College Board must take measures to protect SAT’s integrity
In countries like South Korea and China, test prep centers are as popular and extensive as Starbucks here in the United States. To compete and survive in the overcrowded market of a testing-obsessed culture, test prep centers have turned to unethical means by obtaining copies of tests ahead of time in order to stimulate business — anything to give their students an edge.
Widely heralded as the crux of every college applicant’s profile, especially overseas, the SAT comes with pressure and controversy. Stories of students walking into the test already familiar with half of the questions or taking the test for other students have become so frequent that it is no longer reasonable to deny that testing officials are facing both an ethical and security problem.
When College Board released a new 1600-point scale version of the SAT in March 2016, testing cram centers jumped to be the first to gage the new test. They had teachers wait outside U.S. centers to gather answers and foraged online forums, such as College Confidential, for recent-takers discussing the new SAT in detail.
What allows this to happen is, foremost, the time difference. If College Board distributed the test at the same time globally, not necessarily all in the morning, and took measures to have the test be different by country, the test would have a much smaller chance of being compromised overseas.
Yes, to create multiple versions of the test for each time zone is expensive and inefficient. But preserving the integrity of the test is much more important than trying to reduce the organization’s costs, or so it should be to College Board. Its practice of repeatedly recycling tests only provides students with access to test prep centers and previous test copies with a significant advantage.
New York Daily News reported that, in the past three years, American high schools were administering tests with sections already previously administered at least five times. A makeup exam in April 2015 was the same one given in June 2013. The chief executive of College Board David Coleman has even said to Reuters that the organization’s reused questions “too often.”
It is ultimately both in the students’ and College Board’s best interest, especially long term, to ensure the tests are protected and different overseas. College Board is supposed to be a non-profit organization, but according to CNN, the organization has total yearly revenues near $600 million. Using that money to change the tests every new testing date and to group tests by similar time zones would ease colleges’ fears about the legitimacy of overseas students’ scores.
Simply decreasing the importance placed on standardized tests will not sway students and parents with an ingrained mindset that anything can help. Of course, these test prep centers are completely unethical in obtaining the tests ahead of time, but some of the responsibility lies with College Board. Would it rather reduce costs and feed the frenzy of who can get that one section or essay question first, or would it rather preserve the tests’ integrity?
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