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Cheating forces increased security at tests

You probably heard about the SAT cheating scandal on Long Island where 20 teenagers were arrested; five were suspected test-takers and 15 accused of paying from $500 to $3,600 for someone else to take their standardized tests. New security measures have been initiated in response to this unfortunate story. Beginning in September, students will be required to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the SAT and the ACT. The uploaded photograph will be printed on a student's admission ticket and on the roster at the test center.

>The measures

The new measures are controversial because the students' photos will remain in the testing databases and they could be sent to college admissions offices along with their scores.

Scott Gomer, from the ACT said, "Our plan doesn't have the photo option."

Kathleen Steinberg from the College Board (SAT) said that they would not automatically send photos, but would make them accessible in a database. Currently students have the choice of not disclosing their race or ethnicity on their college applications, but obviously an attached photo would eliminate that option.

Additional new security measures for testing include: Students will need to identify the high school they attend. "Stand-by" testing, where students can register on the day of the test, has been eliminated. Students must present their admission ticket (with photo) and a photo ID at the test center. Every test center will have student information including a photo roster. Test supervisors will be permitted to check IDs of students throughout the day. Test-takers will sign a more comprehensive statement certifying that their exams were taken honestly. High schools will receive all test scores for their students; previously test results were only sent to students. High schools and colleges will have access to a student's registration information and their photos.

>The consequences

Cheating, like tattling, has been a known no-no since preschool. Yet, despite continuous reinforcement of its negative consequences, cheating has become almost acceptable behavior in high school. Technology has aided in the proliferation of cheating incidents. While it used to be notes scribbled on the back of your palm, today's students are taking snapshots of entire tests, they're plagiarizing from the Internet and they're texting test questions and answers during exams.

A cheating offense in high school is looked at seriously. Admissions officials might forgive a student caught drinking or smoking marijuana, but are unlikely to overlook a cheating incident. The Common Application, as well as most other college applications, specifically asks about disciplinary issues. High school guidance counselors are required to report any infractions. Lying about cheating is most certainly grounds for rejection.

Sometimes students don't get caught in high school, but their cheating is reported by other parents. There have been numerous occasions where a student has gotten accepted and a parent of another student, who was deferred, wait-listed or rejected, contacts the college to inform them of the accepted student's bad behavior. Sounds crazy, but it happens.

>Upcoming test dates

SAT and SAT Subject Tests: May 5 and June 2. Register at:

ACT test date: June 9. Register at:


Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit