What Happened with the August 2018 SAT Security Breach?
If you are a student or the parent of a student who took the SAT on August 25, 2018, you have probably heard about the concerns regarding security breaches and the questionable integrity of this particular administration of the test.
Shortly after leaving their testing centers on Saturday, some students who took the SAT began to post on Twitter, Reddit, and other online forums that many of the questions on the test had been leaked online months before. Some students even reported that they had used the very same test to prepare for the SAT.
How were the test questions leaked?
The College Board, which creates and administers the SAT, has long reused tests. A test given in the United States might, for example, later be used for an international administration. In this case, it appears that the August 2018 test was administered in October 2017 as an international exam. Questions from that exam were posted online, presumably by people who sat for that test. Some students may have encountered these questions innocently while searching for practice questions, but others almost certainly were given these questions as practice by companies that seek out any method, however illegal, to raise scores, including by hiring students to memorize portions of an exam so that it can later be reconstructed (not always accurately).
Will my scores be negatively affected?
There seem to be many students who are worried that they will receive lower scores because students who were exposed to the leaked materials have “thrown off the curve” of the test. This is an understandable concern, but it is unfounded. SAT score scales are determined before a test is given, so your scores will be unaffected by the scores of any other students, whether they were exposed to leaked materials or not.
What does this all mean?
The College Board must now decide how to respond to the issue of the students who had access to the test questions prior to the test. In past instances of test-material leaks and reports of widespread cheating, individual students—and even whole schools or testing centers—have been flagged for irregularities and have had their scores canceled.
However, the August SAT date is one of the most popular testing dates of the year, and while canceling all scores would eliminate any competitive advantage for students who had been exposed to the leaked materials prior to the test, it would also be an enormous inconvenience to the vast majority of students who prepared for the test without the use of leaked materials. The College Board has already stated that most scores will made available within the usual timetable and that it will “conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis of certain test scores” of students who may have gained an unfair advantage.
If I took the SAT in August, should I be worried?
If you’re satisfied with your August 2018 SAT scores, there’s no reason you should feel pressured to take the test again. While it’s certainly natural and understandable to feel worried about circumstances that you can’t control, the vast majority of students who took the SAT in August will be unaffected by this controversy.
Also, while SAT scores are important, remember that they are just one part of the college application process. If you hit your SAT goal score in August, we would encourage you to celebrate your success and focus your energy on your GPA, extracurricular activities, college essays, and everything else that goes into building stellar college applications!
If, however, you’re unhappy with your August scores and wish to retake the SAT for any reason, or even switch to the ACT, we recommend registering for the October SAT (registration deadline September 7 / late online registration deadline September 26) or the October ACT (registration deadline September 28 / late registration deadline October 14).
If you have further questions or wish to update your testing plan, please feel free to contact your nearest Elite Prep branch, and one of our advisers would be happy to help you get on track for success this fall!