SAT proctors overlooking the elephant in the room

October 20, 2011 — by Rohan Rajeev

“Put that phone away before your scores are canceled!” a campus supervisor yelled at me, rushing in my direction.

Having just finished a stressful Chemistry SAT II at Palo Alto High School on June 4 of this year, I had completely forgotten the many rules that my test administrator had explained before the exam began, including a rule banning the use of cell phones at all times, even after the test. I quickly hung up on my father, who was in the middle of telling me where he would pick me up.

“Put that phone away before your scores are canceled!” a campus supervisor yelled at me, rushing in my direction.

Having just finished a stressful Chemistry SAT II at Palo Alto High School on June 4 of this year, I had completely forgotten the many rules that my test administrator had explained before the exam began, including a rule banning the use of cell phones at all times, even after the test. I quickly hung up on my father, who was in the middle of telling me where he would pick me up.
After half an hour of receiving scathing looks from many supervisors who had been notified of my cell phone use, I finally spotted my dad’s car in the parking lot by sheer luck.

I knew why supervisors were so concerned about sharing answers from a test over the phone during the test, but I could not understand why they enforced this “no phone” rule even after the test. They had been so lenient during the administration of the test itself, placing desks within a foot of each other, where wandering eyes could easily peek at another test.

Yet after the tests were finished and turned in and we could scarcely remember the questions themselves, the supervisors became suspicious about using cell phones to spread information about the test.

Even during the recent SAT on Oct. 1, I overheard ample discussion in the hallways about test questions during the breaks. The test proctor had not bothered to come into the hallway to prevent this blatant cheating and possibly cancel these students’ scores. I had even heard about a student who had used his smart phone to look up the definition of a vocabulary word from a future section, violating a number of SAT rules.

Having had my own experiences with the lawlessness of SAT testing and the lack of attentiveness by testing proctors, I was little surprised at news of 19-year-old Samuel Eshaghoff’s recent arrest. It was just further proof supervisors and test administrators have been not been enforcing the more important rules.

Eshaghoff, a sophomore at Emory University, was caught Sept. 27 for taking the SAT Reasoning Test in place of six New York students, in exchange for a price averaging $2,500 per test. He had been able to trick his way past the proctors, who found nothing suspicious with his identification until he was exposed months after the tests had already been taken.

The SAT indirectly decides which college the student will attend. Test supervisors are aware of the immense pressure on students to do well and the fact that some students will be desperate enough to cheat in one way or another to get their desired score.

However, these supervisors should not be focusing on enforcing more trivial rules such as the “no cell-phone” rule—especially since the test questions change every month, and students scarcely remember the questions even soon after the test.

Instead, proctors should focus on verifying the identities of the test-takers themselves, preventing wandering eyes from seeing other people’s tests and stopping discussions of the test during breaks. Proctors should all have standard training on how to properly administer an SAT, which would increase the security of the test tenfold.

Eshaghoff’s scam is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of cheating. Around 1,000 of the two million students who take the SAT have their scores revoked for cheating and 99 percent of these cheaters are caught for in-test cheating.

If the main way of cheating is in-room copying, that is all the more reason that test administrators should pay more attention to make sure the students are taking the test honestly, which includes preventing discussions about the test before it is completed.

Rather than purely cause inconvenience in the same way that the post-test no cell phone rule causes, these stricter in-test regulations will be the key to keeping the SAT a purer representation of student capability.

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