On the morning of June 6, seniors Nathan Chan, Madison Judd and America Lopez were taking the SAT, just like other students all across the country.
But all across the country, unbeknownst to the test takers at the time, these students were dealing with a timing issue on the standardized test.
According to the College Board website, there was a printing error in the student test books provided by the Educational Testing Service.
The test books incorrectly indicated that the last reading section was to be 25 minutes long, while the manual and script for the proctors indicated only 20 minutes.
Because the SAT is administered in such a way that students are taking different sections at different times, the College Board says that students taking the last math section may have been affected as well.
Jane Bauman, SCDS director of college counseling, called the instructions glitch “surprising, embarrassing and avoidable.”
According to a statement Bauman received, the College Board’s research team conducted “a comprehensive review and statistical analysis” to “confirm the reliability and technical soundness of students’ scores.” It has been determined that the last reading and last math sections will not be scored.
With a test that includes “three equal sections with roughly the same level of difficulty,” the College Board claims that if one of the three sections is jeopardized, the scores provided to the students will still be reliable.
“To accommodate the wide range of incidents that can impact a testing experience, the SAT’s Critical Reading, Writing, and Math tests each collect enough information to provide valid and reliable scores even with an unscored section,” the College Board said in a statement on its website.
“From fire drills and power outages to mistiming and disruptive behavior, school-based test administrations can be fragile, so our assessments are not.”
An estimated 487,000 students were registered for the June SAT, according to a Washington Post article. All students who registered and took the test on June 6 were affected by the glitch.
Judd and Lopez took the SAT at St. Francis High School and were affected on the reading section.
Judd said when she practiced for the SAT and during the PSAT, she never had timing problems on the English sections. On the contrary, she always finished with extra time, she said.
However, on this English section, it was different.
“I felt like I had to rush to get to the end, and that was unusual for me,” she said.
Lopez, who said she’s always been a slow test taker, had a similar experience.
“The timing kind of affected me,” she said.
She said she’s a very analytical reader and likes to completely understand the passages of the reading section before she answers any of the questions.
“I took too much time on the readings, which didn’t allow for much time to complete all of the questions and also go back and check my answers,” Lopez said.
Judd and Lopez said they didn’t notice any students at St. Francis visibly react to the timing mishap.
“It wasn’t until after the test that anyone knew,” Judd said.
The two sections in question affected by the timing glitch will be discarded, according to the Washington Post article, and the remaining eight sections will be scored.
Judd said she doesn’t think her score will be as high as it might have been, because of the section omission and especially because English is her strong suit.
However, she is looking on the bright side.
Despite remaining confident in the reliability of the scores, the College Board is waiving fees for all students negatively affected by the timing glitch.
Judd now views the June SAT as a kind of practice test, as she can retake the SAT for free in the fall.
“A free new test!” Judd said. “It’s kind of a good deal.”
On the other hand, Lopez is not sure that she will retake the exam in the fall.
Taking the College Board up on the offer would be the third time she’s taken the SAT. Lopez said she thinks it’s unnecessary to take the test so many times.
“You just (have) to go in and take it,” she said.
Lopez said she will check both scores and submit the one that’s higher.
Unless she “really, really” has to, she said, she won’t be taking the SAT for a third time.
Chan was not available for comment.
Bauman said she can’t advise students who took the June exam until the scores come in. According to its website, the College Board expects to post the scores “within the original time frame.”
“Theoretically,” Bauman said, “the scores should be accurate, but there could be a lot of disgruntled test takers.
“It’s only fair for the College Board to allow students to repeat the exam for free.”
—By Zoë Bowlus