SAT Cheating Escalates Overseas

By Yanay Rosen (Online Editor-in-Chief).

The College Board is losing the war against cheating.

Since 2014, scores from the international variant of the SAT have been delayed six times and canceled twice.

To combat this issue, the College Board limited the number of test dates to four from six in the offending countries South Korea, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but not in China.

Chinese and South Korean ‘cram’ tutor schools illegally obtain testing material before administration.

South Korean SAT tutor Ben Heisler says schools must break the law to attract students.

“Basically, the only way to survive in the industry is to have a copy of the test. It’s like doping in the Tour de France,” Heisler said. “If you don’t do it, someone else will.”

Since test materials are copyrighted, cram school’s face legal repercussions for distributing them without a license.

Stacey Caldwell, Vice President of the College Board, says that the cheating industry is not slowing down.

“A growing and evolving industry thrives on the theft of test content and undermines the meaning of test scores,” she said.

Steve Syverson, an administrator at the University of Washington Bothell, and a former board member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling says the College Board faces many challenges.

“The College Board does a lot of good things, but it will clearly be a major challenge for them to restore trust in the integrity of the test,” he said.

Barron’s reporter Abby Schultz says that US students should be worried. “The impact of this extensive cancellation should be of profound concern to students overseas given the rising numbers going to the U.S. to study.”

10% more international students were accepted last year than previous years.


Joy St. John, Dean of admission at Wellesley College, says that tests are no longer reliable indicators of students’ merit.

“What they should do, step one, is consider ending the practice of reusing test content. If applicants have seen exam material before taking the test, our ability to select students who are the best fits for Wellesley is really compromised,” she said.

John McGrath, the College Board’s senior vice president for communications and marketing, says that cheaters will not stop.

“We’re working against cartel-like companies in China and other countries that will stop at nothing to enrich themselves. These bad actors will continue to lie, cheat and steal to the detriment of students who work hard and play by the rules,” he said.

Tom Ewing, director of the Educational Testing Service, who distribute the SAT, says that cheaters are not reported to colleges.

“We do not notify colleges or anyone that a test taker has ‘cheated.’  Because SAT scores are used as part of important decisions by colleges and universities, we concern ourselves with whether or not the score is valid.  If we investigate and determine that the score is not valid, we will not report the score to the college in the first place.”

Peng Wu, a general manager at a Shanghai-based test-prep chain, says that the recent SAT redesign will not alleviate cheating.

“The redesigned SAT won’t resolve the fundamental problem, unless they have a continual flow of new questions, and use every test only once,” she said.

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