Something every successful test taker must bring to the SAT or ACT–apart from pencils, a calculator, a watch, and acceptable ID–is an imperturbable ability to ignore or overcome all manner of crisis. Whether other test takers are freaking out, proctors are messing up, or wildlife is crashing the party, distractions abound to distract test takers from their best scores. But trained minds can cope with any and all of these external crises.
What about when the problem is the test itself?
Students taking the SAT this past Saturday were almost finished with their exams when they had to contend with a printing error in the standard test books provided by ETS. The time allotted for the last reading section was incorrectly written as 25 minutes in the student test books but correctly identified as 20 minutes in the script and manual provided to test center supervisors. While the misprint appeared in the last reading section, some students may have been taking the last math section in the same room at the same time.
As expected, test day chaos ensued. Experienced students in many locations recognized the error and alerted their proctors. In other test locations, the discrepancy wasn’t discovered until proctors called time. Overall, countless teens suffered needless anxiety during an already stressful exam.
Often, when even the smallest thing goes wrong on test day, the College Board is quick to cancel scores. This time, however, students will not see the results of their efforts entirely discarded. The College Board will be reporting these scores:
Q: Will my scores be available and still be delivered to colleges and universities?
After a comprehensive review and statistical analysis, the College Board and ETS have determined that the last reading and last math sections will not be scored, and that we will still be able to provide reliable scores for all students who took the SAT on June 6. We expect to deliver scores within the usual time frame. Colleges and universities will know these scores are valid.
Q: How is it possible to not score two sections and still have valid scores?
The SAT consists of three Tests: Reading, Writing, and Math – with each test having multiple sections. To accommodate the wide range of incidents that can impact a testing experience, the SAT is designed to collect enough information to provide valid and reliable scores even with an additional unscored section within a test. From fire drills and power outages to mistiming and disruptive behavior, school-based test administrations can be fragile, so our assessments are not.
We have deliberately constructed each test to include three equal sections with roughly the same level of difficulty. If one of the three sections is jeopardized, the correlation among sections is sufficient to be able to deliver reliable scores.
No doubt, many students suffered emotional distress on test day as a result of this small but significant misprint in the test booklet. A large number of test takers may have even underperformed on the very last section of the test, which is being scored. However, this glitch may actually benefit many students who consistently fade towards the end of the four-hour ordeal of the SAT. So if you took the June 6 SAT, keep your fingers crossed… if you’re lucky, you earned the score you were looking for. If not, you’ve got plenty of time to prepare for the next SAT in October!