What happened to the SAT?

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By Justin Huang, Co-Editor-in-Chief

“You are dismissed.”

Sighs of relief echoed throughout the room as students got up to leave on Aug. 25, happy to enjoy the last few days of summer before school started. Like any curious student, though, I wanted to know the general consensus of all test-takers—whether they performed well, thought the reading section was uncharacteristically difficult or hope for a high curve.

What I didn’t expect, though, were answer keys to the test I just took available online—in Chinese.

Apparently, the College Board recycled the October 2017 International SAT as the August 2018 SAT instead, without any changes whatsoever. In their awe-inspiring wisdom, they thought that there would be absolutely no repercussions to not spending the time or money to come up with new test questions.

As a result, international students had a slight advantage. In the extreme case, a few Chinese students on WeChat sent the October 2017 questions and answer key around well before the actual test date, and most likely had the test fresh in their minds. But let’s broaden the scope. Many international students hoping to take the SAT go to cram schools that have access to past tests, and given that students took the October 2017 test a little less than a year ago, it’s likely that cram schools used the test as an example of what to expect. Looking through the questions, it wouldn’t be surprising to get a sense of déjà vu and just the slightest advantage over other students.

But I don’t blame them. Not even the handful of students circulating the SAT over social media. Most of them didn’t expect that College Board would ever consider recycling an old test because—well, why would you? A few questions here and there I could maybe justify, but the entire test? The responsibility falls to every student’s favorite monopoly, which is currently being sued for its breach of its “fiduciary duty by recycling old exam questions.”

In their official response, the College Board even failed to own up to its mistakes:

[su_quote style=”default” author = “College Board” cite=”” url=”” class=””]We are reviewing the complaint and will respond accordingly … Efforts include producing more test content, banning and collecting cell phones, employing lock boxes, conducting new data-driven analyses of test taker behaviors, and enhancing security measures at test centers. After every test administration, we take additional quality control steps before scores are released, including conducting comprehensive statistical analyses of certain test scores.[/su_quote]

Oh yes, the College Board’s efforts to produce more test content are obvious. But more importantly, they don’t mention anything about blatantly reusing a past test, and they make no “effort” to apologize for it. 

How about some concern for the students? After the controversy surrounding June’s strange curve, it amazes me that the next test one-ups its predecessor. When the news first broke out to students, many were worried that their scores would be cancelled. It would mean that they wasted their money, but for seniors hoping to take one final SAT before applying to colleges early, it felt much worse. I was one them.

Every year, I shell out more than $90 per AP test, and soon, that price might go up to more than $100 per test. Then there are the SATs themselves, which cost more than $60 per attempt with the essay, not to mention the subject tests. With the amount of money that the College Board collects, you’d think that they could set aside a tiny bit to make a new test, or at the very least, not reuse a test from the past year.