For many juniors and seniors, taking the SAT is one of the most stressful parts of high school. It’s considered an important part of a college application, and some employers have even begun requesting access to scores. Recently, however, many have questioned one major aspect of the SAT: its security.
In early August, Reuters reported that hundreds of test questions from next year’s SAT had been leaked by an inside source in the College Board. The leaked questions included reading passages and subsequent comprehension questions and math problems. Many students are now questioning how this leak will affect them.
Not at all, according to an official statement by the College Board. But just last January, the College Board canceled several SATs in China because of a similar security breach.
A simple Google search already brings up links to tips people have spread about cheating on standardized tests. The SAT is one of the most important factors in college acceptance; is there really any doubt whether a sufficiently stressed student would be willing to take advantage of these leaks?
“Oh, definitely a student would look up the leaked questions,” senior Johnathan Ruiz said. “It’s impossible to really study for the SAT.” And the SAT is quickly becoming far more than a factor for college applications.
In place of standardized state tests, several states have chosen to administer the SAT. Delaware, for example, replaced its Common Core test with the SAT, thus the leak jeopardizes more than just the integrity of the scores reported to colleges. The leak could threaten state scores as well.
Even for students who choose not to search the leaked test questions, they could still unintentionally benefit from them. Some international test prep companies have used leaked tests in the past, and unknowing students would never know until they were in the test room.
If the College Board chooses not to cancel the scores, then it’s possible colleges might instead.
Several universities have already devalued the SAT as a measure for acceptance, including the University of Delaware, which noted that high school grades tend to be a more accurate predictor of college performance.
The College Board has responded to the leaks by promising tighter security and identifying security risks among test-takers. Regardless, security problems have plagued the College Board for years. To find a smaller-scale example, look at how some students have accessed AP test scores early.
Accessing scores early is relatively harmless, but it points to a larger problem in College Board security. The College Board has data on millions of test-takers, and an even larger security breach could threaten the release of all of that information.