For the First Time, SAT Test Gets Canceled in an Entire Country

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Ann Hermes / Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images

Students at Seoul Global High School on March 28, 2013

Some 1,500 South Korean students who dream of attending elite American colleges are scrambling after the U.S.-based administrator of the SAT cancelled the scheduled May 4 session of the exam because of allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the first time the SAT test has been called off in an entire country.

Officials decided to cancel the exam after discovering test questions circulating in test-prep centers in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. The College Board, which administers the SAT in the U.S., and the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the nonprofit organization that develops, publishes and scores the tests, issued a statement, saying they had made the “difficult, but necessary” decision to cancel the exam. “This action is being taken in response to information provided to ETS — the College Board’s vendor for global test administration and security — by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office regarding tutoring companies in the Republic of Korea that are alleged to have illegally obtained SAT and SAT Subject Test materials for their own commercial benefit.”

The details are scarce, but a CNN report says the prosecutors’ office in Seoul confirmed it had raided several testing centers for evidence, and the Journal story notes that at least 10 staff members of test centers have been barred from leaving the country while the prosecutors’ office investigates.

Test center managers told the Journal that the problem is widespread and that official test booklets can be purchased from brokers for about $4,575 — a relatively small price to pay for families fighting to gain admittance to Harvard, Stanford and other prestigious American schools no matter the cost. According to the Institute of International Education’s most recent annual report, South Korea sent 72,295 students to study in the U.S. in the 2011–12 school year, making the country the third largest provider of foreign students to U.S. colleges after China and India. Worldwide, international student enrollment at U.S. colleges has soared in recent years, with a record 764,495 foreign students attending American universities in 2011–12.

This is not the first incident of SAT cheating in South Korea. In 2007, some 900 students who took the exam in January of that year had their scores canceled after an investigation found an unknown number of students had seen at least part of the exam before the test was given. The latest incident, plus a string of scandals in the country over the past year that saw at least seven lawmakers accused of academic plagiarism, caused a South Korean national newspaper to question whether its citizens are unusual in their willingness to cheat.

But South Korea is hardly alone — the high stakes nature of the exam has fueled cheating elsewhere, although on a smaller scale. Of the nearly 3 million SAT exams taken worldwide each year, at least a few thousand are canceled because of suspected cheating. Several hundred other potential test takers are turned away at the door each year because of questionable identification. In 2011, 20 students in Long Island, New York, were charged with cheating on the SAT — five were accused of taking the test for others and 15 were accused of paying them $500 to $3,600 to take the exams.

The College Board and ETS say they expect to be able to offer the SAT in South Korea in June, but in the meantime, and out of fear of additional problems, there have been reports of students flying to Japan and Hong Kong to take the test there in order to get their scores in time to apply for college in the U.S. this summer.

76 comments
BellinaJung
BellinaJung

The least they can do is mention that the school in the picture has nothing to do with the whole issue. Are they even allowed to post random, irrelevant pictures on there? Wow..You even mentioned the name of the school. I hope you make it known that the picture is totally irrelevant and apologize to the school. In the future, if you don't know where it happened, don't put up a picture. You're victimizing an innocent school and people.

sokuri0206
sokuri0206

I assure you that the pic has nothing to do with the whole cheating stuff...i thought that unrelated pics should be mentioned that its unrelated. Cheating was done at a private education center

Vindicated2
Vindicated2

Cheating is rampant everywhere.  Why is South Korea being singled out?  If anything, automate the process so a database of questions can be selected from at random.  And put extra proctors and cameras in the test room.

seizeabe
seizeabe

All the talk of "not-for-profit testing" is absolute nonsense. If anything is not-for-profit, it doesn't need to be advertised, enforced or made compulsory. "Testing" is a billions of dollars industry, with crisscross interconnections. Everybody is required to take the tests. Imagine the money that flows at every stage. Imagine the test preparation material, test preparation centers, testing personnel, testing process and equipment. And all testing is done by private organizations. The all important school and college admission process being "developed, published and scored" by the private sector. There is no government oversight at all. Everybody is in league... Even philanthropists rely on such tests. And, now they want to test (evaluate) teachers too! Imagine privatizing such a vital role of determining the futures of millions of students, without any government oversight whatsoever. And, nobody raises any concern about testing per se, at any government level. Is it the same when it comes to the Defense, Intelligence, Transport security, Healthcare? No. Is it therefore any surprise about how skewed education and opportunities are for the advantaged / privileged? Private testing at the local, state, national and professional levels, without government oversight is a sham. Admissions, funding, promotions, school/college/university ratings, on the basis of private-testing is a sham. Private testing lacks standardization and oversight. It should therefore not be surprising that several scandals, at prestigious colleges, school boards and now these admission tests happen. Testing, especially online-testing, should not be difficult at all, for government to develop, publish and score. Only then will there be the required security, sanctity and credibility of the system, just as the monetary or security systems. Till then, the not-for-profit, billion-dollar, private testing industry would continue to undermine education and thrive as a business. And, make fools of the innocence of hard working students, the world over. Finally, have we heard a single word of dissent or shock from any of the otherwise loud protestors at the political or media level? No! Any surprise?

ttliu
ttliu

@freechal0311 @philkooyoon 한국은 학문 사기꾼들. 엄청 많음.인성은. 안가르치고.누군가. 학계 대청소를. 해야. 한국의 미래가.암울함니다.손석희도.한둘이 않이에요 총체 적으로 썩었네요.

hsknyc
hsknyc

If you can cheat and get away with it, all power to YOU!!  Wish I had an option to cheat when I was miserably taking that stupid test..  Don't get caught.  If no one knows, no one cares.  Lesson to learn from this article?  use a bit more money to stuff the mouth of those officials and tell only the kids who want to cheat.  It's a f'd systemt o begin with, nothing wrong with cheating on a flawed test. IMO only.

ChandlerBrun3
ChandlerBrun3

@TIME @APPropst Why should an American test be administered in a foreign country where they don't know how to keep the exam private?

soyoung1809
soyoung1809

명문대가 뭐길래... 이리도 망신당할 행동들을 하는건지.. 세계적인 잡지에 이렇게 실렸으니 한국인들 이미지가 어떻게 보이겠나-_- What an embarrassing news! Don't try to do something beyond your capability. I wonder how people from other lands would judge intellectual potential of South Korean students after this shameful report. 

hosoo795
hosoo795

@TIME: Why has the SAT test been canceled throughout South Korea? ti.me/124qS15 (via @TIMEWorld)”또 하나의 국가적 망신. 그래봤자 취직 보장도 안되는데.

TerrenceAndrewDavis
TerrenceAndrewDavis

My enemies worry about man's opinion and smearing my reputation amoungst men.  I talk with God and laugh my ass off.  God or man's opinion?  I take that bet any day.  I'm so confident I share a secret.  God said you mess with a priest, you mess with him.

MatthewScot
MatthewScot

@TIME @TIMEWorld because standardized testing is part of a broken educational model and South Korea is an advanced country that knows better

HeartandSolGram
HeartandSolGram

@TIME @TIMEWorld Ugh! Faculty of various schools in Atlanta, GA were accused of the same thing. The test is too darn' hard already! Hello!

AseDeliri
AseDeliri

@sachi_bbsr if you are smart it shows. Regardless of the school you attended. When you climb using a helicopter, you will be quick to fall.

sachi.bbsr
sachi.bbsr

I expect this to happen someday in India.


hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan this has been "a problem" for a long long time. Computerized and randomized can help, but really, tests create test takers.

hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan my roommate in 1991 had GRE in Korean, he said that each attendee was given instructions on which question number to memorize.

seizeabe
seizeabe

Cheat at admission tests, cheat at college (recent elite college cheating scandal.... Intro to congress), cheat at work, cheat friends, cheat government, cheat family... What's surprising about this news? Just research the greatest cheats... And find out where they were introduced to cheating... Where they were taught or learnt to cheat... Things will all fall into place. Not for profit education.... Millions in salaries for CEOs / Presidents... Not for profit hospitals and healthcare insurance... billions in profits, government research grants and funding, tax-loopholes - zero taxes, & Millions in salaries for CEOs / Presidents... Wallstreet crash... Housing crash.... Banks crash... Insurance crash...

Just find out where all these greedy fellows learnt their tricks, and we'll know the foolish rush to cheat in tests, courses and work!

tturner02478
tturner02478

How is this different from what Kaplan and other test-prep parasites do in the US. They use exit interviews to pay students who come out of test administration sites to recall as many questions as they can. They use this in tell to create "sample tests" for students paying for the test prep. Only difference I can see is the scale of the theft.

glennra3
glennra3

@hsknyc 

Same with theft, rape, and murder too, right? If you can get away with it then it isn't really wrong, is it?  Throw morality out the window because all that matters is the personal gratification of the individual.


You make me sick.

hsknyc
hsknyc

@soyoung1809 

No worries, other countries do it as well.  Don't think too much about our image, worry about yours.

Hansmwa
Hansmwa

@sachi.bbsr : You mean to be exposed? Yes it will. India is probably the worst cheating test centers.

razibkhan
razibkhan

@hbergeronx varies depending on incentives/culture. s korea is apotheosis of cram school/teaching to test from what i have heard

mbauer8286
mbauer8286

@tturner02478 cmon, seriously?  There's a world of difference between studying similar types of questions and memorizing the answers to the exact questions that will be on the test.

hsknyc
hsknyc

@glennra3 @hsknyc 

i think u r making yourself sick with your sick comparisons.  That's just like idiots who classified pot with crack.

I guess you agree with government labeling pot on the same felony as crack?  Im talking about cheating a system that is already cheating the unfortunate and poor.  It has nothing to with rape, you sick person.  Where do you get rape from cheating?? how do you draw a comparison like that?  if you rape someone and have the decency to question your moral, i don't think you would have done it in the first place.  IMO, but im not a sick person thinking about rape all the time like glennra3...

hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan we need to decide on the value of worker drones in our schools and corporations. We need less meat for the grinder.

hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan cram schools punish creatives and nonconformists who do most of intellectual heavy lifting.

tturner02478
tturner02478

@mbauer8286 @tturner02478 

You should know that Princeton/SAT maintain a database of questions that are used over and over. Each individual exam that a candidate is administered is composed of a random sample taken from the master set of questions. By conducting the exit interviews Kaplan is able to sample enough test-takers to create a parallel data base that is comparable to the master proprietary one curated by Princeton/SAT. The only difference I see is the means by which the questions are conveyed to the test-takers.


glennra3
glennra3

@hsknyc @glennra3

If you disagree with the system then you opt out of it or you change it.  The faults in the test do not justify your immorality and cheating is immoral.  


Your argument is that if you don't get caught then there is no infraction.  That is a mentality that says that morality is imposed from without.  You only obey the law because of a fear of punishment, not from an internal motivation to do right.


Right is right and wrong is wrong, whether cheating, theft, rape, or murder.  If you don't have an internal moral compass that tells you that then you are simply obeying the rules because someone with power is forcing you to.  


That is the morality of a child who doesn't reach for the cookie jar because he fears mommy's wrath, not the ethics of an adult who refuses to cheat because he knows it is wrong.



hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan my roommate was here, in the USA. Cheating, cramming is pervasive, IMO, and worse at better unis. Red Queen rules the roost.

hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan there's a word for that experience: classism. No one has actually ever tried random as a control.

razibkhan
razibkhan

@hbergeronx outright cheating is less of an issue in the US from what i gather. of course if cheating is pervasive than all bets are off

razibkhan
razibkhan

@hbergeronx smart kids can 'study' for a test. but at a certain level of conventional dullness that's not even possible

razibkhan
razibkhan

@hbergeronx some of both. many grad schools explicitly put GRE cut offs on their applications because they have exp. with ppl below

hbergeronx
hbergeronx

@razibkhan how much of that is "this is the only thing we can measure, so it must be useful", looking for lost keys where the light is best?

razibkhan
razibkhan

@hbergeronx there needs to a nice mix, yes. the key is balance. psychometric tests r actually useful in identifying diamonds-in-rough

associational
associational

@tturner02478 @mbauer8286 The allegations are completely different. Exit interviews aren't even necessary since all the tests are released by the Collegeboard itself several weeks after they're graded. From those released tests, companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review can prepare practice materials.

Now compare that to illegally stealing and circulating the questions before the test is even administered. It's a completely different situation.