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Old SAT Exams Get Reused
"Test-prep companies are all over these tests," he said.
Most students took the exam Saturday probably weren't among those who took it 13 months ago. But Quattrociocchi says he believes thousands of students would have taken the exam twice, including students taking an early stab at the test as sophomores and again as juniors, and current seniors applying to schools with late deadlines. ETS wasn't immediately sure what the number of repeat test-takers was.
Any edge is helpful, especially for students trying to earn a score that qualifies them for a scholarship. But students who can afford expensive test-prep classes may benefit most from the practice, by getting drilled on more of the questions they'll see on the real test.
Having seen exam questions before "gives certain kids ... a tremendous advantage both practically and psychologically," said Bob Schaeffer of the group FairTest, an SAT critic.
Ewing, the ETS spokesman, said some portions of the exam must be kept consistent so that the scores equate from year to year. But it takes 18 months and "probably $350,000" to create an entirely new SAT. The test already costs students $41.50.
But some critics say the practice amounts to cutting corners. The College Board, a not-for-profit that promotes college access, took in nearly $500 million in total revenue in 2004, the year of its most recent publicly available financial disclosure form.
More than 4,000 SAT exams taken in October 2005 were initially scored incorrectly by a College Board subcontractor, an error blamed on technical problems caused partly by humidity.
Meanwhile, there was also a problem with the Medical College Admission Test administered on Saturday, involving a question that was administered to about 800 test-takers. A reading passage about robotic fish was followed by unrelated questions about songbirds.
The Association of American Medical Colleges, which oversees the MCAT, said responses to that question would be thrown out and students' scores would not be affected.