SAT and ACT New Security Procedures

Since the SAT cheating ring debacle in 2011, the makers of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams have been wracking their brains about how to tighten security. They are so serious and committed to dealing with this issue that they have even hired a former Director of the FBI to help them develop these new security measures. We’ve been watching events unfold and here is the summary of the changes coming to the September 2012 ACT and October 2012 SAT.

To sum up the big changes:

  • Students will have to submit a photograph when registering for their test.
  • For the SAT, students will have to identify the high school they attend or they will not be able to register.
  • Stand-by testing will no longer be available.
  • Test centers will have a roster with the aforementioned submitted pictures to compare with student photo IDs and faces.
  • Students will need to sign a more comprehensive statement that warns of criminal charges if any academic dishonesty is involved with their test-taking.
  • The high schools and colleges will have access to the registration information of the students, including the photographs.


While on the surface, this may seem to be effective in curbing cheating, close inspection reveals it for just another performance of security theater that only punishes the honest test-takers. Already a test-taker needs to show up early to get through the bureaucracy in place, spending anywhere from 5-6 hours at the test center. I can only imagine with the new measures in place that the time spent there will increase. Furthermore, these rules have not stated what will happen to students that are not currently attending a high school. What will happen to the GED students or the home-schooled students or even adults who are trying to matriculate into undergraduate programs? (Or all of us test-prep experts who enjoy spending a Saturday morning taking an ACT or SAT.)

And how effective will these measures be? Ostensibly, the high schools and colleges will have the photographs, registration information, and scores, and will be the stopgap in this process, verifying the identity of each student. What measures will be in place to ensure this will be done and done rigorously? In fact ACT only says “high schools will be encouraged to check the photos” on the students reports and report any concerns. It seems that this is only a plan to allow the testing companies to pass the buck to schools to identify students who they believe might have cheated and then check the photo to see if they actually showed up. This also raises concerns about what will happen in the future, I imagine the new measures that will be implemented when another cheating scandal is unearthed, possibly College Board special ops DNA testing every student and their parents while checking birth certificates and passports.

So maybe these measures will curb some cheating until desperate students with money to burn find a new work-around. But for the most part, these new measures also punish honest test-takers by making an already stressful process more time-consuming and frustrating.


Additional Information:


Check out what our friend SAT Dude had to say.

Click here for the NYT report on the SAT cheating scandal.

Click here for the College Board SAT Security Measures announcement.

Click here for ACT Security Measures announcement.

This post is by Jason Chan, an SAT, ACT, SSAT, GMAT, GRE and ISEE teacher, trainer, and developer with Bell Curves for the past 6 years. Jason takes the SAT at least once a year and is currently crying because it seems that streak is over.

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