The SAT is a standardized exam that many colleges and universities in the US (and elsewhere on the planet) use to make admission decisions. Because of the considerable role that it plays, many high school students are tempted to look for ways to cheat on the SAT to get scores high enough to gain admission into their preferred schools.
About 2,000 high school students cheat on the SAT every year. The cheating includes getting a copy of the SAT questions, asking someone to answer the exam, memorizing SAT questions that might be reused, and looking at the answer sheets of other test-takers.
Whether you are just curious or in desperate need of ways to cheat on the SAT, it’s important to note that cheating on the SAT could result in serious repercussions. Some of them are getting suspended from high school, being blacklisted from colleges and universities, and spending several weeks or months in prison.
So, can you cheat on the SAT?
But is there a steep price to pay?
How To Cheat on the SAT
Hypothetically, there are many ways to cheat on the SAT. In reality, many people (and even some test prep companies) have successfully cheated on the SAT via a number of methods.
Take note that no matter the cheating tactic used, it’s very much likely for the truth to surface sooner or later. For instance, actress Felicity Huffman was found guilty of paying an admissions officer $15,000 to have an SAT proctor correct the answers of her daughter, a beauty influencer.
According to Huffman, who was sentenced to 14 days in prison and pay a $30,000 fine, among others, she engaged in the scheme after her daughter’s low math score risked her dream of attending college.
It’s not just parents that cheat on the SAT but the test-takers themselves, too. As a matter of fact, some test prep companies also usually participate. For instance, these days, the SAT is no longer being administered in China. That’s because, in 2016, several test prep companies in the country were involved in leaking the SAT exam.
Below are some of the things people do to cheat on the SAT, which you should not attempt:
Steal the SAT questions
Test Development Committees, which consist of educators and subject-matter experts, decide on the topics and areas that should be covered and the types of questions that should be asked before the SAT.
Sometimes, as you will find out later (so don’t stop reading now), the College Board reuses questions from past SAT exams.
No matter the case, someone who would like to cheat on the chat could attempt to steal the SAT questions from the time they are finalized to the moment they are securely shipped to the various test centers.
Related Article: What to Bring to the SAT Test
Approach a Shady Test Prep Company
Sometimes, there is no need for the students to steal the SAT questions themselves and potentially get caught red-handed.
That’s because some disreputable test prep companies will be more than willing to steal the SAT questions for people who would be willing to shell out a huge sum of money for the sake of getting high SAT scores minus studying.
However, this method of cheating on the SAT can have serious far-reaching repercussions, such as when it’s orchestrated by numerous test prep companies, just like what happened in China not too long ago.
Obtain old Unreleased SAT Questions
As mentioned earlier, there are times when the College Board reuses questions from previous SAT exams. There are also instances where it reuses questions from old SAT exams that were unreleased.
Various websites, many of them from China, are known to sell old unreleased SAT exams.
However, this is not the easiest way to cheat on the SAT because the students will have to get their hands on different iterations of the SAT exam and study all the questions, too. Also, there is no guarantee that the College Board will reuse those questions.
Wear earbuds to Connect With Smart Person
Rumor has it that, besides the distribution of the SAT exam by crooked test-prep companies, the SAT was pulled from China because many test-takers wore earbuds connected to a person in another room who had a copy of the questions.
The problem with this tactic is that there are some hurdles to overcome.
First, you will need to get your hands on a copy of the questions.
Second, you will need to seek the help of a smart person who knows the answer to all the questions.
Lastly, you will have to keep the proctor from noticing your earbuds.
Hire a smart impersonator
In 2011 in New York, 20 students from five schools were charged for paying others to take the SAT on their behalf.
Because of this, the College Board has increased its security measures, which is why it now requires applicants to upload photos of themselves when getting their admission tickets online.
Those who would like to give this method a try should not hire just any people with brains — they will also have to pay smart people who look exactly like them.
Opt for the Old-fashioned Way of Cheating on Tests
Last but not least, test-takers who would like to cheat on the SAT could look over the shoulders of people sitting right next to them.
It’s true that this approach may be the least elaborate of all the SAT cheating tactics that we have talked about thus far. However, it has allowed countless students to ace exams with very little to no preparation.
Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to pick who you will sit next to during the SAT. This means that the person sitting right next to you could either be more skilled or less skilled than you at answering the questions.
How Common is Cheating on the SAT?
Each year, it is estimated that only 2,000 cases of cheating out of the over two million test-takers take place. That’s equivalent to only about 0.1% of all test-takers. Cheating on the SAT is rare and difficult as the College Board is doing everything it can to keep the integrity of the SAT intact.
Still, in the past, many test-takers have cheated on the SAT, and numerous SAT test prep companies have also engaged in fraudulent acts that have succeeded.
Cheating on the SAT is not as easy as cheating on, say, a chemistry or Civil War history quiz. Since it’s a standardized test that can help gauge a student’s readiness for college and determine, too, which college is the best fit for the student, it doesn’t come as a surprise why the College Board is doing everything it can to keep the SAT reliable.
Here are some of the things that make cheating on the SAT difficult:
- You will have to upload a photo that will become a part of your admission ticket.
- You will have to bring a photo ID to the test center, which will be checked against your admission ticket.
- You will have to look like the person on your admission ticket and photo ID on the test date.
- You will not be allowed to have with you a cell phone or any other electronic device in the test room.
- You will not be allowed to take the SAT if you arrive after the exam has started.
- You will have no idea of which particular questions are included in the various sections.
- You will be overseen by a proctor throughout the SAT’s duration.
- You will be allowed to leave the test room only during the assigned break times.
- You will not be allowed to talk about any part of the exam during any of the assigned breaks.
What to Do If Accused of Cheating on the SAT
In case you were accused of cheating, and you know you’re innocent, there are steps that you could take. It will depend upon the situation, whether you were accused during or after the SAT.
Because it’s your college life and, ultimately, future that is on the line, it’s a must that you spring into action if you are wrongly accused of cheating on the SAT.
Accused of cheating while taking the SAT
Getting in touch with the College Board to file a complaint is what you will need to do if you were accused of cheating during the SAT and your test was confiscated and destroyed by the proctor. To support your case, obtain the testimonies of as many students who were present in the test room as you possibly can.
It will be your word versus the word of the proctor. Because the College Board will more likely take the side of the proctor who accused you of cheating, it’s a must that you have evidence that you are wrongly accused.
Your registration fee will be refunded if you can prove to the College Board that you did not cheat during the SAT. This way, you will no longer need to pay for an SAT retest.
But if you will be found guilty of cheating on the SAT, the College Board might keep you from retaking the SAT or taking any other College Board exam. We will talk more about this matter later while discussing what the College Board is doing to stop SAT cheating, so don’t stop reading now.
Accused of cheating after taking the SAT
In some instances, you may be accused of cheating on the SAT immediately or sometime after taking the standardized test. There are a couple of reasons why this usually happens:
- The proctor or a fellow test-taker has reported you to the College Board.
- The College Board has noticed an unusual increase in your SAT score.
Taking the steps similar to those you could take when accused of cheating while taking the SAT is what you should do if someone reported any suspicious activity of yours to the College Board. By presenting enough and convincing pieces of evidence that you are innocent, the accusations will be scrapped, and you will be asked to retake the SAT for free.
On the other hand, if your SAT score has increased by a substantial amount (e.g., from 1050 to 1550), the College Board might ask you to retake the SAT at no cost. Retaking the SAT will help determine whether or not you cheated.
However, to clear your name, you will be asked to retake the SAT in a more controlled environment. If your retake score is very close to your alleged cheating score, the accusations will be dropped. Thus, your SAT score will either be the alleged cheating score or the retake score, whichever of the two SAT scores is higher.
It will also help a lot if you will provide evidence such as testimonies of other test-takers in the same test room, standardized test scores in similar subject areas, and academic records.
What the College Board is Doing to Stop the Cheating
The College Board announced in 2017 that it was going to take new security measures to try to crack down on cheating in the SAT, not only in the US but also overseas. As a matter of fact, it even called its recent anti-cheating steps the most direct and robust taken by any college entrance exam provider.
Among the new measures being implemented by the College Board since 2017 are:
Keeping individuals accused of prior cheating from taking College Board exams
In the past, the College Board allowed test-takers who have been accused of or caught cheating to take the SAT again. It also didn’t inform colleges and universities that the students applying to them cheated.
These days, however, it’s a different story. The College Board now keeps individuals that have been caught cheating from taking the SAT or other College Board exams. Still, the College Board will consider and decide at its discretion any appeal of the ban, whose duration may vary according to the severity of the violation.
Disclosing the names of individuals and entities believed to be involved
Not all test-takers or test prep companies accused of cheating on the SAT are proven guilty. Similarly, some of those found guilty of cheating on the SAT are allowed to take the test or conduct preps again after some time.
To make it easier to determine whether or not they will get involved with cheating once more and to catch them should they cheat again, the College Board gives the names of test-takers and test prep companies suspected or proven guilty of cheating to the authorities in the US and overseas, too.
Simplifying anonymous reporting of suspected cheating by proctors and test-takers
The SAT is administered under strict supervision and secure conditions. However, by now, you already know that cheating is very much possible on the SAT — some parents, students and test prep companies will not hesitate to partake in fraudulent acts for the sake of admissions into good colleges and universities.
If you would like to report any SAT-related cheating, there’s no need to fear for your safety and security. That’s because you can report any suspicion concerning the security of the SAT test administration in confidentiality by:
- Dialing 609-406-5430 (toll-free in the US, US territories and Canada)
- Sending an email to [email protected]
- Making a report to EthicsPoint, a comprehensive and confidential online reporting tool
Reducing the number of SAT is administered abroad each year
In the US, the SAT is administered seven times a year. The different SAT test months are March, May, June, August, October, November and December.
While the SAT is still being offered seven times every year in the US, the number the SAT is administered a year abroad is now reduced. In many counties, the SAT is currently being administered four times a year only. The different SAT test months outside the US are usually March, May, October and December.
Cutting down the number of questions reused on various College Board exams
The SAT can only ask so many questions. It’s because of this exactly why it’s not unlikely for the College Board to reuse some questions from previous SAT exams from time to time. Sometimes it reuses questions abroad after asking them to US test-takers, while other times, it reuses questions in the US itself.
A 2015 SAT exam, for instance, included questions that appeared in an SAT exam administered in 2013.
Several times before it happened, US high school students were administered SAT exams that contained questions from previous SAT exams, many of which were already posted online for over a year beforehand. An online document that included a batch of reused SAT questions, according to reports, was downloaded more than 53,000 times.
In a nutshell: It’s very much unlikely for these new steps being taken by the College Board to put an end to cheating altogether. However, they can help make cheating on the SAT and getting away with it even more difficult.
Cheating and Digital SAT
There are a number of differences between paper-based and digital SATs, but the biggest two are that digital SAT is adaptive, and you take it on a computer.
While it may sound that cheating on a computer is easier, the test makers know that as well. That’s why students have to go to a test center to take the digital SAT to prevent fraud. And since the test is adaptive, the number of questions that one student answers is different from others, which makes it even harder to crack the exam.
Above, we talked about the different answers to the question “can you cheat on the SAT?” Similarly, we discussed what the College Board is doing to keep cheating at bay and the things that could happen if you got caught cheating on the SAT as well as the steps that you may take if you’re accused of cheating on the exam.
Bear in mind that instead of gaining admission into the selective college or university of your dreams, cheating on the SAT could keep you from gaining admission into any school at all.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.