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Chinese tutor, students protest SAT cheating

Updated: 2015-10-23 11:23
By LIA ZHU in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

The founder of a Shenzen-based college-test prep company said cheating on the SAT is so pervasive that even parents look to buy the answers, which also are for sale online.

"I myself obtained the test questions which later appeared in the SAT test administered on Oct 3," said Ma Hu, founder and tutor of a Shenzhen-based SAT prep company called "Satest". "The entire reading part of the Oct 3 test turns out to be the one used in March in the US."

"It's (cheating) so widespread and ‘normal' that some parents even approached me trying to buy the test questions when I disclosed it on the Internet," said Ma, who has been in the business for almost 10 years.

He said he had sent e-mail with "evidence" to the College Board, which runs the test, in 2013, but did not receive a response. He also presented hard copies to Wang Xiangbo, a vice-president of the College Board, when they met in Shenzhen on Oct 13, and did not get a reply.

"We are conducting a statistical analysis and will take the necessary actions to ensure the integrity of that SAT administration," said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the test worldwide on behalf of the College Board, in an e-mail.

The leaking of test questions in Asian countries has been a problem for the College Board and ETS for years.

In 2013, the May administration of the SAT was canceled throughout South Korea because of allegations that questions from earlier tests were obtained by "cram schools" and given to students before the exam. In 2014, test scores were delayed in China and South Korea due to alleged mass cheating.

The SAT, originally known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a major criterion for admission to US colleges and universities.

Michael, a Chinese student at a university in Boston, is a victim of such delays. "Because the October score was delayed, and I didn't know if it was good, I had to sit for the following two exams in November and December," he said, giving only his first name.

Michael said he took four SATs in Malaysia and Hong Kong from June to December, and three scores were delayed.

To Leon, Michael's high school classmate and a freshman at the University of California- Santa Barbara, the heavily advertised SAT "cram schools" had disrupted his life.

"I had a hard time struggling with the idea of buying a set of answers myself," he said. "I still remember the night before we took the test last December, everyone was talking about it, and I became perturbed," he said, also requesting to be identified only by first name.

"After the test, some students said they ‘got the winning number'. It's just not fair," said Leon. "I spent months talking with parents and teachers and finally I got over it now. I believe no one wants to cheat from their heart."

A set of test answers can be bought on Taobao, China's largest online marketplace, for around 10,000 yuan ($1,572).

"Looking back those days now, I think it's right not to buy those answers," said Paula Liu, a Chinese student at the University of Alabama. "The US is a country which values integrity more than anything else. Cheating in tests will always be a stain on your record," she said.

According to Chinese media, another admissions test, the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), recently canceled all upper-level scores of Sept 19 administration in Beijing and Shanghai to 357 students, because "there is reasonable basis to question the validity of the test scores from this administration".

"The leak of test questions not only damages the image of Chinese students but also the credibility of the College Board and other US test organizers," Ma said. "The only gainer is the cheating service providers."



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