Instructors cry foul over SAT test changes

The Joongang Daily, August 17, 2013

Following the nationwide cancellation of all SAT tests in May, the College Board announced in early July that it would only offer SAT testing four times in the 2013-14 school year in Korea, as opposed to the standard six. The Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the SATs, took such measures in response to the illicit acquisitions and release of testing materials by private academies known as hagwon this February. Korea and two other countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, face such changes. It is still unclear whether this policy will become permanent.

Though reactions to the testing changes have varied, most have been highly critical of the College Board.

"All hardworking students in Korea are being punished for the actions of the few," said a prominent SAT instructor who wanted to remain anonymous. "Reducing the number of times the SAT is offered doesn't make it less likely for people to cheat."

"I wasn't surprised that the College Board made such a decision. Personally, I thought it would cancel the administration of the test altogether [in Korea]," said another hagwon instructor who asked to remain anonymous. "Overall, I don't think this change will affect how Korean students prepare for SAT testing. Eventually, students will find a loophole and find a way to exploit the system."

Due to the College Board's punitive measures, certain students fear that colleges in the U.S. may have a negative image of Korea during the application process. In addition, certain test-takers' registrations for the June test were forfeited, inciting concerns that some students have been "blacklisted" and will thus be at a disadvantage when applying to U.S. colleges.

To pacify some of these concerns, ETS liaisons have confirmed that there will not be negative consequences for the students who were not involved in the cheating incidents and that the College Board would decide on further repercussions against those implicated with the scandal once the investigation by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office concludes.

Meanwhile, officials at the Korean Ministry of Education categorized this incident as "shameful" and a "national embarrassment," stating that they would reinforce stricter regulations for hagwon suspected of releasing testing materials and were considering measures to revoke the teaching licenses of instructors involved in the cheating scandals.

In fear of additional complications, certain students are planning to take future SAT tests internationally in Japan and Guam, while others are opting to take the American College Testing exam instead.

"I'm pretty satisfied with my SAT scores, but I'm afraid that College Board might try to cancel previous test scores," said David Cho, 17, a Seoul International School student. "Even though I'm not guilty of cheating, I'm going to need a backup. By taking the ACT, I can prove to colleges that my test results are legitimate."

Other students even view these new policy changes as an educational incentive. Emily Woo, 16, a Taejon Christian International School student, believes that these changes would motivate her to "study harder because there are fewer opportunities to take the exam."

Others, like William Chwa, 17, who will take his SATs in the fall, plan to self-study for the exam rather than attend hagwon that are "willing to do anything for a better score."

The cancellation of all SATs in South Korea, the first time it has ever occurred in the exam's history, has demonstrated the consequences of "Korean private education at its worst," according to a Department of Education official. "We will do everything under our power to make sure that no such scandals tarnish our national reputation in the future."


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