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Answer Sheet
Posted at 04:46 PM ET, 09/28/2011

SAT cheating scheme uncovered; 7 arrested

Seven current and former students at a prestigious high school in Long Island, N.Y., have been arrested and accused of involvement in a scheme in which one took the SAT college entrance exam for the others — in exchange for payments of up to $2,500 each.

Six unidentified students who are minors face misdemeanor changes but Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, a student at Emory University in Atlanta who is from Great Neck, N.Y., faces felony charges, the Associated Press reported.

Eshaghoff is alleged to have taken the SATs for the other students from Great Neck North High School starting in 2009 by using fake IDs to gain entrance into the exam venues. One of the students for whom he took the exam was a girl, though it is unclear how he managed to do that. Nassau County prosecutors said he did not charge her, the AP reported.

He did pretty well for the students for whom he is alleged to have taken the tests.

According to prosecutors, he scored between 2140 and 2220 on the exams, out of a total of 2400. He now faces four years in prison if convicted on charges of scheming to defraud, criminal impersonation and falsifying business records. He pleaded not guilty and was released after posting $500 bail, the AP reported. The other students who were arrested were released without having to post bail.

Prosecutors now say they are looking to see if the scandal reaches beyond Great Neck North High and into other high schools.

The scheme was uncovered by faculty members who heard rumors that some students had paid someone to take the SAT for them, the AP reported. Six students who had far better test scores than their grades would indicate were identified, the prosecutor said.

What happened to these students is unusual. I once published a post about what happens to students who cheat on the SAT and the ACT. The answer: Usually not as much as you might think.

First of all, it isn’t particularly easy to cheat on these exams, but, obviously, that doesn’t stop some students from trying.

They try in the more obvious ways: They copy off someone else’s paper (which can be dangerous because not everyone may have the same test). They text on a cellphone for answers and hope not to get caught, which some do. They bring cheat sheets.

And some cheat in ways you might not consider: In South Korea, a test prep tutor was once investigated for allegedly buying scanned copies of sections of the SAT and then e-mailing them, with the answers, to South Koreans in Connecticut who were going to take the test 12 hours later.

Another SAT tutor in South Korea was arrested for having students who were taking the SAT put test questions into a calculator that they were permitted to use, and to hide small blades in their erasers to cut out pages of the test.

So what happens to students suspected of cheating on the tests?

Spokesmen for the ACT and for the Educational Testing Service, which scores the SAT, have said in the past that a review of a student’s test could be triggered in one of several ways, including an audit that flags scores that have risen dramatically, or by a tip from outside parties, such as a guidance counselor, college admissions officer or NCAA official.

Test supervisors also report any irregularities that occur on the day of the test. And both organizations have anonymous hotlines which anyone can call with information about breaches in test security.

In some cases, handwriting experts will be called in to check whether the handwriting on the written portion matches other work by the person who was supposed to take the test.

Sometimes, the student is able to answer the questions and the case is closed. Other times, a student is given several options:

*Retake the test free of charge.

For the ACT, if the new composite score is no more than 3 points lower than the questioned score, then the questioned scores are deemed valid, Colby said.

How close the new SAT score had to be for the questioned score to be accepted is unclear, but the score has to jump a few hundred points to be questioned in the first place.

*Provide an explanation and documentation of how the scores jumped.

*Cancel the scores, which is not seen by ACT or ETS as an admission of guilt. The ACT and the ETS can also decide unilaterally to cancel the test scores, and notify the student (who can request arbitration from an independent party if desired) as well as the schools that received the scores. But the schools aren’t told by ETS or ACT why the scores were cancelled.

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By  |  04:46 PM ET, 09/28/2011

 
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