It's the kind of nightmare that only high school students can dream of: Imagine spending a Saturday morning taking a three-hour test that can determine college acceptance, then finding out that the scores are no good because of a printing error.
The nightmare became reality for nearly 1,000 California students this month after it was discovered that some Scholastic Aptitude Test booklets had questions that were printed twice.
The mistake was found on tests administered June 1, when more than 280,000 students nationwide took the examinations, said Ray Nicosia, a spokesman for the New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, which prints and distributes the college entrance exams. Test scores of 3% of those who took the test--at least 8,400 students nationwide--were declared invalid.
"I can't believe this could happen. It's just my kind of luck," said 17-year-old Mandy Doolittle, a Fullerton High School junior who received a voided test and will have to take the SAT exam again. "It's going to be more brain work. Ugh."
Nicosia said that ETS has notified all high schools in California and will open as many test centers as possible on June 22 so that students can retake the exam.
"This is an unfortunate situation," Nicosia said Thursday. "We make no bones about it, we made the mistake."
ETS notified students about the mistakes in letters dated June 10. The errors were in the exam's comprehension section, where students had to read paragraphs about Indians and explorers and answer questions based on the passages.
The booklets included at least two groups of questions that were printed twice, Nicosia said. The mistakes were discovered when students taking the exam notified testing officials. The ETS has since sent letters to students affected by the error.
Students who were administered the faulty tests can retake the three-hour exam later this month, take the test in the fall, or receive a refund of the $20 test fee, Nicosia said. The students have until Sunday to notify testing officials of which option they will take.
Orange County students who received the voided tests said Thursday that they are not thrilled by the prospect of spending another Saturday taking the three-hour test.
Doolittle said she thought she had done well on the exam and was expecting the test results when she received a letter from ETS. Instead, the letter informed her of the error and her three options.
"This is a little frustrating," she said. "I was planning to send the results to several colleges. I thought I did well because I knew the answers to the hard questions."
Michael Hannegan, 17, a student at Foothill High School in Santa Ana, said he knew there was something wrong when he noticed the repeated questions on the test. But he thought that the test officials would be able to correct the mistake without invalidating his entire score.
"Oh man, I'm severely angry," he said. "I guess it's back to the old drawing board."