Video: SAT errors blamed on the rain

updated 3/10/2006 8:09:03 PM ET 2006-03-11T01:09:03

Blame it on the rain. The company that scans the answer sheets for the SAT college entrance exam said Thursday that wet weather may have damaged 4,000 tests that were given the wrong scores.

Abnormally high moisture content in some answer sheets caused them to expand so they could not be read properly at a scanning center in Austin, Texas, said Pearson Educational Measurement.

The affected test day, Oct. 8, coincided with the beginning of a week of heavy rain in the Northeast, where most of the tests came from. Rain that weekend forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. As much as 10 inches fell on New Jersey.

Ovals might have been misread
“When there’s moisture in the paper, it actually grows,” said Pearson spokesman David Hakensen. That causes the ovals students fill in “to move just slightly, enough so that it will be out of registration for the scanning head to read the answers.”

The answer sheets are carefully packaged but still could have been affected by high humidity, he said. The company was still investigating.

Pearson said it became aware of the problem in early February. It re-scanned all 495,000 answer sheets.

The College Board, which owns the test, disclosed the errors to colleges this week. A number of colleges scrambled to reconsider the applications of affected students.

100 points or less in most cases

Most scores changed by fewer than 100 points on the 2,400-point test, and only 16 changed by 200 points or more, the College Board said.

In a statement, Pearson said the company was working on new software to look for evidence paper has expanded and in the future would allow answer sheets more time to acclimate.

Pearson has been blamed for problems in scoring state education tests in recent years.

Last year, it incorrectly scored online versions of Virginia’s high school exit exam and told 60 students they had failed when they had actually passed. The company offered $5,000 scholarships to five students who were blocked from graduating.

In 2000, a Pearson scoring error caused 8,000 Minnesota students to flunk and kept 50 seniors from graduating. The company offered $7 million to wronged students in a mass settlement.

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