The College Board describes itself as “a mission-driven organization representing over 6,000 of the world's leading colleges, schools, and other educational organizations.” Its primary function is to administer courses and examinations, including but not limited to the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT).
Critics provide a different definition of the College Board, with one source calling it a “billion-dollar testing monopoly.”
Founded in 1899 to administer college entrance examinations, the College Board truly has a stranglehold on test administration in the American pre-university system. However, it's far from a perfect organization, and its shortcomings can have an outsize impact on high school and prospective college students.
Students may face a variety of College Board-related issues, with accusations of cheating being one.
Whether you are a high school student, undergraduate, or graduate student, you may have to interact with the College Board in one form or another. When you run into issues, consider hiring an attorney-advisor to find a solution.
What, Exactly, is the College Board?
The College Board is a non-profit organization with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status. The organization receives public subsidies despite being the de facto gatekeeper for students seeking higher education, raking in more than $1 billion in revenues in 2019. The SAT, more than any of its other services, makes the College Board an extremely influential body—most universities make admissions decisions based on students' SAT scores.
The College Board's influence extends far beyond the SAT. Its other services include:
- Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT): Per the College Board, this standardized test for 10th and 11th graders may “qualify [students] for a chance to win scholarships,” perhaps even a National Merit Scholarship. This makes the PSAT a high-stakes test controlled exclusively by the College Board.
- Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) and Advanced Placement (AP) Programs: Pre-AP and AP Programs are a recognized way for students to set themselves apart from their peers academically. The College Board administers these programs and tests.
- ACCUPLACER Tests: These tests “help colleges assess student readiness for introductory credit-bearing courses” and may directly affect students' placement in courses.
As you can see, the College Board has a prominent role in determining high schoolers' and college students' academic performance and placement. Educators rely on College Board's tests to determine students' capabilities and may make critical decisions based on the College Board's data.
The College Board may help determine where students go to college, what courses they take, and whether they receive admission to graduate programs. In a very real sense, the College Board's practices and decisions may shape the course of a person's life.
Running afoul of the College Board—whether due to allegations of cheating or for other reasons—could have serious consequences.
The College Board Specifically Prohibits Academic Misconduct
The College Board provides extensive documentation making it abundantly clear: The College Board does not tolerate academic misconduct.
Section 2 of the 2021 AP Exam Terms and Conditions details “Prohibited Behaviors.” Those prohibited behaviors include:
- Attempts to cheat
- Obtaining the test in advance of the testing period
- Working on test sections during a period “other than during the timed testing period for that exam or exam section”
- Using prohibited aids, such as answer sheets or digital devices
- Leaving the testing area without permission
- Making unauthorized copies of an exam
- Assisting another student during the exam
- Taking the test for another person, or allowing another person to take the test for you
- Taking the exam or exam-related notes outside of the testing area
- Sharing a calculator
- Bringing food or drink into the testing area
- Copying another student's work
- Creating a disturbance, including but not limited to rude or threatening behavior
- Failing to abide by all test-related rules
Even behaviors that do not clearly qualify as misconduct can land you in trouble with the College Board. Speaking with others during an exam, allowing an alarm to go off during the test, or making an error when submitting personal information are some of the many prohibited behaviors.
These same requirements generally apply to students taking the PSAT, SAT, and other College Board tests. Certain rules, like the prohibition on food and drink, leave room for innocent mistakes to occur. Even genuine mistakes, however, could have adverse consequences for you.
Additional Requirements of the College Board
In addition to its academic integrity standards, the College Board generally requires students to:
- Sign up for tests in advance of the testing period
- Arrive at testing centers on time
- Provide photographic identification
- Provide a printed admission ticket
- Bring required materials such as calculators and pencils with erasers
There is also an extensive list of prohibited items that you may be sanctioned for possessing during a College Board exam. Any indiscretion may trigger the cancellation of your test scores or even harsher consequences.
How the College Board Discovers Allegations of Academic Misconduct
The College Board oversees alleged academic misconduct for its courses and tests. In the wake of the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal—which involved cheating on College Board's tests—you can expect significant ramifications for allegations of academic misconduct.
The College Board encourages anyone who suspects cheating on one of its tests to contact its Office of Testing Integrity. The College Board may also become aware of alleged misconduct through:
- The report of an exam proctor
- The report of a professor administering an AP course
- Test graders who report abnormalities
- A student's self-reported misconduct
In certain instances, such as alleged cheating in an AP course environment, a specific professor may oversee discipline. If you are accused of cheating on a College Board-issued exam, however, the College Board will generally adjudicate your case.
Disciplinary Measures that the College Board Can Take
The College Board considers its “SAT Terms and Conditions” to be “a legal contract between you [the test taker] and College Board.” Section 5 of this document explains the disciplinary measures that you may face for alleged misconduct.
The College Board's disciplinary scope includes:
● Cancellation of your test score: The College Board can cancel your test scores if it determines you engaged in misconduct or that your scores are invalid for another reason. Possible reasons for invalidating your scores include “discrepant handwriting, unusual answer patterns, or other evidence that indicates these Terms and Conditions have been violated.”
The College Board may cancel your test score due to reasons outside of your control. Those reasons may include “improper timing, improper seating, improper admission to a test center, providing accommodations not approved by College Board, defective materials, and defective equipment.”
● Denial of entry to an exam room: Denying entry to an exam room is undeniably a punitive measure. Students generally have limited time and opportunity to take College Board tests. Being denied entry could prevent you from improving your exam score or using your final opportunity to complete a College Board exam.
● Dismissal from the testing room: Dismissal from a test will invalidate your test score. This presents the same problems as denial of entry to an exam room.
● Refusal to grade your test or cancellation of your scores: These measures may render your time and effort in taking the test meaningless.
● Banishment from future College Board assessments: This is arguably the most severe of sanctions. Universities' reliance on SAT scores as an admissions requirement means that your inability to take College Board exams could be devastating.
The College Board may issue the same disciplinary measures for those accused of misconduct on any of its tests or courses, not just the SAT.
What Greater Effects Can College Board Sanctions Have?
Sanctions issued by the College Board, from canceled test scores to denial of future testing, may:
- Prevent you from submitting AP Exam scores, SAT scores, and other College Board assessment scores that universities value or require
- Prevent you from improving upon your original test scores
- Prevent you from gaining entry to specific universities
- Negate the time and effort that you have invested in your academic career
- Diminish your future earning power
We know that earning a degree from one university rather than another can significantly affect graduates’ earning power. If a College Board decision determines where you go to college, then the ripple effect of that decision may be long-ranging.
Will Colleges Be Notified of College Board Sanctions?
Students typically take the SAT as a means of entry to university, so it's only natural to wonder whether colleges will learn of any sanctions issued by the College Board.
Universities do not generally learn directly of College Board sanctions. You may choose to cancel your own scores due to suspected underperformance. Or, as discussed, the College Board may initiate cancellation of your scores. In either case, the scores are essentially invalid and are therefore not generally reported.
There is one prominent exception here. If the College Board releases your scores to universities, then decides to cancel them after the fact—perhaps because of new information—then it may have to notify those universities of the cancellation.
You may need to address College Board sanctions with your prospective universities even if the College Board does not notify those schools directly. If the College Board bars you from taking the SAT test, for example, you will have to explain to schools why you lack SAT scores.
Will You Be Reimbursed for Invalidated Test Scores?
If the College Board cancels your scores due to alleged misconduct, then you forfeit your test and registration fees. If you voluntarily cancel your scores or choose to retake the test, then your test and registration fees may either be refunded or carried over to your subsequent test attempt.
Each case is unique, and the College Board may have final discretion to withhold, refund, or transfer test-related fees.
What Options Do You Have When the College Board Issues Sanctions?
If the College Board suspects possible misconduct, then it will notify you in writing (generally via email) that it plans to invalidate your scores. Perceived irregularities within your test (answering patterns, handwriting discrepancies, etc.) may trigger invalidation of your scores.
When the College Board notifies you of a pending score invalidation, it will explain your three options:
- To cancel your scores voluntarily
- To retake the test “under closely monitored conditions” at no additional cost to you
- To request further review of any irregularities in your original test, at which point you may submit any information you believe supports your case for validated scores
If you seek a further review and the College Board still decides to invalidate your scores, then arbitration becomes an option. You should not make any decision on these matters without first consulting an attorney-advisor.
If the College Board finds “overwhelming evidence that you violated [testing] Terms and Conditions,” then it may cancel your scores without giving you an option to retake a test or request further review. This generally occurs in cases of alleged academic misconduct (i.e., cheating).
How the College Board Conducts Its SAT Score Validity Process
To its credit, the College Board provides significant detail about its score review process. The “SAT Score Validity Process” is a guidebook for when the College Board questions students' scores—whether due to inconsistent application materials, reports of misconduct, or unusual answers.
Note: The College Board may employ similar review processes when reviewing answers for tests other than the SAT.
Stages of the SAT Score Validity Process include:
1. Initial Review
During the Initial Review stage, the College Board's Test Security Team may:
- Compare your answers and essays to other students'
- Compare your handwriting on various portions of the test to ensure similarity
- Ensure the legitimacy of your photo ID and other identifying documents
- Compare notes you've submitted in the test booklet to your final answers (which may be most relevant in math sections)
The College Board Test Security team may take any other steps that it believes will help verify or confirm illegitimacy of your answers. It will then make a decision about your case.
2. Decision stage
The Test Security team may reach one of two conclusions after its initial review: 1) That your scores are valid, or 2) that your scores are invalid.
If the Test Security team determines your scores are valid, then the College Board will release the scores to you and any schools you have authorized for release.
Conversely, the Test Security team may invalidate your scores because of:
- “Significant agreement” between your scores and the scores of at least one other student, which may indicate collusion
- “Substantial evidence” that your responses were not your own
- “Substantial evidence” that you had access to test materials prior to your exam
Under any of these circumstances, you will face those three aforementioned options: 1) accept a cancellation, 2) retake your test, or 3) request further review.
How the College Board Conducts “Further Review”
When you request further review of scores that the Test Security team deems invalid, then your case will progress to the College Board Board of Review. The Board of Review is independent of the Test Security team, serving as a de facto appeals board.
The Test Security team will pass all relevant documentation to the Board of Review. The College Board will also prompt you to provide any additional documentation in a digital format.
Documentation that you may choose to provide includes:
- Samples of your handwriting
- Scores from other standardized tests that you have taken
- A written explanation serving as a personal statement
- Any other documents that support your case for validated scores
The Board of Review will then determine whether there is “substantial evidence that the questioned scores are invalid.” The standard of guilt is on your side:
“If even one member of the Board of Review finds that there isn't substantial evidence that the scores are invalid, then the questioned scores are released,” College Board literature notes. “Released,” in this case, means validated.
If the College Board's Board of Review chooses to invalidate your scores, then you can elect for binding arbitration.
The College Board's Binding Arbitration Process
If you elect to initiate arbitration, then the American Arbitration Association—a non-profit focused on dispute resolution—will decide the outcome of your case.
The primary concern of the arbiter is whether the College Board acted in good faith when reviewing your case. The arbiter may only consider documents that you submitted to the Board of Review—no new documentation or information will be considered.
The arbitration process serves as the final dispute resolution option available to you.
The College Board maintains robust Terms and Conditions documents. As a student reliant on the College Board, you generally must work within their dispute resolution framework.
You must make the most of your case review and arbitration. Hiring an attorney-advisor for your case could ensure that you present the strongest possible case.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help with Your College Board Issues
High school coursework and college admissions have become high-stakes affairs. With students' every move being highly scrutinized, each AP exam, PSAT test, SAT test, and College Board decision carries significant weight.
If you encounter any sort of issue involving the College Board—especially an allegation of misconduct—then you need a capable advisor. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can help you by:
● Obtaining all material facts regarding your College Board Issue
Attorney Lento and his team will determine what issue you are facing and why the problem has arisen. These crucial facts will guide Attorney Lento's strategy for resolving your case.
● Pursuing evidence that suggests you are not guilty of misconduct
In cases involving misconduct, a lawyer's primary responsibility may be to prove your innocence. Video footage, witness accounts, a proctor's testimony, electronic records, and other evidence may prove that your testing performance was valid. Attorney Lento will obtain any evidence that supports your case.
● Handling communications with the College Board
At the time when students must deal with the College Board, they are also dealing with countless other responsibilities—college admissions, post-graduation plans, academics, personal matters, and more.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento will spare you time and stress by handling all of your case-related communications, including those with the College Board, and the College Board's Office of General Counsel in particular. If your case involves arbitration, Attorney Lento can also deal with the arbiter on your behalf.
● Gathering and sending case-related documentation
You may need to provide handwriting samples, transcripts, and other records to the College Board as part of your case. Attorney Lento will work with you, your high school, the College Board, and other appropriate parties to obtain and provide all necessary documentation.
● Protecting your rights
Your rights are at risk when the College Board accuses you of wrongdoing. The College Board allows you due process, and attorney Joseph D. Lento will ensure that your case is handled properly. He will oversee the initial review, secondary review, and arbitration stages of your case (or whichever of these stages are necessary).
Call the Lento Law Firm Today
It is absolutely critical that you remain in good standing with the College Board. The College Board's power is unilateral—in its own words, the “College Board reserves the right to bar any individual or group of individuals from registering for and/or taking any College Board assessment.”
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have unparalleled experience dealing with College Board issues. He can help you resolve:
- General standardized testing issues
- SAT issues
- Allegations of plagiarism as a high school student
- Allegations of obtaining unauthorized College Board test materials as a high school student
- Any other allegations of misconduct involving the College Board
There is no reason to try and fight the College Board on your own. Instead, the Lento Law Firm can work towards the best possible solution for you by employing its negotiation skills and other resources at its disposal. You of course want to avoid the worst possible outcome when dealing with an institution as powerful as the College Board, but this is not a fight you should take on alone. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team will pursue the best possible solution to your College Board issue, as they have done for countless clients across the United States in similar situations as you.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case. You may also submit your case online.