The Increasingly Poor Decisions of College Board


The College Board has recently made severe errors with regards to the SAT

Shreyas Gullapalli, Op-Ed Editor

Every year, millions of students across the world sit down to to take the dreaded battery of SAT, SAT II, and AP exams. On the line- colleges, careers and clout. Success on these exams doesn’t come easily- doing well requires a depth of knowledge that can only be the product of intelligence and raw effort. The SAT in particular is one of two “optional” exams(the other being the ACT) that play a significant role in college admissions. An SAT score can make or break an application. When colleges care so much about this exam, you’d hope that the organization that creates and administers the exam, College Board, would care at least as much. However, as the June and August 2018 administrations of the SAT have shown, this isn’t entirely the case.

The SAT, as a standardized test, offers a singular way to compare student performance across schools and borders. Remove the standardization, and it loses its usefulness. This is exactly what happened with the June SAT. In June, the difficulty of the two math sections was significantly lower than normal, resulting in a drastically reduced curve. Missing 3 total questions on the math sections in January 2018 still resulted in a perfect score of 800. In June, missing 1 dropped a student’s score to 770. Missing 4 on January’s SAT would drop you to a 790, but in June you’d be looking at a 720. The end result of this curve? Student performance on the June SAT simply isn’t comparable to other editions of the test. Colleges use the math section score, in part, to assess a student’s mathematical ability. An 800 on the June SAT would indicate a different level or type of mathematical skill than other SATs with the June SAT valuing consistency on an easier set of questions over generally good performance on a more difficult set of questions.

The August SAT faced a different type of problem. Internationally, different editions of the SAT are administered than domestically. In August, test-takers soon discovered after taking the test that that test was the same one administered in October of 2017 internationally. Some test takers unintentionally had taken the same test twice (there isn’t an August date for international students, so those who wish to take the exam in time for early college applications often travel to the US), and others had taken leaked versions of the test for practice. The end result is the same as the June SAT- performance on it simply isn’t comparable to others.

With so much at stake for test-takes, College Board cannot simply brush off these incidents as minor and continue business as usual. In order to retain its position as one of the principal testing agencies both domestically and internationally, it must make its standardized tests actually such.