Students taking the SAT on Saturday across the United States found a printing error in the instructions, causing confusion about just how much time they had to complete at least one section. Many proctors apparently did not realize that students had incorrect information until they told students their time for a certain section was nearly up and students complained.
Frantic proctors began calling the College Board on Saturday during the test to try to get guidance, and after the test, students and parents began posting complaints about the error on social media and other Web sites. For example, here is a post from a parent on the College Confidential Web site:
In my daughter’s test, they told her they conferred with the College Board and that they had 25 minutes. Then 19 minutes into the section (she still thought she had six minutes) someone came into the room and told them they had to finish it within 20 minutes. So they only had one more minute. She still had 3 questions left, as she thought she had six minutes.
The section in question was either a math or reading section, depending on which version of the test students were taking. Both the reading and math tests include three equal sections with roughly the same level of difficulty, representatives from the College Board said, so that if one section is thrown out, “the correlation among sections is sufficient to be able to deliver reliable scores.”
The College Board apologized for the SAT printing error on Monday, and said that the issue would not affect student scores. It was suggested that students visit a web page set up to explain the printing error.
Disconcertingly, the College Board’s explanation does not take into account the experimental section. The experimental section is one full 25-minute section (reading, math or writing) in which the College Board is testing potential future test questions and which does not count towards the student’s score. Under the solution proposed by the College Board, the experimental section now counts and is likely to adversely impact student scores.
James S. Murphy, a test prep expert, told The Washington Post that “students across the nation” got exam booklets with the printing error. Murphy said one high school junior from New Milford, Conn., told him that when he got to the section, “he knew something was wrong since he’d taken the exam twice before … He pointed this out, and the proctor asked what other people’s exam books said. About half the people in the room had 25 minutes for Section 8.”
A test supervisor said the problem was taking place in other classrooms, too. “It turned out that the extent of this problem was much wider and was in fact nationwide,” Murphy said.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, said in an e-mail regarding the SAT printing error:
If the mistimed sections were not experimental, the College Board faces a serious test scoring problem. At a minimum, the administration of that portion of the exam was not “standardized” since some students had 20 minutes to complete the items, while others had 25 minutes. [The College Board needs] to explain immediately how this error occurred and what they are going to do to insure score integrity.