Jun 7, 2015

College Board drops the ball on June SAT and thousands get extra time

Thanks to a printing error in thousands of test booklets used for the June SAT® administered on Saturday, a significant number of test-takers may have been granted an extra five minutes on one section of the test. 

According to several proctors, the problem centered on sections 8 and 9 of the SAT Reasoning Test.  The directions proctors were asked to read for each section stated students were to be given 20 minutes to complete the section.  But in some students’ booklets, their printed directions stated they had 25 minutes, or 25 percent more time to complete the section—a big bonus.

The problem appears to be compounded by the number of questions students were asked to complete.

“We had the issue as well and followed the manual, however, the books with the 25 minute timing error had 19 questions to answer in that time frame and not 16, which was the [number] of questions to answer in the 20 minutes,” explained another proctor posting on Facebook.com from a Midwestern state.

Proctors who managed to reach the College Board were told they were “well aware of the situation” and were instructed to “read the directions as stated.”

Here is the College Board's statement on the issue:

"Shortly before noon Eastern Time on Saturday, June 6, Educational Testing Service (ETS) informed the College Board that there was a printing error in the standard test books they provided to students taking the SAT on June 6 in the United States. The time allotted for a specific section, either section 8 or 9 depending on the edition, was incorrect in the student test books and correct in the script and manual provided to Test Center Supervisors. The student test books contained “25 minutes” while the manual and script contained the correct time limit of “20 minutes.” As soon as ETS became aware of the error during the administration of the test, they worked to provide accurate guidance to supervisors and administrators.

The College Board understands the critical nature of this issue, and we are actively working to determine next steps to ensure the fairness of the test and the validity of the scores we deliver. We regret the confusion and concern this issue is causing for students and their families, and we will provide them and others with updated information as soon as possible. Updates will be available online."
But long before the College Board issued a statement, proctors and test-takers opened discussions on several social media forums suggesting that the conflicting directions were met with varying responses.

“My proctor realized that it should have been 20 minutes so she made us disregard what it said,” explained one commenter on College Confidential.com.  “But I’m hearing that some proctors gave students 25 minutes.  That’s probably going to be an issue and now I’m worried.”

Another student replied in the same forum, “My testing center gave everyone the 5 minutes.  It honestly screwed me up because I got overwhelmed.”

A proctor in Southern California admitted on Facebook, “Every proctor handled it differently,” while another in a different part of the country shrugged, “I let them have it.”

Although not certain how widespread the problem was or whether the sections in question were experimental, Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, suggests, “Either way, the fact that some kids got 20 minutes for this section while others had 25 means that the test was not technically ‘standardized’—an interesting problem for the College Board/ETS to try to explain and address in a psychometrically appropriate manner.”

But most test-takers seemed less concerned about the unfair advantage and more concerned about the possibility of having to retake the test.

“I don’t want to take another test, regardless of whether it’s free,” said one student on College Confidential.

Another agreed, “I think they can’t cancel that many scores because of their own [mistake].  And they can’t know who got too much time.”

Still other posters on College Confidential were more philosophical, “I'm on the east coast, and I know of several people (different centers) who reported the same issue. It's a pretty big mistake, in my opinion. Wouldn't it be nice if the college board [sic] gave everyone a perfect score on those two sections since it was THEIR mistake?? Anyone know if there's any historical precedent-- what they do when they have screwed up?”

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