+1 (978) 744-8828 Email Us  

Recruiting Intelligence

May SAT Cancelled- Will It Hurt International Student Recruitment?

The internet was a buzz last week due to news that the College Board was cancelling the administration of the May SAT in South Korea. A cheating scandal was unearthed and in an effort to curb widespread cheating (and possibly to punish those involved) the College Board announced that the SAT would not be administered in South Korea in May. There was some debate whether the June test date would be cancelled as well. According to our sources there remains conflicting opinions whether the June test date will be cancelled. As of the publishing of this piece it has not yet formally been cancelled.

What does this mean for education in Korea? What does this mean for Korean students who would like to become international students studying in the US? What can we learn from these cheating scandals?

South Koreans value education very highly. Studying in the United States or another international location is highly regarded and considered a means for future success. South Korean parents push their children to succeed in the college admissions process. High standardized test scores are considered the means to great success. Throughout South Korea hagwons (study centers) attract parents who will pay great sums to provide test preparation for their children. (Sound familiar-- we do this in the US too, by the way.) Apparently some of the hagwons have behaved unscrupulously and unfortunately this isn't the first time.

According to a Korean colleague we learned that several Korean SAT hagwons were involved in the breach of the SAT questions. Using the time difference of other test locations, the offending hagwons could collect test questions and then inform students of the correct answers. Using previous test sets and predicting which passages were likely to be reused on the current SAT the hagwons attempted to "crack the code" used by ETS and the College Board. There have been rumors of bribery as well in an attempt to secure questions and answers in advance of test dates.

The response was swift and severe. The SAT will not be offered anywhere in South Korea in May 2013. What's a Korean student to do? According to a Korean educational advisor, students will travel to Japan, Guam, Singapore or Hong Kong to take the exam. Students are already registering to take the exam elsewhere. We wondered what a student without the financial means to travel would do. Apparently if students and parents are willing to make the investment in American higher education they can afford for the students to take the SAT abroad.

We wondered if some students would abandon their plans to study in the US and look to Australia, Canada or the UK as other options. It doesn't appear that has been the case so far but it certainly begs to be examined further. 

Students are under tremendous pressure to succeed in the college admissions race-- Americans and international students alike. This latest cheating scandal shows the extent to which students, parents and advisors will attempt to cheat the system to advance their self interests. Sadly this won't be the last time this will occur. Perhaps it is time to re-examine the ways in which students move through the college application process so that more weight can be placed on factors other than testing.