Allegations of Cheating on SAT in Korea, China Being Probed

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, October 29, 2014

The College Board  is investigating allegations of cheating on the SAT given Oct. 11, 2014, in Korea and China, and has withheld scores for students in those countries.

The Educational Testing Service issued a statement saying that it was taking “seriously” any allegations of breaches in testing security and it strongly denounced organizations that work to get copies of the test in advance and then pass them on to students to make money.

The scores at issue are for the SAT that was given Oct. 11, 2014. Students from China and South Korea did not receive their scores, and when they asked why, this is the e-mail they got from the Educational Testing Service (which administers the SAT for the College Board):

Dear Test Taker:

We at ETS are highly committed to quality standards and fairness. After every test administration, we go to great lengths to make sure each test result we report is accurate and valid. It is with this objective in mind that we sometimes take additional quality control steps before scores are released.

For the reasons stated above, your October 2014 SAT scores are delayed because they are under administrative review. This review is routinely performed on each test score in certain circumstances and may take up to four weeks. We hope you realize only accurate and valid test results are meaningful and helpful to their recipients.

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The College Board and ETS, when asked about this, released this statement:

The College Board and its global test administration and security provider, Educational Testing Service (ETS), are committed to ensuring quality standards and fairness for all students.

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Based on specific, reliable information, we have placed the scores of all students who are current residents of Korea or China and sat for the October 11th international administration of the SAT on hold while we conduct an administrative review.  The review is being conducted to ensure that illegal actions by individuals or organizations do not prevent the majority of test-takers who have worked hard to prepare for the exam from receiving valid and accurate scores.

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Test security in Asia has been breached repeatedly in the past.

Last year, there were two episodes of suspected cheating, one in October involving allegations in Korea that questions from earlier tests were obtained by “cram schools” and given to students before they took the exam. (South Korea is famous for its “cram schools,” at which students are tutored intensively out of the classroom starting as early as kindergarten.) The College Board canceled the May 2013 administration of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests throughout South Korea because of a leak of test questions–the first time the test had been canceled in an entire country. The SAT is no longer administered at many sites in mainland China because of past incidents of cheating, usually involving prior knowledge of test questions.

On Oct. 8, 2014–days before the Oct. 11 administration of the SAT–the National Center for Fair & Open Testing received an anonymous tip about cheating that included what the sender claimed to be a copy of the December 2013 SAT that was supposedly going to be administered at international sites Oct. 11. This was reported by Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the center,  a nonprofit dedicated to ending the abuse of standardized tests commonly known as FairTest. He said FairTest tried to confirm the claims but could not.

According to Schaeffer, SAT tests given at international sites are “almost always” repeats of exams administered previously in the United States but not publicly released.

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