The Educational Testing Service (ETS) has confirmed it: students in Asia have been cheating on the SAT for months.
In October, “a small number of test-takers had an unfair advantage on the test,” said ETS spokesperson Thomas Ewing, citing confidentiality concerns. ETS, which administers the SAT worldwide, decided to temporarily withhold the October 11 results because of suspicions of cheating “based on specific, reliable information,” because of “organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit, to the ultimate detriment of all students.”
In November, another probe was opened after more allegations of cheating were made following the administration of the SAT in Asia. Since only a few private schools in China are allowed to administer the SAT, many students sit for the SAT outside of the country. ETS put SAT scores on hold for “test-takers at Chinese test centers and Chinese test-takers who registered with a Chinese address and tested internationally.”
In December, the answers to the SAT given in China, South Korea, and other countries were leaked online ahead of time. Students who took the SAT on December 6 in China, South Korea, and other countries reported that the questions were identical to the the March 2014 SAT that was given in the United States.
The repercussions for cheating are not particularly penal. According to Ewing, “If a test-taker is found to have gained an unfair advantage on their test or there is substantial evidence that they have violated security protocols, their scores are not processed or reported to universities.”
Basically, the only punishment a cheater receives is to have his or her score invalidated.
“Students in the United States who are suspected of cheating may choose to have their scores invalidated, retake the test, or request an inquiry into the cheating allegations,” says Jacqui Byrne, Partner, Ivy Ed. “Most students are not prosecuted criminally, but if cheating becomes more rampant I think it is an option that ETS might consider. Unfortunately, not all cheating situations are clear cut, so if that were the case honest students could be swept into a nightmare during a period of their lives that is stressful enough.”
This is not the first time students have been able to rig the SAT, either. In May 2013, the SAT was canceled across South Korea after some test prep companies had obtained an advanced copy of the exam and then distributed it. In 2007, some South Korean students had their tests invalidated when it was discovered that they’d seen at least a portion of the test prior to taking it.
So it seems that history has repeated itself, and perhaps if policies aren’t changed or actions are taken, it will repeat itself again soon.