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[Editorial] SAT Scandal

Posted January. 18, 2010 08:19,   


A Korean cram school instructor has been caught stealing test sheets of the SAT, a test that is taken by more than one million students around the world. This ironically shows Korea’s blind obsession with academic records, private tutoring, globalization, and cutting-edge ability to collect information. The case is the first theft and leak of the SAT in the 110-year history of the test. It is unpleasantly surprising to discover that the instructor stole SAT sheets in Thailand, where test supervision is less strict than in Korea, where monitoring has grown much tighter.

Like the Korean college entrance exam, the SAT also takes test sheets back. In Korea, however, students in the past stole SAT sheets several times, making the College Board, which is in charge of the test, put Korea on its blacklist. Educational Testing Service, which supervises the SAT in Korea, conducted an investigation after some 900 students who took the test in Korea in 2007 received extremely high scores. The scores were canceled after the service discovered that the students had received questions in advance.

The cheating scandal was a combination of students seeking good scores in a short period of time and greedy overseas study agencies that profit by sending students abroad. Korea experienced a similar cheating case on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, leading to the use of the Internet-based TOEFL Test or iBT. The College Board has no choice but to take action to prevent cheating. It could make students in Asia take the test at the same time the exam in the U.S. is administered, or give it online like TOEFL. Asian students then might have to take the SAT after midnight or in the wee hours of the morning given the time difference with North America.

Another fear is that Korean students who did not cheat might still be at a disadvantage if college admissions officers believe they got good SAT scores after cheating. The perception is widening that Korean students show relatively low academic achievement compared to their SAT scores. A survey shows that 44 percent of Korean students who get accepted into a top 14 American university drop out.

Fortunately, Korean police have caught the instructor in question, showing the country’s willingness to improve the situation. The College Board should take preventive measures to prevent cheating, but also not underestimate Korean students just because of one private school’s misbehavior. Students must also be taught the value of fair play, which is far more important than test scores.