The second half of high school is a stressful time. When you're a junior or senior, you're a full-time student—yet, somehow, you're also planning the rest of your future, you're managing your college applications and admissions statuses and long-term academic dreams, and you're taking tests that could seemingly dictate your success for the next decade.
There's a lot going on. The last thing you need is a misconduct allegation surrounding a high-stress subject: The SAT. Long seen as a rite of passage for high school students, the Scholastic Assessment Test represents both a hurdle and an opportunity for students to set themselves apart.
However, it's also a highly regulated experience that can trigger a lot of attention and hard feelings. In recent years, the College Board—the entity that administers the SAT—has noted a rise in the occurrences of students cheating on this standardized test. In its efforts to curb cheating, College Board has doubled down on many of its procedural requirements and recommended harsh discipline to those allegedly involved in misconduct. Students have seen their hard-earned scores canceled. They have learned that they may not be able to retake the test. They have had to reroute their futures as a result of these decisions.
If you're approaching the SAT and suspect that similar treatment may be in your future or if you've already taken it and have received alarming allegations, breathe. This doesn't have to happen to you. By teaming up with an experienced student defense lawyer, you can take control of your future.
What Is the SAT? Who Takes It, and Why?
The SAT, or the Scholastic Assessment Test (previously known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) is an examination that the College Board sets for students worldwide. Colleges in the United States use the standardized scores that high school students achieve on this test as a tool to aid college admission decisions.
The SAT covers reading, writing, and mathematics competencies. While anyone can take it, a typical student might sit this exam during their junior year of high school for the first time. They might then retake it senior year if they would like to see an increase in their scores.
The SAT is offered several times each calendar year, typically on an early Saturday morning. The test is lengthy; without the optional essay portion, it requires three hours of a student's time. (With the essay portion, the test-taking time increases to 3 hours and 50 minutes.)
College Board releases many different test-preparation materials, including practice test questions, online. There are also myriad agencies or other avenues that students can turn to for support while preparing to take this important test.
Applying for the SAT and Avoiding Accusations
When you're putting together your information to apply for the SAT, it's important to make sure that you're not misrepresenting yourself or sending in false data. The College Board wants to make sure it knows exactly who's taking their test—so they've created strict guidelines to help lead the application process.
Misconduct related to the application for the SAT primarily involves providing incorrect information to the College Board. This could be as simple as using an informal name on your application, but the idea could extend to writing down an incorrect school, an old address, or any of the other pieces of information that the SAT application requires.
The College Board seeks to avoid instances of students taking the test for other people, among other more severe types of misconduct. This heightened security awareness could result in a simple error turning into something much bigger, unfortunately—which could result in disciplinary action.
Misconduct During Test Administration
The College Board has provided a document enumerating the rights and responsibilities of students who seek to take the SAT.
Firstly, the Board wishes to create an atmosphere of strict security surrounding the test event itself. Therefore, the Board advises that in order to gain admission to the test-taking facility, you'll need to bring a photo ID and your admission ticket. It will be up to the test center facilitator to compare the information you provide and grant you access to the building. College Board notes that the facilitators can deny admission, choose not to score your test, or even cancel your score due to any discrepancies related to your ID or photo—for example, if the photo does not match their requirements, or if you have a nickname on your ticket that doesn't match your full name on your ID.
In addition, College Board has a very lengthy list of items that you cannot bring into the testing facility. If you are caught with any of these prohibited items, you could merit disciplinary attention due to SAT testing misconduct.
These prohibited items include:
- Mobile phones, smartwatches, fitness trackers, or other wearable technology (simple non-digital watches are acceptable)
- Audio players or recorders, tablets, laptops, notebooks, Bluetooth devices (e.g., wireless earbuds/headphones), or any other personal computing devices
- Free-standing timers
- Pens, highlighters, or mechanical or colored pencils
- Books or references of any kind
- Compasses, rulers, protractors, or cutting devices
- Papers of any kind, including scratch paper
- Unacceptable calculators
- Weapons or firearms
There are exceptions made in some cases regarding a subset of these items based on need—e.g., for students with learning disabilities who require specific, pre-approved test-taking support. However, for the most part, the use of any of these items could merit score cancellation or other punitive measures.
In addition to prohibited materials and items, there are also prohibited behaviors before, during, and after test administration. If anyone accuses you of any of the following, College Board or similar authorities may take action against you or your hard-earned scores:
- Cheating (or in any way working to achieve an unfair advantage)
- Taking test questions, responses, or essay topics from the testing room—including through the process of memorization
- Accessing any part of the test center you do not have access to, or accessing the test center prior to or after the test, to obtain illicit information
- Looking forward or back through the test booklet when you're expected to work on a specific section
- Attempting to give other people assistance during the test administration
- Discussing the test with any identifying information before, during, or after the test
- Communicating with another person in any way (aside from respectfully flagging down a proctor for an emergency or related reason) during the test administration
- Keeping a mobile phone on your person during the test instead of handing it in during the initial collection
- Sharing a calculator
- Using a calculator during a part of the test that does not allow calculator use
- Leaving the testing room without permission
- Leaving the building during a break
- Trying to take the test for someone else
This is a non-exhaustive list, but it's already long enough—and some of these actions could be accidental or easy to misconstrue. If a jealous peer or an overzealous proctor decides to file a report against you, the College Board may cancel your scores—or even ban you from taking the test again in a timely manner.
SAT-Related Misconduct: What Happens After an Accusation?
In the event that someone accuses you or another test-taker of SAT-related misconduct, the College Board will consider disciplinary measures.
Unfortunately, the investigation and adjudication phases of your disciplinary process may not be lengthy. The College Board reserves the right of sole discretion to administer punitive measures, including denying your entry to a testing facility, asking you to leave even if you have not completed your test, declining to score your test, canceling your scores, and banning you from future College Board assessments.
As the College Board is cracking down on cheating, it's likely that they will act swiftly and mete out potentially harsh ramifications if it seems like you are guilty. They will consider the evidence before them - which can be based on discrepant handwriting, the similarity of essays, or unusual answer patterns - before making a decision and following through.
Prior to canceling or invalidating your scores, they will notify you in writing and give you an opportunity to provide information (also in writing) to help them resolve their inquiry.
After their internal panel reviews all available information, they may decide to offer you options instead of simply canceling your scores. These options include your voluntarily canceling your score, an opportunity to retest in an extremely monitored facility, and arbitration. However, it's also at the discretion of the College Board to give you these options—and these options may only be available at all in some regions and in answer to some specific types of misconduct.
They do note that even if your scores are canceled, you should by no means expect a refund on your test and registration fees. College Board also notes, in the event that your accusation involves a testing irregularity (e.g., someone suspects you of foreknowledge of portions of the test) that they may take action ‘regardless of whether you caused the testing irregularities, benefited from them, or violated the Terms and Conditions.'
Ultimately, you may find yourself in a situation where you have very little power. You may be at the mercy of test-proctoring administrators who would rather crack down on cheating than allow you to enjoy your accomplishments. Your entire college application timeline could be off as a result.
This is why you need to take action to make sure that you can mount a strong defense. If there's any possibility at all that someone might levy an accusation against you regarding SAT misconduct or a testing regularity—or if you've already received such an accusation—you need to speak with a student defense attorney now.
Potential Consequences of SAT Issues
The SAT is one of the most widely-accepted standardized tests that United States colleges use to sift through prospective student profiles.
If you don't have SAT scores, you could take your chances. You could apply to schools that consider the test to be optional, or that consider the scores from other tests. However, you've put in the time to study this test. You deserve to be able to put that knowledge to use.
You also don't deserve any stigma that comes along with canceled scores. The College Board's cancellation of your scores should be private, but word could get out if anyone learns that you're banned from taking future tests or if you quietly start seeking alternatives. This could be a reputation-marring event, a mark on your academic record that occurs before you even head to college.
This is why you need a defense attorney. A seasoned student defense lawyer can take you through arbitration with a strong strategy—or can handle negotiations on your behalf to work towards a positive outcome. Instead of working on College Board's terms, you can protect your rights—and you can hope to avoid a testing ban, invalidated scores, or the chance that College Board might share your information (including your alleged misconduct) with interested higher education institutions.
Don't let that happen. Your dream school should hear about you on your terms, first.
Joseph D. Lento is here to help you protect your academic record and reputation from any alleged SAT-related misconduct.
Rely on Joseph D. Lento to Defend Your SAT Test-Taking Experience
Many American colleges and universities require their applicants to provide a recent SAT score—making your preparation, application, and successful completion of this exam a crucial part of your path towards college. If someone accuses you of misconduct during any part of the SAT experience, that could potentially derail your timeline and even your dream of attending a specific school.
You can't let that happen. However, there's only so much that you can do while you're shouldering the hectic experience of finishing out high school. That's where we come in. At the Lento Law Firm, we're proud to support students like you as you get to where you need to be. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience successfully advising and defending students from academic, test-taking, or other misconduct charges on a nationwide basis.
In other words, if you want a national expert on student defense to be on your side—you're in the right place. Joseph D. Lento will work to help you defend your application, your SAT results, and your future. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.