Class Action against the College Board's reuse of the SAT in August

Yesterday I learned from a Warren Foley Prep mom and former lawyer that the College Board is getting slapped with a class action suit in Florida, and Googled to find the one reference to the suit on, linked below. I was the first to share this news on the top-secret college admissions pro group I'm in, and heard from more of the almost 16,000 people in the group than I expected in the middle of Labor Day Weekend. 

"Educational Testing Service and The College Board have been hit with a putative class action in Florida federal court claiming they failed to provide a fair test-taking environment by reusing previously leaked questions on a recent college entrance test."

Most Foley families learned that the SAT was recycled on Sunday, August 26th, the day after the exam. Many admissions folks are expressing serious displeasure with the College Board for its ongoing practice of recycling tests. While the College Board is a non-profit entity, it certainly pays fat salaries to its higher-ups, and thus has an incentive to cut costs. Plainly put, recycling tests is the cheapest way for the College Board to make money. Experts estimate that it costs the College Board about $1000 for every SAT test question.

This practice hurts students, and whatever the outcome of the class action is, the College Board should not rely on increased security (kids and prep firms will always find a way to beat security). Instead, new questions should be developed for each administration of the test, even if each question costs so much to produce. Casting doubt on the validity of the results ironically hurts those who seem to be taking the most advantage of the leaks (students taking the tests in Asia). But it truly hurts everyone when the best objective measures of college readiness are questioned. 

What does this mean if you took the August 25th SAT?

Some Foley Prep parents are reacting by registering their kids for the October SAT, just in case college adcomms view the August results with suspicion. This may prove to be a wise decision. It is unlikely that the College Board will cancel the whole test, as not every student saw recycled problems, and the class action will take years to resolve. So, signing up now for the October SAT as a safety measure seems prudent. And, as Foley families hear from me all the time, taking the ACT after doing SAT prep is also strategically smart. Problem is, the October 28th ACT results arrive past the November 1st Early Decision deadline. 

Will colleges view the SAT as the weaker test?

There seems to be some off the record evidence that colleges view the SAT with a bit more suspicion than the ACT. The wacky June SAT curve (and 4 invalidated verbal questions) and this recent blunder with test security may further exacerbate some of the negative sentiment that started when College Board made dramatic changes to the SAT in March 2016. So, some believe that the quality of the SAT is going down, and while the ACT is not without its problems (changing its essay scoring mid cycle in 2016, some questions about test security, a general trend to becoming for-profit-like), there is evidence that it is becoming known as the more stable, reliable, valid test.

Take both tests!

The advice I have been giving since December 2015 still stands: all students should prep for the SAT or ACT, but be sure to sit for the other test after doing a little bit more prep. All things being equal (initial diagnostic SAT and ACT results as well as the opinion of the test-taker), I recommend that students begin with ACT prep. The ACT's questions are more straightforward than the SAT, yet there is more time pressure on the ACT than the SAT. However, because these tests share so many concepts in common, those who master the ACT first seem to be better off on both tests than had they prepped SAT first. 

Bottom line - submit your best score(s)

I don't want to stoke unnecessary worry - the college admissions process is stressful enough. So, after taking however many tests (hopefully at least one of each!), college applicants will inevitably submit their highest score(s) percentile-wise to their institutions. If an applicant gets a 95th percentile on his SAT and an 87th percentile on his ACT, then submit the SAT of course! 

As always, if you have any questions at all, I'm here to give objective, relevant, expert advice. Please call 732-412-1416. 

Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend!

Ron Foley