College Board fails to amend its own mistakes

September 17, 2018 — by Howard Tang

Right after the College Board faced controversy when students received abysmally low scores on the June SAT, students who were unsatisfied with their scores set their sights on the next test day in August, hoping that they would be able to receive better scores. Unfortunately, the latest SAT was mired in controversy once again.

The U.S. August SAT was discovered to be a copy of the international version of the October 2017 SAT, and although College Board did not officially release the test to the public, the August test was still printed into foreign test prep books. To make matters worse, international students who may have had previous knowledge of the international October test traveled to the U.S. specifically to take the August version of the SAT because the SAT was not offered abroad in August.

Instead of taking responsibility for its own mistakes, College Board decided on a different tack: seek out those who have seen and exploited the test.

According to NBC, College Board responded to the controversy by threatening to cancel the tests of any students suspected of cheating — that punishment would also potentially ban them from retaking future tests. This decision was unreasonable. The fear of such a thing happening was amplified when most students received their scores on Sept. 7, while some other students saw a pending message telling them that their scores were still under investigation.

First, students taking the test should not be punished for mistakes made by College Board itself. College Board test makers should not recycle questions, much less whole tests. Any recycled material would obviously give an advantage to students who have previously seen the questions. That is, recycled questions do not accurately measure the aptitude of the test takers, defeating the main purpose of the test.

Adding to this unfairness, College Board has no legitimate way to identify cheaters. It has decided that a large increase in scores from a previous test can be indicative of cheating. Similarly, a decrease in scores from this SAT to the PSAT in October could also suggest that a student had an unfair advantage for the August SAT and therefore could not replicate his or her success without seeing the test beforehand. However, even these instances could be explained by hard work and studying. Some students are able to make huge test score gains in relatively short time periods through their own efforts.

Additionally, College Board should just take the time to make new tests. According to Patch, the College Board earns annual revenues of $200 million. A greater part of this enormous sum should be used to fund the construction of new tests instead of used for the maintenance of the organization and other “educational purposes.” Essentially, College Board should reallocate the money used for frivolous overhead costs to actually improve the primary service it provides: creating apt tests.

Students who hadn’t previously seen the August test might not be the only ones who feel cheated. Some who have seen the material floating around in the internet used it for practice, with no ulterior motive of getting an unfair advantage.

These people might unintentionally receive harsh repercussions, such as being barred from re-examinations, despite spending enormous amounts of time genuinely studying for the test.

With its current monopoly on standardized testing, College Board has the responsibility to create fair — and fresh — exams that accurately assess every student.


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