Cheating on a test is wrong–unquestionably, irredeemably wrong. Using unethical or illegal means to inflate a test score not only penalizes those who follow the rules but also harms both those who use the test scores and the cheaters themselves. One needs very little imagination to see how SAT scores divorced from the actual levels of math, English, and critical reasoning ability those scores are meant to reflect lead to very bad college admissions outcomes. So, do not ever cheat on the SAT or any other test.
That said, you may really, really, really want a higher score than you are capable of earning, even with expert help. Once you open your mind to even the possibility of using unfair means, you may come to recognize an eternal truth: where there are tests, there is cheating.
The history of the SAT is rich with examples of test takers angling for unfair advantages, which the College Board then rendered ineffective through countermeasures. For example, one classic cheating method involved hiring a youthful-looking expert to test in one’s place. Today, identification requirements at test centers rival security at customs. In the old days, you might be tempted to cheat off of someone next to you, presuming they were better prepared; these days, the test makers analyze answer sheets for statistically improbable sequences of right, wrong, and omitted responses and will hold suspicious scores back. You can’t even bring a mechanical pencil loaded with formulas, vocabulary words, or answer sequences anymore!
No, if you really want to cheat on the SAT, you’ll have to commit to three not-so-easy-steps:
1. Abandon your principles.
Seriously, cheating is bad. Don’t do it.
2. Apply to take the SAT somewhere in Asia.
In the old days, standardized test takers might resort to taking their big tests on the West Coast, knowing that friends on the East Coast could call them during breaks with vital insider information. That hack doesn’t work anymore, at least domestically. But the College Board is notorious–in fact, stubbornly so–about reusing domestically administered SATs abroad.
3. Work with a test prep company known for cheating.
Most of us in the field of test preparation are true educators, aspiring to raise our students’ knowledge and skills to meet certain benchmarks in specific tests. In these instances, the tests provide the templates for what might be required for success on the other side. For example, applicants study diligently for the written and road tests for earning a driver’s license, and in doing so become qualified to drive safely and responsibly.
Unfortunately, other prep professionals employ unethical means to provide advantages to their students. Never has acquiring detailed information about official tests been easier. Even when the College Board bars adults from taking the SAT, students enthusiastically share details about their tests on sites like College Confidential and Reddit. Combining these free crowdsourced resources with more highly placed leaks can deliver uncannily accurate snapshots of official tests.
Access to old tests only helps those willing to work through them. This is where cram schools come in. This type of program preps students for high stakes standardized tests by having them take exam after exam for hours a day. While most American teens, in our experience, balk at taking more than a couple of full-length practice tests, some students in other countries may be willing to invest hundreds of hours in preparation. Consequently, cram school operators assiduously acquire copies of every prior version of a test, sometimes through any means necessary.
Combine the existence of the SAT cram schools so prevalent in Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Singapore with the College Board’s known propensity for reusing previously administered tests and test sections in those selfsame countries and you have the perfect recipe for cheating on the SAT. Sure, you’ll be wasting countless hours trying to parrot correct answers rather than developing essential language and reasoning skills. Sure, you may earn scores that provide access to programs you are woefully unqualified for. Sure, you run the risk of your test being cancelled, as all SATs in January 2016 in China and Macau were, or your scores held back. As long as the College Board willfully reuses official test material, this is the surest way to cheat on the SAT.