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The College Board  is investigating allegations of cheating on the SAT given Oct. 11, 2014, in Korea and China, and has withheld scores for students in those countries.

The Educational Testing Service issued a statement saying that it was taking “seriously” any allegations of breaches in testing security and it strongly denounced organizations that work to get copies of the test in advance and then pass them on to students to make money.

The scores at issue are for the SAT that was given Oct. 11, 2014. Students from China and South Korea did not receive their scores, and when they asked why, this is the e-mail they got from the Educational Testing Service (which administers the SAT for the College Board):

Dear Test Taker:

We at ETS are highly committed to quality standards and fairness. After every test administration, we go to great lengths to make sure each test result we report is accurate and valid. It is with this objective in mind that we sometimes take additional quality control steps before scores are released.

For the reasons stated above, your October 2014 SAT scores are delayed because they are under administrative review. This review is routinely performed on each test score in certain circumstances and may take up to four weeks. We hope you realize only accurate and valid test results are meaningful and helpful to their recipients.

At the conclusion of our review, you will be notified only if there are questions concerning your scores. Otherwise your scores will be reported to you and to schools you have designated to receive reports. If you have not heard from us in approximately three weeks, please feel free to contact Customer Service by email at sat@info.collegeboard.org or by phone at +1-212-713-7789 Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

The College Board and ETS, when asked about this, released this statement:

The College Board and its global test administration and security provider, Educational Testing Service (ETS), are committed to ensuring quality standards and fairness for all students.

Together, we take seriously any reported violations of our test administration and security policies, and strongly denounce organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit, to the ultimate detriment of all students.

In addition to our standard processes, we rely on information shared by individuals who also wish to ensure a fair testing environment for all students. We take action on all credible information and go to great lengths to ensure each test result we report is accurate and valid.

Based on specific, reliable information, we have placed the scores of all students who are current residents of Korea or China and sat for the October 11thinternational administration of the SAT on hold while we conduct an administrative review.  The review is being conducted to ensure that illegal actions by individuals or organizations do not prevent the majority of test-takers who have worked hard to prepare for the exam from receiving valid and accurate scores.

We encourage anyone with knowledge of any dishonest behavior with respect to the SAT to contact the Office of Testing Integrity.  Reports can be made confidentially at +1 (609) 406-5430ortestsecurity@info.collegeboard.org.

Test security in Asia has been breached repeatedly in the past.

Last year, there were two episodes of suspected cheating, one in October involving allegations in Korea that questions from earlier tests were obtained by “cram schools” and given to students before they took the exam. (South Korea is famous for its “cram schools,” at which students are tutored intensively out of the classroom starting as early as kindergarten.) The College Board canceled the May 2013 administration of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests throughout South Korea because of a leak of test questions — the first time the test had been canceled in an entire country. The SAT is no longer administered at many sites in mainland China because of past incidents of cheating, usually involving prior knowledge of test questions.

On Oct. 8, 2014 — days before the Oct. 11 administration of the SAT —  the National Center for Fair & Open Testing received an anonymous tip about cheating that included what the sender claimed to be a copy of the December 2013 SAT that was supposedly going to be administered at international sites Oct. 11. This was reported by Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the center,  a nonprofit dedicated to ending the abuse of standardized tests commonly known as FairTes. He said FairTest tried to confirm the claims but could not.

According to Schaeffer, SAT tests given at international sites are “almost always” repeats of exams administered previously in the United States but not publicly released.

Students began to think that the October 2014 international version of the SAT was identical to the December 2013 U.S. version by Googling some vocabulary words and passage topics and finding that the 2013 test was the one that came up in discussions threads on “collegeconfidential.com,” according to Schaeffer. It is not yet clear, however, whether the two tests are identical.

Here are some of the questions I hope the College Board and the ETS will answer:

–  How many scores are being withheld?
–  Is there a major test security problem?
–  Was the test administered in Asia on Oct. 11, 2014, previously administered in the U.S. in December 2013 (or some other date)?
–  When does the College Board/ETS expect to determine whether or not a significant breach occurred and decide whether or not to release scores?
–  If some students in Asia had prior knowledge of the test’s content, how do we know that this information was not shared internationally via the Internet, chat sites, etc.?
–  Could this incident call into question the validity of scores around the world?

[This post has been updated.]