On every test date, some students, somewhere get their scores back weeks after everyone else. Since even a one day delay causes concern, this will be comforting to all well-intentioned students (e. g. non-cheaters): a delayed SAT score almost always means The College Board is scrutinizing to assure there was no cheating. The delay affects all students in the testing room that day – yours is not the only score being delayed.
Did Students Cheat?
The delay is to ensure that students in the room have not cheated. If you didn’t cheat off another student, your score will get released. What sets off a delay is a close answer match between two students in the same room. If “Student A” has an answer sheet showing answers that will yield a 750 math score and “Student D” has an answer sheet that begins with a high number of wrong answers, equating to a 450, then magically finishes to show the same answers as student A, it’s a sign that Student D cheated off Student A. If “Student C” has answers that correspond with “Student B”’s answers and the ones they get wrong are the exact same ones, that too is a sign that one student cheated off the other.
In any of these scenarios, the SAT evaluators investigate correspondences. They need to look at where students in the room were seated. This is recorded by the room proctor, but it takes verification. They need to assess others in the room whose answers might display that they too copied part of their answers off of another student’s paper.
What Should Students Do?
In any of these circumstances, the students who did not cheat get their scores sent without any distinction. No college admissions committee sees evidence of a delay. If this happens to you as a senior, you email every college to say your scores have been delayed so that the admissions office does not make an unfavorable decision.
Another delay scenario occurs when a student has an inordinately high increase in scores from a prior SAT. A student with an 1100 from October has a December test that is about to show 1400. That quick 300 point improvement is so rare, the test administrators are obligated to investigate for cheating. They assess the student’s test against those of others in the room. This too takes time, more time than the two weeks within which all regular students’ scores are processed. If there’s no evidence of cheating (good test prep is not cheating) that 1400 gets released.
When our students have their scores delayed while the rest of the school has not, it’s a good sign. Instead of feeling fretful, they can know that they are probably looking at a 250+ point score increase. As a precaution though, if the student has not signed up for a later test, we have her or him do so. If the deadline for that next possible test has passed, the student should take action. Start with The College Board or the school’s test administrator.