In late February, the College Board (makers of the SAT), announced it would be taking additional steps to crack down on cheating. Organized efforts to buy your way to a better score have become big business globally, and after a slew of cheating-related cancellations in 2016 the College Board is hopeful their latest round of security updates will help keep the playing field level for everyone. And while many of the changes will happen behind the scenes, some will have a notable impact on test-takers, especially those located outside the United States.
How Cheating Happens on the SAT
Overall, cheating on the SAT is extremely rare. When it does happen, though, it tends to occur along three primary pathways–falsified identities, unauthorized materials in the testing location, and inappropriate access to questions. An increased emphasis on the test’s ID procedures has helped minimize the frequency of the first form cheating, and most proctors are quick to hone in on the presence of anything that shouldn’t be used during the actual test. The third problem–students gaining early access to question content–has been harder to address.
Rather that producing entirely new questions for every test around the world, the SAT often recycles content from tests given in the United States for inclusion in exams given elsewhere. With a thriving black market for used test booklets, unscrupulous individuals and organizations can then gain an unfair preview of specific questions likely to appear on upcoming exams. This problem is particularly pronounced in Asia and resulted in the cancellation of tests throughout the region in 2016.
To preserve the integrity of the SAT, the College Board is taking a three-pronged approach to prevent cheating: increasing the amount of unique content, emphasizing security and prevention, and reducing access to test materials by decreasing the frequency of international tests.
The College Board has adopted several specific changes to accomplish these goals. For example, they are increasing the number of test center audits they perform and are making it easier to report suspected cheating anonymously. They will also seek to more proactively prevent suspected cheaters from gaining access to the test by reporting them to applicable government and law enforcement agencies, developing ways to inform schools if students or individuals associated with them are suspected of gaining an unfair advantage, and tightening restrictions on taking the SAT for reasons outside of its specified purposes.
Perhaps the most obvious change is the reduction of international test dates. Rather than offering the SAT six times a year, there will only be four test dates for at least the next two school years. As part of the new schedule, the previously announced international June 2017 test has been cancelled.
Why Cheating on the SAT Doesn’t Pay
With so much riding on standardized tests like the SAT, it’s no surprise some students try to find a shortcut. With the increasingly vigilant work of testing companies, however, the likelihood of success is low and the risk is high–your entire score could be canceled and, worse, while current policy doesn’t include notifying schools of suspected cheating, the latest security announcement may signal an upcoming shift in that policy meaning your reputation and entire application could end up on the line.
The biggest reason to play it clean with the SAT, though, is to create a merit-based representation of yourself. An accurate SAT will help ensure you are properly prepared for the coursework at the school that ultimately accepts you and should give you a sense of personal accomplishment. Given how much work is required to successfully outsmart the system, you’ll be much better served by investing in legitimate test preparation. Curvebreakers tutors are intimately familiar with the ever-changing testing landscape and can help you get the most out of studying for the SAT.