An alleged SAT cheating ring was busted in Long Island, N.Y., after faculty members from the high school heard rumors that students had paid someone to take the test for them.
An investigation revealed that at least six high school students allegedly paid 19-year-old college student Sam Eshaghoff thousands of dollars to take the test, prosecutors said.
Eshaghoff is facing charges of scheming to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison. The other six students are facing misdemeanor charges and have not been identified because of their ages.
But, if the cheaters had done nothing illegal and were caught by the College Board, which owns the SAT, or while taking the ACT, another college entrance exam, it is likely that the only consequence would have been a cancelled test score.
“If it comes to the point where we have determined that there was cheating or that the score was not valid, we cancel the score and we notify the colleges and universities that the score … cannot be used for admission purposes,” said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for Educational Testing Service, the company that designs and administers the SAT. ”There will be a notification that the score was canceled, but it carries no stigma.”
Of the 2.25 million SATs that are taken every year, Ewing said, ETS cancels about 1,000 test scores and 99.9 percent of those are for students copying off each other.
“You have to go back a decade or more to find another case of an alleged impersonation thing like this,” he said.
The College Board only alerts the authorities about an investigation if they believe students violated the law, Ewing told ABC News.
“We’re much more concerned with cancelling scores and letting universities know they’re not available for admission than detailing whatever may have happened,” he said.
Once a student’s score is canceled for cheating, that student is allowed to take the test again and there are no additional punitive measures pursued by the College Board.
The ACT has a similar policy.
“We don’t tell schools or anyone else; we simply cancel the score,” ACT spokesman Ed Colby told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “What we’re trying to do is make sure the scores that we send to colleges are valid. It’s not our intention to go around punishing students who make mistakes or who’ve done something they shouldn’t have done.”
ACT Media Relations Director, Scott Gomer, confirmed to ABC News that this continues to be the ACT’s policy. Students that are caught cheating are allowed to take the test again, but the cancelled test does count against the organization’s 12-test limit.
“We do a thorough review and then we determine whether or not the test is accurate and valid. … In some cases test scores are cancelled,” said Gomer. “Our main concern is that the test results are fair for all students.”
Ewing said that while the scandal in Long Island has caused some people to call for stricter security measures, it’s unlikely the College Board will overhaul its security procedures.
“[We] are always trying to review enhancements to the test security process, but any enhancement has to take into account that it doesn’t unnecessarily burden test takers,” he said. ”It’s such a rare occurrence, these kind of things. It hardly merits massive revision to the test security process.”
ABC News’ Christina Ng contributed to this report.