Written by: Eileen Qian and Zoe Weisner
On Nov. 23, 2011, over 20 high school students in Long Island, New York were caught paying other people to take their SAT tests, and reportedly paid as much as $3,600 for higher SAT scores. Due to similar incidents, College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS) have collaborated to enact stricter security measures begin- ning on Oct. 6, the first fall SAT test of the year.
In an attempt to prevent students from cheating on the SAT and American College Testing (ACT) tests, both the ETS and ACT Inc. now require a personal picture on the admissions ticket and a separate photo identification. The ETS and ACT Inc. have also added new regulations during the actual SAT testing. During the breaks, students are expected to take their admissions tickets with them, and upon return, their designated proctors will re-affirm the students’ identities to ensure that they were not replaced with someone else during the break. In addition to the identity checks, students can no longer register for the SAT on the day of the test.
Although the ID confirmations lengthen the check-in process, one test administrator believed that the ID checks are essential for maximizing security. “It’s very time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth it, both for the students and the SAT,” associate supervisor Korey Shields said.
However, not all proctors believe that the additional security procedures are essential. “I have been proctoring for two years, and I have yet to catch one person cheating,” associate supervisor Joe Urbassik said. “I feel that the security that we had previously was fine. I was disappointed that I had to send someone back to the administration center because she didn’t have her admissions ticket.” Prior to the new security measures, students without an admissions ticket could go to the administration center and have their parents confirm their identity with the administrators.
Proctors are also required to monitor their testing room and walk down the aisles that separate each desk every five to ten min- utes. Associate proctors pick up the attendance sheets and check to make sure that students do not move on to another section. Some proctors have also assigned specific seats to prevent students who are friends from sitting next to each other and cheating. Although proctors are expected to read out a specific set of regulations to the students before the start of each test or section, many paraphrase the long list of directions. Shields, who has proctored the SAT for three years, believes a proctor must say exactly what is written in the booklet. “It’s a bit repetitive but it’s always good to reiterate what is important just in case,” Shields said.
Hiring another individual to take SAT or ACT is an extreme form of cheating, and students who are caught paying other individuals to take their tests could be charged as juvenile offenders. However, the punishments are significantly milder for students found exchanging answers by using their calculators, peering over at a neighbor or flipping to another section; these actions only allow the administrators to remove the students from the test center and cancel their scores. “Cheating on the SAT doesn’t go on the permanent record but the student will not be refunded back their money,” associate proctor Ema Latu said. “A lot of the kids obviously don’t want to be here or were forced by their parents to take the test, so I can see how it might be tempting to just look over.”
Urbassik also admits that the light repercussions for cheating on the SAT could encourage people to use dishonest means to raise their scores. “It seems that there should be a harsher penalty rather than having the scores be withdrawn, but I am not sure it is truly needed, because in my experience, it seems that the amount of people who actually cheat on tests is rare in general.”
Regardless of the regulations, proctors must catch any cheating that occurs in the classroom and follow the specific instructions given to them by College Board. According to senior Sadaf Rizvi, during the Oct. SAT, a proctor failed to take appropriate precautions when a student’s phone rang in the middle of the exam. “The whole situation was bad, and when I was taking the test, the phone distracted the whole class,” Rizvi said. “But the proctor just told the student to turn off the phone, and that wasn’t even the worse part, because he had his phone in his pocket, and you are not allowed to have a phone at the test center, especially if it’s right next to you. This just shows that so much of your performance is reliant on which proctor you have.” According to College Board, a student must be dismissed immediately if his or her phone rings during testing.
Currently, there is no rigorous selection process to become a proctor, since there are no specific requirements needed. Some people are recommended for the positions by existing proctors, while others volunteer themselves by filling out an application under companies that specialize in standardized testing preparation such as PrincetonReview or Kaplan.
According to Shields, there is a training process for the new proctors, but it is mostly a brief overview of their responsibilities that they are required to execute on the morning of the test day.
The majority of the proctors interviewed who have worked at the Gunn test site on Oct. 6 agreed that cheating has not been as serious a problem at Gunn.