out prior to the August SAT that questions from Asia’s October 2017 exam had been posted online. If that’s true, then why didn’t College Board cancel the August test?
Speaking of cancellations, more than 2,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that all scores from the August SAT be cancelled. Most students’ scores have now been released, so cancelling them is no longer an option. Yet, some students have asked that colleges refuse to accept August scores.
But is that really fair to the majority of test-takers who had no knowledge of any questions before the test? Many high school seniors (including some with whom I work) took the August SAT with the hope of improving their scores. If they did improve (as all of my students did) and colleges won’t accept their scores, students will be forced to choose between submitting lower scores or taking the test yet again.
Students from Asia who took the SAT there last year and then took it in the U.S. in August would not have known they would see the same questions again. Therefore, any unfair advantage they had was no fault of their own. Undeniably, there were students who found the October 2017 questions online and knowingly gained an advantage on the August test. While I am in no way endorsing cheating, I think the onus is on College Board to not reuse questions.
The aforementioned lawsuit seems to take a similar stance. It states, (according to The Washington Post), “Rather than accept the responsibility and acknowledge its errors, the College Board, and by association, ETS [the company that administers the SAT], appear to blame students for their failure to keep the exam secure.”
Unfortunately, not recycling test questions may not be as simple as it sounds. The issue, College Board says, is money. A 2016 Reuters article reported that it costs $1 million and can take over two years to develop a brand new SAT with never-before-used questions. In that article, a College Board spokesperson said the cost of developing all-new tests would be passed on to test-takers.
I’d argue that students and parents would be willing to pay more for the SAT if College Board could guarantee that no student taking an exam had previously seen the questions.
Only time will tell as far as what the courts will decide and what, if anything, College Board will do to better ensure the security of its exams.