This past weekend, thousands of students across the United States took College Board’s SAT, the critical – and often stressful – college entrance exam. Many of these students put in hundreds of hours in preparation, hoping it would be the last time they took the exam before submitting college applications.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, some of the test’s answers may have been leaked online in China and South Korea. Students allege that the test given last weekend in the United States included exact passages and questions from the October 2017 exam that was given internationally.
In the past 48 hours, I’ve been flooded with calls, emails, and texts from concerned parents and students who are understandably frustrated and unsure of what will happen. I’m hoping to answer their (and likely your) most frequently asked questions below. You can also view an ABC News segment about the reported leak.
Question 1: What are the main security issues with the SAT that happened in the past few years?
In recent years, a series of scandals has jeopardized the integrity of the SAT exam and the credibility of College Board. First, students were paying others (sometimes over $5,000) to take their tests for them. Both College Board and ACT addressed that issue and now require that students upload a photo when they register for the exam. That photo appears on the admission ticket and must match a school- or state-issued ID checked by the proctors.
Second, students were leaking questions online. In 2016, Reuters news agency reported that leaks of exam questions were pervasive, especially in China. Now Chinese students must travel to Hong Kong and Taiwan to take standardized exams.
Question 2: How is it possible students would have known the August 2018 SAT repeated questions from the October 2017 SAT?
College Board offers a program called Question-and-Answer Service for its October, March, and May exams each year. Families who sign up for this service and pay its $18 fee receive access to the entire exam with a full breakdown of the questions answered correctly and incorrectly. ACT offers the same service, which it calls Test-Information-Release, for $20 for its December, April, and June exams.
This offering is incredibly valuable and gives students an opportunity to review their full exams and learn from their mistakes. This service is one that should absolutely be preserved.
However, the students’ allegations suggest that College Board reused questions from the October 2017 exam on this August 2018 test. *If* that is true, then it’s also true that students who paid for, received, and reviewed the October 2017 exam to study would have already seen the questions that appeared on this past weekend’s exam.
To be clear, the students in this scenario didn’t do anything wrong. They ordered a service that’s offered by College Board and did their due diligence to review it thoroughly and learn from their mistakes.
However, those questions from a publicly available exam should not have been reused verbatim — if that did in fact happen — because of the unfair advantage it gives to students who could afford to purchase College Board’s Question-and-Answer service.
Question 3: What are the consequences of this potential SAT test leak from Asia?
The possibility that the August 2018 scores will be canceled is devastating to students and their families. Students studied all summer, in earnest, only to find out that they might have their scores cancelled. That takes an emotional toll and also can disrupt students’ timing as they prepare for college applications. While there is a petition to invalidate all test scores from the August exam, College Board issued a statement that most scores from August’s administration will be available, as scheduled, on September 7, 2018. College Board has promised to do a “comprehensive statistical analysis of certain test scores” and will cancel the scores of those believed to have cheated.
College Board issued a statement that it’s working to “strike a balance between thwarting those seeking an unfair advantage and providing testing opportunities for the vast majority of students who play by the rules.” It’s worth noting that College Board declined to comment on “specifics of question usage and test administration schedules.” Translation: College Board won’t confirm or deny if it reused questions from the October 2017 exam on the August 2018 exam.
At this time, no one has verified if anyone cheated on the exam, nor has anyone verified if the October 2017 SAT used in Asia was the same test administered in the United States in August 2018.
Question 4: Does this test leak put underrepresented students at an additional disadvantage?
This news also has a particularly adverse effect on underrepresented students, who are already at a disadvantage on these exams. The New York Times reported on Monday that disadvantaged students are less likely to take standardized tests more than one time, which lowers their chances of college acceptance. High-income students and those who identify as white or Asian are more likely to retake the SAT and ACT. “Students with family income over $100,000 are 21 percentage points more likely to retake tests than students with family income below $50,000.”
We must recognize that many students were only able to take the SAT this past weekend by rescheduling work or family obligations. It’s possible that if their scores are cancelled that these students won’t have the opportunity to retake the SAT without negative financial impact to their families.
Also, students who meet income-based eligibility criteria and receive subsidized school lunch can receive fee waivers for the SAT, but they only get two waivers. If this August exam used their second waiver and their scores gets canceled, then College Board should reissue fee waivers and allow these students the opportunity to take it again to avoid any financial impact.
Question 5: What’s next for College Board?
The SAT was overtaken by ACT as the preferred exam for high school students in 2012, and it’s been that way ever since. In 2016, College Board released a new version of the SAT that basically took on the look, feel, and content of the ACT, so the tests are now much more similar.
Combine test security and integrity issues with students’ waning confidence in College Board and one has to wonder if the SAT will ever regain its dominance in the world of college entrance exams.
Do you like what you’ve read? Please click the links to share with friends who would also benefit from understanding the key takeaways of this SAT test leak allegation.
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63 responses to “5 Key Takeaways for Concerned Parents & Teens About the August SAT Test Leak”
What an incredibly informative and helpful article. I still can’t believe this has happened. What was College Board thinking reusing a test? It’s so unfair.
We’re thrilled you found this information helpful, and we understand how frustrated so many families are.
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We’re so thrilled to hear you find this article helpful. This potential SAT leak has a major effect on families, and there’s nothing we want more than for concerned parents and their teens to have accurate information about this issue.
This should of never happened. Sorry for all the people this affects.
You’re absolutely right Christine. These issues affect so many students and jeopardize the trust colleges have in the SAT moving forward.
Wow this is unbelievable. This is so hard for those who suffer the consequences…so rough
Yes, Monique. Many students were devastated (understandably so) feeling like others had an unfair advantage after they’d studied so hard for the test. It’s a terrible way for them to feel, especially with so much on their plates.
Interesting if I remember right the SAT is based off of peer results or is that the ACT? Or am I wrong altogether. I have known in previous years some companies essentially release last year’s as study guides so that could be interesting.
Derek, are you referring to how the tests are scored relative to how others perform? Yes, the exams are scaled differently – so easier tests have harder curves and harder tests have more generous curves. And you’re also correct that both the ACT and SAT allow people to purchase 3 tests per year for students to review their mistakes. That service is invaluable to help students learn from their mistakes, but the issue is that those tests that are in distribution shouldn’t be repeated on a new exam within a year, if at all.
You’re absolutely right Christine. These issues affect so many students and jeopardize the trust colleges have in the SAT moving forward.
Awesome article! I hope to see more like this in the future. This is so not OK!
Sandy – we’re thrilled you enjoyed reading the article. We aim to publish 2-3 articles per week with updates and advice for parents of teenagers. We hope you’ll enjoy those, too.
Wow! I am so glad it was at least caught. I remember taking the ACT and SAT many years ago.
Yes, students reported it immediately on social media when they recognized that the August test had the same questions as last October’s test.
Good insight in the article. I am new to this. I am a 64 year old grand mother of 6, two of which live with me and my son. He recently went through a divorce and I am trying to help him in all I can, especially school for these 2. Girl is 14 and boy is 11. Wow, hard for me to keep up with all. Thank you for clearing some points for me. Boy, was I confused.
Tere – we’re so happy that we cleared up some confusion for you. This whole situation is quite complicated and our hope is to help people make sense of it all for their kids and grandkids.
Wow that is crazy and unfair. so glad they caught it.
Yes, a family officially filed a law suit against College Board. Here is a Washington Post article about the suit if you’re interested:
It is sad that this is taking place. there needs to be a better way to get better testing done.
We couldn’t agree with you more Ciayrra. Hopefully College Board is taking a serious look at its procedures to prevent this situation from occurring again.
This is s nightmare!! Especially for those students who work hard! I would like to know what happened in this country to Innocent until proven guilty!! Even with these sex allegations. People are getting fired before anything is proven. Of course, I want the guilty to get what’s coming to them! They should be able to take it over in a undisclosed location, etc. Their education is extremely important!!
You’re right Sue that students who work really hard and hear that others have an unfair advantage have the right to be frustrated. Something needs to change to protect the integrity of the standardized test process.
A very unfortunate situation. Especially for those at a disadvantage. I hope all gets worked out. Everything goes well for everyone concerned.
Yes Felisa – students at a disadvantage are facing even more hurdles in this situation. We hope that everything works out for everyone concerned as well.
Oh Wow!!! I would have never even thought things like this could happen. I remember taking the test and I was taught how important it is. I hope it can be kept right like it should be
Tamra – many people feel the same way you do and can’t even imagine this has happened. It’s so unfortunate.
This is shocking! I know there will always be leaks, and cheaters, but you never think of something like this happening with such an important test like the SAT. I can’t imagine the feelings of the people who took the whole test honestly, only to have their scores potentially cancelled. Heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking is the perfect word for this situation Katrina. The calls and texts and emails from devastated students who studied their hearts out haven’t stopped. We feel for them.
I cannot even believe this happened! My daughter took hers 2 years ago and I remember the stress and anxiety she went through I could not even imagine if she had to repeat the testing
You’re right TammyLyne. It’s hard to imagine how they feel with the stress and anxiety that are already so high for youth today.
This is very disconcerting! It’s stressful enough without worrying about the legitimacy of results and tampering. Wish I could say I was shocked, but these days it happens more and more.
Agreed Sheila! It’s already so stressful for them, and the worry about score legitimacy only makes it harder.
Wow, tests like these are stressful as it is, and then to have a scandal linked to it and have to possibly take them again adds undo stress. Sure hope they can get it figured out
Wendy – yes they’re already so stressful and this situation only makes their stress worse! We agree completely.
Wow! This is the first I heard of a leak.
Pam – yes it’s been causing quite a stir the last few weeks. A law suit was filed against College Board. If you want more information, you can read more here:
wow i hope the SAT gets in check before i have to take them
Many agree with you Rina! Exam integrity is of utmost importance!
I can not believe that this is happening. I didnt have to take my SAT’s as I went to a local college to start out with. But this is just crazy. My niece will be in high school in two years hopefully they have it all figured out by then.
Agreed Samantha! College Board needs to figure this out to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Let’s hope your niece has a better experience!
wow, i was not aware of this. hopefully all gets resolved.
Yes Adriana, only time will tell how College Board responds to this situation. We’ll be sure to keep all the most up-to-date information available to families through our blog.
I would be infuriated if I were a student or a parent of a student that are now stuck in limbo.
Melissa – everyone agrees with you! So many parents and students are so frustrated.
we have a long time to go before our kids take the SAT hopefully it will get taken care of before that.
We hope it’s resolved in time for your kids, too.
Wow the things that actually happen this should have never happens I’m so sorry for all the people this affected thanks for such informative article
Christina – I’m thrilled you found the article informative. We agree this should’ve never happened.
I do believe that this has happened before. There should not be a profit incentive for them to sell questions and answers from previous years.
Wen – we agree that they shouldn’t use questions from those tests that they sell, so we can be sure to prevent this from happening again in the future.
That’s a shame standardized testing is stressful enough
Yes Steph – it sure is!! Something like this only makes the already stressful process even more so.
My daughter read an article that stated in some other countries they don’t have standardized testing, and the kids learn more.
Scandal should never be associated with SATS. So much of one’s scholastic future rides on these test results. There must be a way to prevent leaks going forward. Very good article. I was not aware of this problem.
We agree that this is an area that carries so much weight for students’ futures. Exam integrity is of utmost importance. Thank you for reading, and we’re glad you enjoyed the article.
Thanks for all the info.
You’re so welcome Leela. We’re hoping to help address concerns so many teens and their parents have.
I remember the SAT’s. I didn’t think that they used them anymore. I see they do have standardized testing, so I enjoyed reading the review.
We’re glad to hear you enjoyed reading the article Jerry. Yes, the SAT exam is alive and well. It definitely hasn’t gone anywhere.
I’m glad you made us aware of this!
You’re so welcome Eileen. We want as many people as possible to know that this happened.
I work at a university and we are fighting test leaks and integrity issues daily. It is sad that this is the state of the academic integrity.