The College Board Sucks

By Nupur Kudapkar and Rina Weaver

If you’re a high school student, no matter who you are – an athlete, a performer, an artist, an academic, all of the above, or none of the above – you undoubtedly share one quality with over one million American teenagers: you detest the College Board.

Those who are not familiar with the College Board should know that it is a “not-for-profit organization” that oversees the SAT, AP, and other dreadful exams that high school students must endure. A college application requires scores on the College Board exams. Due to the College Board’s monopoly over education and the college admissions process, students who apply to colleges have little choice but to deal with the organization.

The College Board, like other monopolies, does not put its omnipresent authority to good use. It seems to be more ironically focused on one thing, which is revenues.

Problem #1: The College Board is categorized by the federal tax code as a not-for-profit entity. The group actively pushes this designation while preying on high school students’ worries about getting into colleges. It generates $840 million annually.

Problem #2: You or your parents spend a lot of money on The College Board. In 2017, 1.7 million high school students took the SAT. The test costs roughly $52, and an additional $68 if you decide to write an essay. One in four test-takers made use of a fee waiver. Only those individuals who are legally unable to pay for the test make up this 25% of the population. What about children whose families just make enough to qualify for fee waivers but not enough to spend a few hundred dollars on standardized tests, given that the majority of students take the SAT more than once?

There are also AP exams. You’ll probably take several AP exams for “college credit” if you wish to demonstrate to universities that you are competent in higher-level academics. What’s wrong here? A single AP test cost ninety-four dollars last year; this year, a price rise is anticipated.

The College Board also offers SAT Subject Tests to further demonstrate to universities your proficiency in particular subject areas—something that can already be demonstrated by a cursory scan through your transcripts—as if AP exams and the SAT and the College Board aren’t enough. Or a fantastic AP Exam result. Because The College Board wouldn’t exist if it didn’t extort a little extra bucks from the families of high school students, each test costs $22-26, in addition to a “registration fee” of $26.

You’ll finally get the chance to give colleges your AP and SAT scores when the dreaded college application season arrives. You’ll tell yourself, “The difficult part is over. The only thing left to do is to press a button.”

But there’s a catch: sending your scores out still costs money. The cost for each score report is $15. You must spend an additional $45 to mail your test results if you’re applying to four colleges.

We essentially pay hundreds of dollars to take exams that we must take. Then, we spend several hundred dollars to send out the scores that are required.

Problem #3: The SAT is not standardized. There are times when the test looks normal, but when you receive your results, your score seems absurdly low, making you want to scream and rip out your hair. Scores on several exam dates vary widely because the tests are never given at the same level of difficulty. This is a serious issue.

Take the June 2018 SAT as an illustration. The test was easier than those from past months, but the curve was severe because it was thought to be a simpler test. You dropped to a 770 in the math section because of one incorrect answer. On other exams, you may omit one or two problems and still receive an 800.

The curves are not determined by how well students perform, which is a fact. In other words, The College Board does not offer a larger curve if everyone performs poorly. This is based on a procedure known as equating. As was already mentioned, the tests are all of varying difficulty. The College Board is aware of this. Your initial score is a raw one that is determined by how many questions you correctly answer. The raw score is transformed into a scaled score that is difficulty-adjusted. As a result, The College Board “curves” your test according to how challenging they think it is.

Problem #5: The integrity of the SAT is compromised. The June SAT results were mishandled by the College Board. You’d think it would have learned from its errors. But how could the company make up for that crazily unfair curve? It produced an exam with questions from an earlier test. The 2018 August SAT was a repurposed version of an international SAT test, and it may be the worst scandal yet. People who studied for the SAT beforehand were clearly at an advantage, because the majority of exam answers are leaked online. They likely saw test questions and answers present on their exam,  before the day of taking it. Moreover, the College Board is not invalidating any of the scores.

Problem #6: The College Board fails to address pressing issues. All of us make errors, but they are all pardonable. The College Board, meanwhile, won’t even admit to making mistakes. Despite having one of the most unjust curves in SAT history, there were no refunds for the June exam. Even though the results of the August SAT should be invalid, there is no ongoing inquiry, and the scores will not be thrown out. The College Board doesn’t even take the time to address each student’s complaints in detail.

The final word? Despite the fact that we all despise the College Board, there is frustratingly little we can do about it. The College Board is aware of its dominance and takes advantage of it to prey on helpless high school pupils. Because of this, even if we clearly performed worse on the previous test, we cross our arms when we receive a lower SAT score than we did the previous time. Nevertheless, we continue to grudgingly pay $50 to register for the next month. Because of this, despite our demands for answers, we don’t expect them. Because of this, despite the fact that we know it is unfair, we continue to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars.