Disclaimer: Sarcasm, highly-opinionated sentiments, and a touch of spunk color this article (not to mention a title taken straight from Mean Girls). You have been warned…
You know those epochal events in life that shape the malleable material that is the human spirit? Those that affect you in such a manner that it massively affects your perspective in unforeseeable, far-reaching ways? Well, that’s what the SAT was for me, only in a most terrible and unfortunate way.
I wish I could say it feels like eons ago, but The College Board Nightmare seems as fresh as Jay-Z’s Magna Carta. The SAT is one of many hurdles during the college admission process. I was such a terrible test taker that I specifically looked at test optional universities (Fret not, I had a pretty shabby score but still wound up at a pretty brilliant university). But behold, the SAT was my inescapable fate, so my parents pumped a ton of money (that we didn’t have) into SAT prep (which was a total waste of my parent’s good intentions) and I marched up to that test site with a number two pencil and my TI-83 ready for full-on intellectual warfare.
The SAT is preceded by anxiety, staring at clocks, and a lengthy monologue about policies and procedures regarding the exam. My proctor reviewed cheating policies, how you can be excused for eating or smoking in the test area– all of it seemed pretty mundane. But I specifically remember the proctor telling us “If you see any behavior causing you concern, notify one of us and we will respond appropriately.”
So there I am. Bubbling away, contemplating how smudges of graphite are defining my future, and this fellow across the desk from me gives his answer sheet to the girl next to him. She bubbles a few in, the test proctor turns around in her direction, and she stealthy slips his answer sheet back to the boy, unnoticed (It took a lot of self control to not type that in all caps). I think to myself “Okay Meg, breathe. Focus.” Mid-self-pep talk, HE DOES IT AGAIN. Needless to say, I was livid.
All I could think of was how much work I had invested to do well on this test. And here is this bonehead swapping sheets with his girl. I worked my buttocks off studying for the SAT. Vocab Word of the Day, practice SATs at my library, reading every book about strategies, utilizing financial resources I didn’t have for prep, you name it. Unlike this couple, I followed instructions. The next time we had a break, I discretely told my proctor that the two were switching answer sheets. He nodded his head contemplatively, and resumed the test. Call me immature, call me a tattle tale, call me whatever mean name you can conjure, but I really don’t care. I worked hard. I studied hard. And it wasn’t fair to me, or any other of the 500-some college hopefuls who were conducting themselves with integrity, to let this simply slide by.
Nothing happened for the duration of the exam. Nothing, except for the boy and girl continuously swapping tests. The proctor was silent, and I was angry.
A few months later, I get a letter in the mail from College Board notifying me that my scores had been canceled due to an incident at my test site. My score? Mine, the one completed by a hard-working, honest student, dedicated to her future? And to top it all off, I only had a few days to reschedule my test in order for my scores to be turned in on time.
At the time, I pushed my rage aside, buckled down, and did my re-take. But recently, I went to College Board’s site and perused their plethora of PDFs for some sort of cheaters policy. They have an entire section called “Test Security and Fairness” (insert eye roll). Yes, I am aware that College Board “reserves the right to withhold or cancel scores at any time.” Cool. I get that. I played by your rules, but let’s review the rules that you broke. Let’s start at the beginning. Of course, College Board did not have a typed script, and instead had a “Test Day Simulator” video. I love writing for you all, but this is as far as I could watch to transcribe: “Good morning. Today you are going to take the SAT. This is your chance to show how prepared you are for college. If you have questions about any of the instructions I give you, please ask them so that you can be sure of doing your best. The SAT program has policies that are designed to give each of you equal opportunity to show your abilities. We will dismiss and cancel the scores of anyone who tries to gain an unfair advantage…”
- “Equal Opportunity”- I was not afforded equal opportunity because the proctor allowed two students to share answer sheets.
- “We will dismiss and cancel the scores of anyone who tries to gain an unfair advantage”- Sure, you canceled the cheaters’ scores. But you also canceled mine and 500 other students who (to my knowledge) made no attempt to gain this unfair advantage.
- “While you are taking the test, you should not allow anyone to see the test questions or your answers — your test booklet and answer sheet should remain flat on your desk at all times”- Shall I continue? Or do you get the point?
- “You may not consult textbooks, other people, electronic devices or any other resources during the test or during breaks.”- Other. People.
- “If you fail to comply with these Test Security and Fairness policies, you may be dismissed from the test center, and your scores may be withheld or canceled.”- The two cheaters were not dismissed. We all completed the test to the best of our abilities, and all that work was canceled.
Yes. I survived. I go to a great university, and the SAT wasn’t the end of me. But I was still wronged, and this opened my eyes to an even greater problem. The repercussions of reporting a cheater are greater than those of letting someone cheat. The tragic thing is, my story is not unique. A high school student was completely aware of cheating behavior taking place and said, “I think a lot of people were nervous to report it because not only was the kid kind of a bully, but we didn’t want anything to happen to our scores.” The Prospect’s own Mollie Yacano had a similar event where her scores were canceled due to “desks being too close together” and another undisclosed technicality.
Let me break it down for you: students are being pressured into silence in fear that their score will be negatively affected. My friends did not support my decision to notify the proctor of this indiscretion. Their scores were canceled, and they believed it was because of me. I want to make this perfectly clear: I would not take back my actions. If the SAT is a test to see how prepared you are for college and you cheat, then darling, you’re cheating yourself.