What Happens if I Get Caught Cheating on the SAT or ACT?
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
It goes without saying that the college applications process is stressful and challenging for many students. In the face of such pressure, turning to less-than-honest methods—such as plagiarizing your essay or cheating on a standardized test—can be tempting. But despite the short-term benefits these solutions may provide, in the end, being in any way dishonest on your college application will almost always end up in you getting caught and facing serious consequences for it.
One of the aspects of the applications process in which cheating is the most prevalent is in standardized testing. Because cheating is relatively common, sometimes even totally honest students are accused of dishonesty. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what you should do if you are accused of cheating on a standardized test, regardless of whether or not you were guilty, and what you can do to rectify the situation.
I was accused of cheating, but I’m innocent! What do I do?
There are two situations in which you may be accused of cheating: one during the administration of the test—for example, if the proctor claims to have seen you copying the answers off your neighbor and does not allow you to complete the exam—and another if you are accused of cheating after you’ve finished taking the exam. It is important to note that in the case of any accusation, true or otherwise, the colleges you’ve elected to send your scores to will not be notified that you have been accused of cheating. In the event that you are not able to disprove the cheating charges, colleges will simply see that your scores have been canceled, without access to further information regarding why it happened.
If you were accused of cheating and not allowed the finish the exam, your first step should be to get in touch with the testing agency immediately (CollegeBoard for the SAT and American College Testing for the ACT) and file a complaint. You’ll want to gather as much testimony from students who were in the testing room with you as possible to support your case. If you successfully demonstrate to the testing agency you did not cheat, your testing fee will be refunded so that you will not need to pay an additional fee to retest.
You may also be informed that you have been accused of cheating after the test. This usually happens because a proctor or another student made a report of suspicious activity on your part to the testing agency, or your score increased by a significant amount (think 400+ points on the SAT, or 6+ points on the ACT) since you previously took the test.
If you have been flagged because of a significant score increase, the testing agency will typically ask you to retake the test, free of charge, in a more controlled setting. If you score within a certain range (100-200 SAT points, or 3 ACT points) of your “cheating score,” the accusations of cheating will be dropped, and your “cheating score” will become your official score (or your retest score, if that ends up being higher).
If you were reported for another reason, it is your responsibility to collect as much evidence as possible for an appeal. Consider whatever will be helpful in proving to the testing agency that you did not cheat, including testimony from students in your testing room, high grades at school, or comparable test scores in the subject areas of the test on which you were accused of cheating, a clean disciplinary history, etc.
If your appeal is successful, all charges against you will be dropped, and the colleges you applied to will receive your scores as normal. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you still have some options, which we describe in more detail below.
To recap, if you are accused of cheating, you should take the following steps:
- if you were accused of cheating mid-test, try to gather as much evidence to prove your innocence as possible, including testimony from other students in the testing room
- if you were flagged for cheating because of a significant score increase compared with your previous test, request a retake and score within a certain range of your “cheating score” to prove your score increase was genuine
- if you were accused of cheating for another reason, collect evidence for an appeal, including testimony from other students in the testing room, grades and test scores in similar subject areas, and academic and disciplinary records
Help! My appeal was rejected/I was actually cheating…Are my chances of getting into college ruined?
If your scores were canceled for cheating, don’t panic! This is by no means the end of your college aspirations. As we mentioned previously, testing agencies will not inform the colleges to which you’ve chosen to send scores that you have been accused of cheating. Your scores will be canceled, and that’s all colleges will know.
Furthermore, you will be permitted to take the test again. Neither the CollegeBoard nor the ACT enacts lifetime bans for students that have been caught or accused of cheating on standardized tests. Assuming your scores are canceled before they’re sent to colleges, the greatest inconvenience that will result from getting caught cheating is that you’ll have to pay all fees associated with taking the test a second time.
However, if for some reason you cheat and are not caught, and you submit those test scores with your applications, the situation becomes more complicated. Colleges generally take situations of academic dishonesty very seriously. Any misrepresentation of your academic ability or accomplishments on your application can have serious consequences for your future if you are caught—which, ultimately, most students are.
If a college catches wind of the fact that you cheated on your standardized tests through a tip from a third party or some other method, it’s very likely that your admission will be rescinded. This is not only because you’ve demonstrated a lack of integrity and honesty, two traits admissions officers highly value in prospective students, but also because you were admitted on the basis of an application that did not accurately reflect your academic ability.
If your appeal was rejected, or you were actually cheating, you should:
- Bite the bullet and retake the test
- Bear in mind that colleges will not be informed of cheating accusations
- Never submit score results that are the product of academic dishonesty — if you’re caught, any admissions decisions made on the basis of those scores will likely be rescinded
- Don’t cheat next time!
It goes without saying that we at CollegeVine do not condone cheating, but the fault often lies not only with the student who cheats, but also with the culture of college admissions itself. Given the hyper-competition that surrounds the college applications process, the unfortunate truth is that some students feel driven to make decisions that they otherwise wouldn’t make.
If you’re feeling stressed about college admissions, remember that despite how exhausting it may feel, you can and will make it out of this alive. CollegeVine’s Zen Digest features a collection of personal stories, tidbits of advice, and more features designed to remove the stress from the college admissions process.
In addition, we at CollegeVine are here to make the admissions process as painless as possible. Through a combination of near-peer mentorship, a consultant network comprised of students from the nation’s top universities, and a uniquely affordable fee structure that allows for premium admissions counseling and mentorship at an accessible price, we are working to democratize the college admissions process.
If you’re interested in learning what CollegeVine can do for you, fill out the form below, and one of our admissions experts will get in touch for a complimentary consultation.
Want insider tips for the SAT?
With our free SAT guide, you'll get CollegeVine’s top tips for mastering the SAT. Enter your name and email below to download the checklist.