More than 2 million students across America will take the SAT this year. For many of those students, their SAT score will determine their collegiate future. With high stakes like these, some people will always try to beat the system. On September 27, a college student from Long Island, New York, named Samuel Eshaghoff, allegedly took the SAT for six or more students and is now being charged with felony fraud. Each of the students paid Eshaghoff $1,500-$2,500 for the service. The six students face misdemeanor charges, but their names have not been released, and the colleges that they applied to have not been notified. “WHAT!?!?” you may be thinking. It’s true! The major flaw in the SAT testing system is that few repercussions for cheating exist. When the Educational Testing Service (ETS) detects an irregularity in the test result, it just withdraws the test score and notifies the student. The colleges to which the student was applying are not notified, and the student can retake the test. Last year 1,000 scores were withdrawn for misbehavior.
Another poorly handled cheating scandal occurred in 2008. A couple of high school students in Orange County came forward with information about other students using cell phones during an AP exam. Following this event 10 students admitted to cheating, so the ETS cancelled all of the scores from the exam that day, leaving 385 students and their families extremely angry. The non-cheating students protested and asked for their scores to be reinstated, but the ETS said restoring the scores was impossible. Further investigation discovered that not only were many students cheating, but some of the professional proctors had also fallen asleep during the test.
Other examples of the ETS poorly handing test score irregularity exist as well. According to the Los Angeles Times, test scores can be withdrawn for a multitude of reasons including, but not limited to: “illness of the examinee, mis-timing of the test, and disturbances or irregularities at the testing site.” Furthermore, the ETS does not have to disclose the reason they canceled the score. This lack of disclosure requirement means that someone could be taking the test ethically, find out that their test scores have been canceled, and then not receive any explanation.
While cheating on the SAT and ACT is a fairly rare event, it still seems that a better system should be put in place to handle cheating and canceled scores. ACT spokesperson Ed Colby says, "What we're trying to do is make sure the scores that we send to colleges are valid. It's not our intention to go around punishing students who make mistakes or who've done something they shouldn't have done." Sure, maybe it is not the job of the ETS, ACT, or SAT to handle punishment for cheating. But it should be someone’s job, and if testing agencies do not punish and fail to disclose any information to colleges and high schools, then no one can do the job.
To be fair to the vast majority of students who are not cheating on the tests, the system needs to be changed. Since the Long Island cheating scandal, lawmakers have looked into making cheating on the SAT illegal because currently, students can only be indicted if money exchanges hands. However, lawmakers are not the only ones who can fix this problem. The smartest way for ETS to handle the issue of cheating is to disincentivize it. By simply stating upfront that all incidents of cheating will be included on an ETS record—the record forwarded to colleges—chances are that students would think twice about cheating.