kitchen table math, the sequel: “Fair Test” Procedures for SAT Da

Thursday, November 10, 2011

“Fair Test” Procedures for SAT Da

After my terrible SAT experience last Saturday, I decided to look into whether or not any official rules had been broken.
Turns out there is an official SAT rule guide, The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual, which I think is worth reading before you take an SAT (especially Section A, which is only 11 pages long).
From the first paragraph:
"The SAT Program has established policies and procedures to ensure that all students can test under a uniform set of conditions .... All students are to be protected from disturbance. By strictly following our policies and procedures, you give students the best guarantee of fair testing."
At the time, I felt intimidated to say something to the proctor because I wasn't sure if official "rules" were broken, or whether they were "courtesies" he was forgoing.
And if I had trouble speaking up, I'd imagine it would be even more difficult for a teenager to do so -- especially if he or she isn't even sure about the official rules.
I did speak to the proctor at the first break and told him that lopping off five minutes of our time mid-way through a Reading Section really threw me -- and he responded by saying, "it was the lesser of two evils," which did not leave me inclined to speak up again, when the noise disturbances from other kids who had finished the test in the same gym became so loud that they echoed for our last 4 sections.
Turns out this proctor was wrong.  It was not "the lesser of two evils" to cut off five minutes of our time, mid-section.   In fact there there is an official rule in the manual for this exact situation: "Overtiming: Make no adjustment."
That was just the beginning of the broken rules last Saturday.....
1) The "Visible Clock" Rule:
I have experienced this "visible clock" issue a few times over the course of the 6 SATs I've taken this year (5 different locations). But, "lack of visibility" last Saturday was the least of my problems.
Start with the fact that the proctor inexplicably wrote the time down in the middle of the the Essay Section (after telling us before we started that he had no chalk to do so) -- but he didn't write it in our time zone time -- because, as he later explained to me when I asked, the (non-visible) clock turned out not to be in ourtime zone.
Fine, except that it confused me to see "a time" (but not our time) suddenly appear on the blackboard without explanation.
Also, there were no "regular" time warnings, as mentioned above in the manual -- I'd say they were more sporadic in nature (i.e. "2 minutes," or nothing at all....)

2) Desk Size (Avoid having a "deskette" experience):
To be fair, my deskette last Saturday probably did meet this "official standard" -- but honestly, as a test taker, that's too small for an optimal SAT experience.  12" by 15" holds ONE 8 x 11 test booklet  -- except that there are TWO booklets that need holding when you take the SAT (plus your calculator for math sections, and pencils).
Lack of proper desk space adds a juggle variable to the SAT experience that is distracting, time consuming, stressful, and noisy.  Try to find an SAT location with full desks.

3) Adult Test Takers:
I've experienced "assigned seating" once out of 6 SATs, and the fact of the matter is that I was assigned the front and center seat.  Not sure if that was a coincidence.

4) Timing and Breaks:
I believe this rule was carefully followed at every other SAT that I took this year, which is how I ended up lulled into complacency last Saturday.  I had grown toexpect this rule to be followed, and when it wasn't (starting in Section 3), I was thrown for such a loop I had trouble recovering.  Or maybe I was thrown off when the time mysteriously appeared on the board in a different time zone.  I don't know.  Either way, this "Timing Policy" wasn't followed and it affected me.

5) Reporting Irregularities:
I have no idea whether or not our proctor reported the "timing irregularities" that day.

6) Student Complaints: 
I'm not "a student," but I did have many of these same complaints.
I could continue on with these screen shots of broken rules from last weekend, but instead I'll reiterate that any SAT test taker should read pages 1-11 of  The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual before test day.

Cross Posted on Perfect Score Project


SteveH said...

Thank you for being our canary in a coal mine. Can test takers bring in a stop watch?

Debbie Stier said...

No problem! Nothing that makes a sound is allowed.

Anonymous said...

Lefties should be particularly vigilant about the chairs/desks. I've heard stories about them having to take long tests on right-handed flip-up deskettes; a true nightmare. I know the registration forms for my grad comps asked lefties to identify themselves, because almost all of the seats in the auditorium had right-hand deskettes. They brought in as many extra lefty ones as they needed. Is there a similar question on SAT registrations?

Debbie Stier said...

I didn't see any questions about lefties....and I'm glad you brought that up as my son is a lefty...and in fact he had the "deskette" for the PSAT (I'll find out if lefty) and noise distractions.

I emailed his school the other day where he's scheduled to take the SAT in January, about having full size desks (for all of the kids). Never heard back....but I believe my son will speak up if he's not given a big enough desk.

Catherine Johnson said...

I was seated in the far corner of the back of the room.

No complaints about my proctor, though. She was great.

Still and all, the only clock in the room was visible exclusively to test-takers seated in the back row.

SAT math is ***all about speed.*** Period. If you can't see the clock, and you're not allowed to bring a stopwatch (which you need), you're taking the test with a handicap.

SteveH said...

On the SAT web site, it says that you can bring a watch but not a separate timer, even if it doesn't make a sound.

So how about a watch that has a timer? I read one place that someone just reset his watch to 12:00 for each section.

By the way, I asked my 6'2" son what size desk he had for the PSAT and he said that it was one of the small ones. He couldn't fit the test booklet and the answer sheet on the desk. At our school, they divide the kids up alphabetically and send them off to different classrooms. You get whatever is in that classroom.

Debbie Stier said...

Right -- my son got whatever was in the classroom -- and he said (after I asked) that deskette was uncomfortable and stressful.

But it also didn't occur to him to ask for a different desk -- and he didn't seem to have an issue with speaking up and making sure he had a bigger desk next time.