By Park Sun-jong
A few months ago, I had my SAT Reasoning Test score canceled. If I recall correctly, I did not violate any rules set by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the test, such as sharing the test questions with someone else.
It was part of a complete cancellation of the SAT Reasoning Tests administered on Jan. 27. The New York Times and CNN reported in early February that there was a ``security breach'' of the SAT Reasoning Test in January.
According to a news report published in the Times, ``At least one student who took the exam Saturday had access to the questions ahead of time.’’ In light of the emphasis on fair competition the ETS sets on SATs, this was indeed a serious security breach.
The pivotal problem of the test was that it recycled almost all questions previously administered in the United States in December 2005. Considering that many SAT hakwons in Korea have access to previously administered SAT Tests and many test-takers attend hakwons, the careless recycling of test questions by the ETS was the bedrock of the security breach.
But the ETS has yet to realize the larger picture _ students in America take the SAT one day after those in Korea do and once hakwons realized that the SAT in January was a near replica of one previously administered, they quickly sent answers to students in America who had attended hakwons.
Indeed, on a Web site frequently visited by those wishing to study abroad in America, the document containing answers to the SAT in January that was sent to students in America was posted.
The document was compiled by a hakwon teacher and he encouraged his students to carefully memorize the answers before taking the test. In other words, students in America who had access to the document before taking the test could have gotten perfect scores. But sadly, only the test scores of those who took the SAT in Korea were canceled.
But like an abstract painting, the scene of test taking in Korea is distorted to the point where the true purpose of standardized testing has become null and void.
ETS said in its latest report that the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy (KMLA) is among the world's top high schools outside the United States according to its students' performance on seven advanced placement subjects.
According to a Chosun Ilbo report published on Feb. 21, some of the students who took the test there said that they saw many KMLA students cheat in the bathroom, including using electronic dictionaries and sharing questions _ which are forbidden by the ETS.
The scope of the cheating scheme is not limited to KMLA. In other places where I took the SAT, I saw students rely on other prohibited measures to increase their score. As a fellow student preparing to study abroad, I understand their obsession with numerical scores. But as a Korean, I see a bigger problem.
What was lost in the cancellation of the SAT score on January was not only our efforts but also the credibility of Korean students as a whole. Indeed, never before has the ETS cancelled the scores of all test takers from a country.
Already, the news of the cancellation has seeped through many international sites such as collegeconfidential.com. Many international netizens have generalized South Korean students as test-taking ``machines'' who know no ethics.
How will we be able to present ourselves in the U.S.? How will professors view our work, if Korean students continue to cheat on the SAT? We should not risk our image for the sake of a boost in a few points on the SAT. An old Korean proverb says that one mudfish contaminates the whole pond.
Whether or not you are innocent, the ETS does not seem to care. As a senior who will be applying to colleges in a few months, I am short of time. And the cancellation of the SAT in January is outrageous and nerve wracking. Nevertheless, we need to look ahead. This should not happen again.
Park Sun-jong is a senior studying at Daejeon High School in Daejeon.