At other times, Reuters found, the College Board decided to go ahead with exams even after being warned that test material it had previously administered was in wide circulation. Some people in the testing and teaching professions say they were disheartened by how the College Board or ETS handled evidence of possible breaches. Market pressures played a role in the decision to remake the test.
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For years, the college entrance exam industry has been under strain. The SAT remains No. As College Board leaders began working on their new test, they encountered major problems protecting the existing SAT.
In May , cram schools in South Korea, known as hagwons, succeeded in obtaining material from the exam the College Board intended to give that month. The security breach was discovered by South Korean law enforcement officials.
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The College Board responded to that leak by canceling the scheduled exam. The College Board declined to say how many students saw the exam ahead of time, or whether it knows how the hagwons got the questions. The decision was drastic. Never in the history of the SAT, first given in , had the College Board canceled an exam sitting across an entire nation for security reasons.
After the incident, officials assessed how many untainted versions of the exam remained. The College Board learned that half of the exams in its inventory had been compromised to some degree. To combat the breaches, the College Board reduced the number of test dates in South Korea and two Middle Eastern countries — to four times a year rather than six. Doing so would limit the potential for cheating, officials concluded. But College Board officials told Reuters that they went forward with a full slate of exams in Greater China, where far more students take the test, because they found no evidence that test material had been stolen there.
The school, which declined to name the student, provided the account to Reuters. The test given in China that day included some of the same reading sections that had been used on an SAT given in December , just 13 months earlier. A Shanghai test-prep center, Veterans Education, had obtained an exam and given it to its students for practice. To determine the extent of the problem, administrators at Concordia International School questioned all of their students who took the SAT that day.
Nine students admitted they had studied at Veterans Education and had seen the entire test in advance, said Concordia principal Nicholas Kent.
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Concordia reported their names to ETS, which canceled their scores, he said. ETS declined to comment on the episode. Ben Yoon, the president of Veterans Education, confirmed that he shared the December test with students but said he had no idea it included actual questions from an upcoming exam. By October , more problems had surfaced. A few days before the October test was administered, a tutor in South Korea sent a full copy of what he believed was the exam to the College Board, the tutor told Reuters.
The tutor, who declined to give his name to the College Board, said he warned the organization about other leaked tests — and about the brokers who were selling the exams. The exam was given as scheduled. But later that month, the College Board withheld issuing test scores in parts of East Asia while it investigated possible cheating on the exam. It took the same step for the next three Asian test sittings as well.
Withholding scores is a serious step: It means students applying to universities are in limbo while ETS determines whether their scores need to be canceled. In the October exam, scores were withheld for every test-taker in China and South Korea, where a combined 55, tests were taken last school year.
She said she was happy to recognize five questions on vocabulary and reading comprehension. Paraphrased versions of the same questions had been in a booklet provided by the test-prep center she attended in China, she said. The next month, December , the College Board issued a statement about the problems in Asia. Attached to his email was what he believed to be the upcoming exam.
Afterward, it again delayed releasing test scores. We have no additional comment other than the fact that ETS and the College Board take all tips seriously and investigate them thoroughly. This tipster, based in China, was one of the sources who sent Reuters images of the redesigned SAT earlier this month. As evidence, he attached a text file containing what he said were parts of the exam. An investigator for ETS quickly replied. Nine days later, the tipster corresponded with the investigator again and sent some screenshots of the exam.
He also attached more evidence: photos of what he believed to be the test booklet itself. The tipster told Reuters he never heard back. Despite the warnings, the test was given as planned. But two weeks before the exam took place overseas, parts of the test could be found on the Internet. On Sept. The site is run by a Shanghai-based online test-prep company called Little Zhan Education.
Some of the emails were sent to incorrect addresses. But officials at a few of the schools recalled receiving the message. Gregory Roberts, dean of admission at the University of Virginia, said his office contacted the College Board after reading the email. On Jan. The images showed what appeared to be parts of six sections of the SAT test booklet used in the United States the month before, as well as a list of answers. The tipster said he sent the same warning, with the photos, to a College Board official. He was right: Parts of the test that was to be given that day were identical to the version given previously in America.
He also was right about the exposure. Reuters found that dozens of questions on the test were shared and discussed on the popular website reddit. The College Board tried to contain the damage.
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Test-prep operators found ways around the measure. Sanli, the Chinese test-prep chain, says it sent 11 teachers to the United States to collect information on the redesigned exam. They debriefed 40 Sanli students studying at US high schools who took the new SAT as they exited test centers, according to Wu, the general manager. Sanli presented its findings at a seminar at a Shanghai hotel. Other Asian operators harvested material from the new exam simply by going online. After the test ended, the website College Confidential was full of talk about the exam.
The site said last week that it received and complied with one take-down request from the College Board after the new test. Soon he was sharing his take on the test in a video posted on social media. History sample question 7 Subject Test U. History sample question 8 Subject Test U.
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