The College Board’s SAT snafu reached new lows this week when the board announced that an additional 393 test takers received mistakenly low scores on the October exam, bringing the total number of affected students to 4,411.
This discovery comes after the board announced Wednesday that approximately 27,000 exams — from the batch of about 495,000 SATs taken in October — had not been rechecked after being previously marked for scoring problems, which led to the delay in reported numbers. In addition, the board said Sunday that about 1,600 October tests had also not been rechecked.
Before these revelations, about 4,000 students who took October tests had their scores increased two weeks ago. Students who received incorrect scores that were higher than they actually deserved were not notified of the mistake. The board has said the errors were likely the result of moisture in the test papers, which caused the bubbles on the scoring sheets to move or expand.
About 75 students who had applied to Yale had their original scores improved before the 393 erroneously scored exams were discovered, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said. Brenzel said he has not yet been notified about how many Yale applicants will be affected by the most recent changes. No admissions decisions have been reversed, and Brenzel said such a move is unlikely.
“We don’t know as yet how many Yale applicants are involved in the latest announcement, but we expect it to be only a small handful, and we have been led to expect that we will receive the names and correct scores [on Friday],” he said in an e-mail.
Brenzel said he will be watching to see what alterations the board implements to prevent these problems from occurring again.
“We are disappointed that the College Board has encountered these errors, but they are also highly unusual in the experience of the member schools,” he said.
Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director of SAT information services, said the board is in the process of notifying the schools to which the 393 students with score changes applied. The vendor that scores the tests has certified that all the tests have been recalculated and that every test requiring rechecking has gone through the system.
O’Reilly said the responses from notified admissions directors have been varied.
“We’ve received a mixed reaction,” O’Reilly said. “Some show a level of appreciation, while there are other admissions folks who seem more angered by all of this.”
As a result of the errors, the board — in association with vendor Pearson Educational Measurement — will be taking several steps to make sure these mistakes are not repeated in the future, O’Reilly said. These initiatives will include scanning each answer sheet twice and improving software to make sure the humidity impact does not affect answer sheets. Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, has been hired to perform a comprehensive review of the entire process, as well.
Despite these efforts, Monty Neill, the executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said the recent errors highlight the overreliance on standardized tests in college admissions.
“There are two major implications [of the recent scoring errors],” Neill said. “Colleges such as Yale should devalue standardized testing and should have testing be an optional part of the application. In addition, there should be an independent investigation into these developments and into the testing industry and regulations in general.”
Neill proposed that an umbrella organization might help decrease the chances that errors of this kind would occur in the future.
“The College Board did not handle this well, as indicated by the three separate announcements [of scoring errors],” Neill said. “There is a serious lack of clarity within the board. For a test that holds its students to high standards, it is clear that high standards are not found within the testing body itself.”
Students said they found the buildup of scoring errors troubling.
Dan Schechner, a senior at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J., said he finds the errors disheartening.
“Frankly, I’m really disappointed,” said Schechner, who said he plans to attend Yale next year. “We like to think that everything in college admissions is legitimate and honest. The fact that some of these scores were incorrect is depressing.”
Andy Okuneff, a senior at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles who applied to Yale, said he found the scoring errors “ridiculous.”
Okuneff said that while it is unfair that some students benefited from the error, since higher-than-deserved scores were not corrected, he thinks the board made the right decision in the end.
“I think it would be more unfair [to correct the score of] an individual who received an original score 100 points higher and applied to schools because of it,” he said. “Given the circumstances, the decision was correct, but there really should not have been a mistake in the first place.”
O’Reilly said the SAT scoring woes are unrelated to this year’s format change for the exam, which included the addition of a third section devoted to writing ability that increased the maximum score from 1,600 to 2,400.