College Board is cancelling people's paid and confirmed registrations for March SAT...

This issue has been discussed on Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and probably elsewhere as well, but so far, I haven’t seen any mention of it here on College Confidential.

Recently, unknown (but large) numbers of registered March test-takers received the following email from College Board:

Those affected seem to be test-takers above high school age, even though College Board explicitly states that adults can take the test (https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/special-circumstances/test-takers-over-age-21) and even though all affected were allowed to register and pay and were then sent confirmations of their registrations.

Many of those affected are tutors and teachers, who have registered and paid for the new SAT for work purposes (test prep, college counseling, etc.) that support the College Board and its products. Some of these tutors/teachers are from outside the U.S. and now have non-refundable flight and hotel bookings to the U.S. West Coast. They made these bookings on the apparently erroneous assumption that College Board could supply consistent and reliable information about its own products (again, the organization states that adults can take the test) and honor its own agreements (i.e., paid and confirmed test registrations).

Others affected are non-traditional students. Discussions on Reddit and LinkedIn mention people in their twenties who are trying to return to school and military members who need SAT or ACT scores for advancement purposes. Even if these people are able to win the “appeal process” that College Board is offering, they will still have had their registrations cancelled with less than a week’s notice and they will have spent their final week trying to get their registrations reinstated rather than studying effectively–what a needless waste of study time.

In sum, the SAT wing of the College Board has yet again show itself baffling unable to handle the basics of pretty much its only job–properly administering the SAT. Large numbers of people who registered and paid months ago based on College Board’s own information (i.e., adults can take the test, and the March test date is open for registration) and then received confirmations and admission tickets have had their lives disrupted (study time misused, travel expenses lost, application deadlines missed) because of an unexplained decision to cancel these paid and confirmed registrations with only about five days’ notice.

Both students and teachers are likely to leave this experience with a diminished opinion of College Board and its products at precisely the time the organization is trying to promote its new test format and recapture market share.

I for one, am furious. I am neither an adult nor a March test taker, but I am sick and tired of College Board’s inability to run a company. Why did I invest so much money into a corporation that never takes anything seriously? Hopefully I get my other subject tests in one try so I can start boycotting College Board.

I did wonder about the potential for cheating if the Mar test is recycled overseas in May.

Seems like the college board is wising up about overseas (and other) test takers who are not actual students. Don’t forget that these adult “tutors” could throw off curves on a new product for real high schoolers who need it to be fair. I think it sounds like a good thing.

what’s astounding is that they hadn’t PLANNED it’d happen… and have to scramble at the last minute!

I don’t see it as a problem. The SAT isn’t for tutors and teachers. It’s for people planning to go to college.
Tutors and teachers should be using the practice tests.

At least with the old SAT, the test given internationally in May were generally the same as the test given in the U.S. in May. The reason was that May was the only international QAS date, and College Board thought it more important to release only one Saturday test (rather than two if it used a separate test outside of North America) than to prevent cheating.

Of course, there is no telling whether that will continue to be the case with the new SAT. The College Board would open itself up to a lot of criticism if it reused the March test just two months later.

Regardless, it is difficult to see what connection any such concerns would have with adult test takers. What cheating scandals in the recent past have been connected to adults at test centers? And if adults at test centers present a security risk, why not simply ban them? Instead, College Board has reassigned them to the May test date. If adult test takers pose a risk, why are they a risk in March and not in May?

Most importantly–even if we grant that there is a potential problem that affects the March date exclusively–why was College Board unable to anticipate it and deal with it more than five days in advance? In a way that would cause minimal disruption? This is basically their only job, and yet this latest problem is hardly an anomaly.

There is not now–and there never has been–any requirement to be a student in order to take the SAT. As already mentioned above, some of those affected by this sudden cancellation seem to be adults looking to return to school and military members looking to earn an officer’s commission. In other words, there is nothing sinister about non-teenage test-takers and nothing to “wise up to.”

Moreover, the SAT is not graded on a “curve,” if you are using that term in its normal sense: one student’s score is not affected by how well other students do on the same version of the test. Indeed, Aaron Lemon-Strauss of the College Board has commented on LinkedIn that concerns about “equating” were not behind the decision and that adult test takers to not present problems for equating.

If you continue to be concerned about these issues, however, you should consider contacting the College Board yourself, as that organization is not addressing them. To reiterate, the College Board has simply moved all the adult test takers to the May date. This action does not suggest a concern about cheating or about formulating "curves."

@jgoggs I am not concerned at all - I think that the ACT is a far better test and the Sat is not even in the equation in my house. I was just commenting that it seemed like a good thing, given that it is the first time the test is being administered and should be done fairly.
If they are not banning these adults in March for fear of skewing results or cheating, there must be some other reason - or else they wouldn’t do it, right? Do they just want to ban all non-students from this point forward? And if so, why? What do you think?
From your post: This change was implemented to ensure that everyone taking the test is doing so for its intended purpose: to apply to and attend a college or university undergraduate program, or to apply for scholarships, financial aid, or other programs that require a college admission test.
And: The College Board is committed to providing a fair and secure testing environment for all students.
So, maybe from now on only STUDENTS will be able to register?
Interesting. Especially since you said they did this so late in the game.

This claim is simply false. As mentioned above, there is no requirement that one be a student in order to take the SAT, nor are college applications the SAT’s only use. For example, middle school students take the SAT to qualify for talent searches like CTY. High school graduates can use it for various purposes, including enhancing job applications (yes, some companies ask for SAT scores) or qualifying for societies such as MENSA.

There are also specific benefits–to everyone, including parents and students–to allowing teachers and tutors to take the SAT. Suppose it is fall of 2016, for instance, and you need to choose an SAT tutor for your child. Other factors being equal, would you rather have someone who can tell you that he or she has already taken the new SAT twice and earned perfect scores, or would you rather have someone who has only looked at “practice tests,” as you recommend?

If you would choose the two-time perfect scorer, then you already recognize some of the benefits of having tutors and teachers take the test–keeping the teachers themselves qualified and knowledgeable and helping students and parents determine who is qualified and who is not.

There is another benefit, though, and that other reason may well be related to College Board’s decision to bar adults from this coming Saturday’s administration: professional SAT teachers may simply be better able to spot problems with the test, may be more assertive about pointing those problems out, and may be taken more seriously when they complain. Indeed, many are speculating that College Board made the last-minute decision to ban adults from the March administration because it simply does not want the test it is about to give to receive a lot of scrutiny. If that is the case (and the fact the all the adults have been moved to May suggests that there is no general concern about adults being involved in cheating, as some posters above want to believe), then how does this decision benefit anyone but the College Board? Considering that this March test will not be released, wouldn’t students benefit greatly from having thousands of professionals scrutinizing the tests and publicizing any problems

I wonder if so many adults registered that students are finding that they can’t get registered. No idea what the volumes are, but that could be a reason. I honestly don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for tutors getting pushed out, and I assume adults testing for reasons like going back to college will be allowed to test in March.

Maybe the college board (and colleges) are concerned that it is unfair that some kids can afford the best tutors (as you describe above) and others can not afford a tutor at all, and therefore restricting tutors from taking the test might even the score (literally).

@2018eastorwest, there must be some reason, but we can only guess at what it is. The “cheating” explanation is not very plausible, given that all of these same adults were simply transferred to the May date. As I noted in another post above, a lot of tutors are speculating on Twitter and elsewhere that College Board just decided it did not want the kind of scrutiny that thousands of tutors would provide. It’s easier to dupe and bully 16-year-olds than it is to dupe and bully perfect-scoring 40-year-olds who have been focusing on standardized tests professionally for years and years.

*The larger cause of concern for everyone, however, should be the College Board’s rather brazen decision not to honor its own commitments. Going forward, everyone will know that registering, paying, and receiving a confirmation and admissions ticket does not[i/] mean you will actually be able to take the test, even if you’ve already put a great deal of time and money into preparing, traveling, and so on.

@jgoggs I agree it’s ridiculously to do this with five days notice. My son is registered for the March test and I would be livid if the College Board rescheduled his test date with only five days notice!

I wonder if the non-students will actually be able to test in May, given that the CB seems to be focusing in the letter on allowing only students. Maybe the transfer to May will only occur if these adults prove by May that they are students?

  1. There is a process outlined for adult test takers who can prove they have a valid reason for taking the test (officer test, scholarship). Doesn’t seem that difficult to do. Of course if you had wanted to take it on March and May, you are out of luck.

  2. I think most people know that even if you take the test, there is no guarantee that you’ll get your scores if the College Board suspects you cheated etc. There are no guarantees.

  3. The test fairness and security policies state that they are designed to prevent any student from getting an unfair advantage. Given the College Board’s focus on leveling the playing field, it would make sense to limit tutors’ access to the test. There may even be provisions in the agreement with Kahn Academy requiring they limit prep companies’ access. Given the rampant cheating overseas, it makes sense to limit people willing to fly internationally to look at the test that will likely be administered overseas in May or at a later date.

I agree that the very late notice seems very sloppy but this is par for the course for College Board for at least the last year.

A lot of adults had registered for the test, but the registration deadline passed weeks ago, so if there were any issue of students not being able to get seats, it would have come up weeks ago, not just a few days before the test.

I don’t really understand the remarks (not just from you but also from others here) about not having sympathy for tutors. Why not? To be clear, these are people who registered according to the rules, paid, received confirmation, and planned accordingly. The College Board is now failing to honor its own terms and agreements. Why doesn’t any person in this kind of situation, whether adult or child, merit sympathy?

Adults testing for reasons like going back to college may well end up able to test this Saturday, but they still had their registration peremptorily cancelled and will have to spend this week calling and emailing College Board trying to appeal, uncertain until perhaps the very end of the week whether they have succeeded. That seems like a rather heavy burden to bear for people who may have registered, paid, and received confirmation as long ago as last summer or fall, who may reasonably have thought they could use this week to study, and who may have made other plans (besides continued studying and test-taking) for the rest of March, April, and May.

First, let me point out yet again, that according to the College Board itself there is no such thing as a “valid” or “invalid” reason for taking the test. Anyone who registers, pays, and produces proper ID can take the test, and, as already mentioned above, there are numerous reasons for an adult to do so, none of them “invalid.” (And yes, I will admit that “cheating” is invalid, but I am not aware of any connection between cheating and adult test takers, and if College Board believed there was one, it presumably would simply bar adult test takers, not just transfer their registrations to the next date.)

Second, as already pointed out above, the process outlined for adult test takers who can prove they have a “valid” reason is indeed “difficult.” These are people who may have registered as long ago as last summer or fall; they may have scheduled time off for work this week for studying; they may have made other plans (other than continued studying and test-taking for the remainder of March and for April and May). Now they are in limbo–their paid and confirmed registrations were unilaterally cancelled by College Board, and they have to spend the week appealing, trying to convince College Board to reinstate their registrations. Even if they prevail, they may not know of their result until the end of the week. Does that really seem like a reasonable burden to place on people who already registered and paid according to College Board’s own terms and rules?

The legit adult students who had their registrations canceled and are now inconvenienced as you describe seem to have had their registrations cancelled due to the over abundance of registrations of non-student adults/tutors who planned to take the test for reasons other than to gain admittance to college/scholarships - which is the only reason CB seems to recognize for taking the test (according to their letter)… That is probably why people seem to have more sympathy for the legit adult students. It also appears that the CB intends to administer the test only to students from this point forward. Although in the past, non-students have been able to successfully register and take the test, that practice might have come to an end - for various reasons, including those mentioned in the posts above: partnership with Khan, concerns for cheating, concerns about criticism, concerns about fairness, concerns about skewed results, concerns about the image of the CB, concerns about competition with the ACT, etc. Only the CB knows for sure why it has done what it did. But it certainly does seem that times are changing. Colleges are seeking new methods, and it looks like the CB may be responding in kind.

Well, sort of. I would say this is less “par for the course” than it is a frightening new precedent. Some of the parents above seem to get my point. Yes, in the past, you could have your scores cancelled with no evidence and no real chance of an appeal. Now you can have your paid and confirmed registration cancelled only days in advance with no real explanation and no real chance to appeal. If wielded against actual high school students at certain times of the year, this new power that College Board is claiming for itself could wreak absolute havoc on those students’ lives.

Some of you say, “But these aren’t students. They’re tutors.” Well, now that College Board has decided it doesn’t need to honor its own terms/sales/agreements, do you really think there is no chance it will ever do something like this to actual high school students?