Test Prep

March SAT Madness?

Day after tomorrow, March 5, 2016, is "D Day" for SAT takers. "D" = "Debut" of the revised SAT that has caused such a stir around the world, especially here at home.

The College Board (CB), in its usual confounding logic -- and with five days' (!) notice -- has taken the offense before Saturday's big day, and issued an unusual decision. Here is their message to an unknown number of registered test takers for the March 5 SAT sitting:


Dear Test-Taker,

Due to a new test security measure, your registration for the March 5, 2016, administration of the SAT® has been transferred to the administration on May 7, 2016. This change was implemented to ensure that everyone taking the test is doing so for its intended purpose: to apply to and attend a college or university undergraduate program, or to apply for scholarships, financial aid, or other programs that require a college admission test.

If you are taking the SAT for any of the purposes above and you have a deadline that requires you to take the test in March, please call 866-704-0192 (toll free in the U.S.) or +1 703-297-3965 (international), or email satsupport@collegeboard.org by 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 2. Please be prepared to provide information about the program you are applying to along with the deadline. We will review your request and determine if your registration can be reinstated. If you choose not to take the test in May or are already registered for the May test, please call the number above and your March registration fee will be refunded.

The College Board is committed to providing a fair and secure testing environment for all students. We recognize and apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

The SAT Program

Huh?

If you're looking for a clue as to what the heck they're talking about, you may want to zero in on the phrase "to ensure that everyone taking the test is doing so for its intended purpose: to apply to and attend a college or university undergraduate program, or to apply for scholarships, financial aid, or other programs that require a college admission test."

Now, who wouldn't be taking the test for that reason? Oh, wait a minute ... how about test preppers, tutors, returning adult students, or anyone else curious as to the reality of the revised SAT.

 

Of course, the news about CB's move created a firestorm and traveled around the world almost instantly via social media and discussion forums of all kind. Naturally, the College Confidential (CC) forum, which maintains its place as the Web's foremost source of college admissions and other college-related information, picked up the ball on this and ran with it in a large thread entitled College Board is cancelling people's paid and confirmed registrations for March SAT...

What kinds of reactions did this seemingly arbitrary move by CB inspire? Let's sample some reactions from that CC thread, which currently has 88 posts:

- ... Many of those affected are tutors and teachers, who have registered and paid for the new SAT for work purposes (test prep, college counseling, etc.) that support the College Board and its products. Some of these tutors/teachers are from outside the U.S. and now have non-refundable flight and hotel bookings to the U.S. West Coast. They made these bookings on the apparently erroneous assumption that College Board could supply consistent and reliable information about its own products (again, the organization states that adults can take the test) and honor its own agreements (i.e., paid and confirmed test registrations) ...

- I for one, am furious. I am neither an adult nor a March test taker, but I am sick and tired of College Board's inability to run a company. Why did I invest so much money into a corporation that never takes anything seriously? Hopefully I get my other subject tests in one try so I can start boycotting College Board.  

- There is not now--and there never has been--any requirement to be a student in order to take the SAT. As already mentioned above, some of those affected by this sudden cancellation seem to be adults looking to return to school and military members looking to earn an officer's commission. In other words, there is nothing sinister about non-teenage test-takers and nothing to "wise up to."

- Maybe the college board (and colleges) are concerned that it is unfair that some kids can afford the best tutors (as you describe above) and others can not afford a tutor at all, and therefore restricting tutors from taking the test might even the score (literally).  

- I agree that the very late notice seems very sloppy but this is par for the course for College Board for at least the last year.

- If the college board was concerned about adults throwing off the curve, they could have easily normed it against high school students. This is basic statistical analysis.  

- ... I have no problem with anything that the CB does to people that register for the test who aren't in that group ...

- ... I love CC. I get news here often before anywhere else. From Michael Jackson's death (yes!) to college admissions decisions releases (my third kid in the pipeline now) to another CB testing fiasco ...

- Thanks for the link. I agree with just about everything that [it] says in the article, especially this:

"The only way it could be about cheating is if they planned to recycle the March 5 SAT elsewhere." ...

- My theory is that they are trying to silence the critics by not allowing pros (who can see through the tests better than students) into the first sitting to avoid the bad press. They cannot afford more bad press, so they are trying to minimize that by keeping the adults out ...

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There is an excellent Valerie Strauss article in the Washington Post about all this. Apparently, cheating may be at the heart of CB's exclusionary decision. As Strauss contends:

The College Board has for years been struggling with major security breaches that have resulted in cheating scandals in the United States and internationally.

Sophisticated and lucrative overseas cheating networks thrive. This has worked in part because, as I’ve reported before, the College Board has in the past used questions on overseas exam forms that already have been given in the United States, and this opens a door to cheating that goes beyond having other people take the test for a student. Whether any previous questions will show up on the redesigned SAT is unknown ...

One interesting comment following Strauss' article notes:

To the author: in case you haven't found this out already, the May test is released to testers who opt for the "Question and Answer Service," in which students pay a fee to receive a clean copy of the actual test they took. This service is available only in certain administrations, May being one of them. This is what College Board means by "disclosed form." I believe they are saying that since the May test will eventually be released or disclosed anyway, they aren't as concerned about people walking off with the testing materials (i.e., the test book), as they would be in March when the test is not released.

And, somewhat amusingly ...

In a public high school in rural Georgia, I created and taught an SAT M and V (no writing sample then) Prep class. As part of my own preparation, I took the test several times, mainly to keep reminding myself that the SAT is an endurance as well as intellectual test: getting up at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning (after the usual Friday night football or basketball game), sitting for four hours (many of my students had never sat so long in their lives) in strange place filled with strangers... I wonder if ETS, or the College Board, would let me in now?

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I love that phrase: "... the SAT is an endurance as well as intellectual test ..." It is!

One of my Three Predictions for 2016 was:

3. The College Board and Educational Testing Service will undergo a cultural change.

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Good ol' CB and ETS, the arbiters of all that matters for aspiring college students, both undergraduate, graduate, business/law/medical, and beyond. I predict that the collective College Board/ETS cartel will continue to see their death grip on testing continue to loosen as colleges and parents become increasingly aware of the monopolistic and dictatorial practices of these entities whose reign is fast loosing its luster ...

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Traditional organizational foundations are being shaken in America and around the world. Our political system is in upheaval, the world economy is hanging by a thread, personal-security issues have been thrust to the forefront, and "authority" is being questioned (and attacked) more than ever before. Thus, it's a good time to take nothing for granted, especially the wisdom, logic, and rationale of the College Board.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.