People are bored with the College Board

Should public schools rely on a private company for college admissions?


Chapter 16 in The American Pageant, a textbook dedicated to helping students pass the US History AP test. Photo by Camille Owen

Camille Owen, Author

On August 27th, 2018, thousands of students across the country showed up at testing locations to take the SAT, a formal college-preparedness test run by College Board. But some of the students taking the test had seen it before. The same exact test had been given in Asia for the October 2017 date, and had been leaked online for almost a year.

College Board is a private company that runs the SAT, PSAT, and AP tests. As public and private colleges rely on these test scores, many are criticizing the company for two of their most recent tests. Beyond the repeated August 2018 test, the June 2017 test also drew criticism for adjusting the score to counteract an ‘easier test’, causing a majority of test takers to score far lower than on previous SATs. These controversies have led to people questioning the College Board’s role in the college admission process. Should public schools rely on a private company for college admissions, especially a private company which has been shown to have a lack of concern when it comes to test security and content?

One of the most startling problems is that College Board does not seem to be attempting to secure their future tests. According to The Washington Post, Bob Schaeffer, education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit that advocates against the misuse and abuse of standardized tests, says, “College Board executives continue to turn a blind eye to the problems caused by repeatedly reusing previously administered pencil-and-paper exams — despite evidence that test content has been quickly compromised after first use.” This draws into question the validity of previous tests, along with the future security of exams.

Another worry people have about College Board tests is that they teach students to memorize a large amount of information in a short amount of time, but not actually learn the material. PrepScholar, a site dedicated to college admissions, says, “Even though many courses have been revamped, AP still tends to be seen as a shallow, memorization-based program, in comparison to IB and home-grown curriculums at other schools. . . if you’re in an AP course, you’ll likely find yourself spending more time drilling definitions with flashcards than, say, conducting experiments or reading novels.” This memorization-based learning can also be seen on the PSAT and SAT, leading many schools and institutions to turn away in favor of other college-level programs.

Battlefield junior Jenny Pool, who took the PSAT in 2017 and is in three AP classes this year, says that she takes AP classes “to get college credit and challenge myself.” Jenny is taking the SAT only because it is required for college, but she does not “like how the SAT is timed because it does not show that you know the information because you are stressed about time. I don’t really like the SAT at all.” A majority of American colleges and universities require students to submit test scores to apply, even though the timed portions just reinforce the memorization of the test.

This is just becoming more common as students see the SAT as a requirement for higher education, not a way to connect to college success and opportunity as advertised on the College Board website. Junior and senior year are already stressful enough without the added weight of whether the AP classes and SATs one is taking are actually beneficial.