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College Board says upcoming SATs won't contain questions exposed in breach

Students enter a hall for SAT examinations beside a security guard at Asia-World Expo near Hong Kong Airport in Hong Kong, China October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

NEW YORK/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - For the first time since a massive security breach exposed about 400 unpublished questions meant for upcoming SAT tests, the College Board will administer the important college entrance exam this weekend.

The not-for-profit organization says no version of tests given this weekend will contain any of the items exposed in the breach.

In a statement issued August 3, the College Board called the breach “a serious criminal matter” and pledged to take “the stolen test content off the SAT administration schedule while the investigation is under way.” College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg said Wednesday that “we have nothing to add” to that statement.

A person with access to the questions for upcoming exams had provided Reuters with hundreds of confidential test items, the news agency reported in August. The questions and answers include 21 reading passages – each with about a dozen questions – and about 160 math problems.

As part of an investigation into the breach, federal authorities raided the home of Manuel Alfaro, a former top College Board executive who has become an outspoken critic of the organization. On August 26, FBI agents seized computers and other materials from Alfaro, who spent 21 months with the College Board before being dismissed as executive director of assessment design and development in February 2015.

Among other criticisms, Alfaro has alleged the College Board failed to follow its own specifications in developing the math sections of the new SAT, which launched in March. His allegations are contained in a series of posts on the social network LinkedIn. Alfaro, who has not hired an attorney, declined to comment.

Independent testing specialists have said the breach represents one of the most serious security lapses that has come to light in the history of college-admissions testing.

How widely the items have circulated remains unclear. As is common in China, test-prep operators there have been offering access to what they claim to be upcoming tests ahead of this weekend’s exam. One group referred to the Reuters report and said it can offer test-takers items that come from “a very complete, very full bank of unreleased questions.”

Asked about the advertisement, the College Board’s Goldberg said: “We take all reports of test security seriously.”

Additional reporting by the Shanghai newsroom. Edited by Blake Morrison