Test Prep

Brave New World for SAT Takers?

When I was in high school, I knew a guy whose motto was, "They say cheaters never win, but I'm doing okay." Talk about pragmatists. Unfortunately, cheating has become so widespread that our academic culture is changing. Perhaps the biggest and most dramatic change may be about to happen in regards to taking the SAT.

You might have heard about the Long Island SAT cheating scandal, which may have been the straw that broke the Educational Testing Services' back. It's a fact that the cleverness of today's youth, combined with our ever-evolving technology has created myriad challenges for those who deploy both standardized and in-class tests. Consequently, that same sophisticated technology is allowing test administrators to push back against the cheaters.

Can you say, "mobile DNA security scan"? Here's the scoop from CBS New York:

'Digital DNA' May Soon Be Required To Take SAT And ACT Exams

Stony Brook Scientists Create What They Say Is Foolproof Way To Defeat Fraud

Since the SAT and ACT cheating scandals broke wide open on Long Island, lawmakers have pledged to come up with unique cutting edge ways to combat identity theft.

... If you plan on taking college entrance tests in the future you may be subjected to a new “digital DNA" scan, one that researchers say can't be beaten by fraud ...

... Inside the applied DNA sciences lab at Stony Brook University researchers are hard at work inventing and perfecting a system that can prevent cheating on SAT and ACT exams.

“A novel system that's absolutely unbreakable for securing the identity of a student taking the SAT exam," said Dr. James Hayward.

The foolproof ID plan and others will be presented to lawmakers, who have pledged to parents, teachers and students that they will work together to protect exam integrity, hold cheaters responsible and fix the fraud, following the shocking scandal that spread from Great Neck North High School to include some 30 test takers and test payers faking their own identities, hoping to buy their into top scores and top schools.

[Regarding that Long Island cheating scandal linked to above:

"Eshaghoff says taking the test for someone else was as simple as making a high school ID.

'I took the template from my high school ID, pasted my picture on top of it, and whatever person's name whose test I was taking, I would have their name and date of birth on it. And it was really as easy as that,' he said.

Over nearly three years, Eshaghoff took the SAT at least 15 times, scoring in the 97th percentile or higher for the students he called his 'clients.' He charged as much as $2,500 per test."]

“It's a great way for people to really be who they are when they take the test, and not try to fake it," Massapequa High School graduate Jennifer Karp told McLogan.

Karp volunteered her forensic image for a digital DNA. It begins with mandatory pre-registering at a student's home school with official legal ID documents only.

“All of that is uploaded to an I.T. system of wireless connections called the 'CLOUD,'" Dr. Hayward said.

The student's unique digital DNA code is created and assigned to an ID card with covert authentication marks printed onto it. Proctors can verify instantly with a simple UV light and smart phone scan.

... The technology has been used by the federal government at highly secure sites. Some lawmakers see no reason why a plan like this can't be implemented and paid for by the Educational Testing Service and College Board.

The mobile DNA security scan would be done as the student enters and again at the conclusion of the test.


I'm always leery of phrases like "researchers say [it] can't be beaten by fraud." The same technology that created the unbeatable system can certainly be used to defeat it. My suggestion for SAT takers: Do your best ... on your own!


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