After catching an error in the grading of SAT II subject tests taken by 15,500 high school students in November, the College Board will notify colleges this week that most of those students' scores will drop an average of 20 points--and some by as much as 100 points.
The announcement comes as most colleges are sending out letters of admission and rejection for next fall's freshman class.
"I wouldn't want to say this couldn't come at a worse time, but it's close to that," said Brian O'Reilly, who is in charge of the College Board's SAT program.
Fortunately, he said, the changed scores should have little influence on admissions decisions because few colleges use the SAT II subject tests--which used to be called achievement tests--the way they rely on the regular SAT math and verbal exams.
The error was discovered in two subject tests, mathematics IIC and Japanese reading and listening.
In scoring the tests on an 800-point scale, the College Board gives one point for a correct answer, zero points if there is no response and - 1/4 point for each incorrect answer--a way to discourage random guessing. The mistake occurred when incorrect answers were given a zero score, the same as a non-response.
As a result, some of the lower-scoring students had incorrectly received scores that were 100 points too high on the mathematics test and 90 points too high on the Japanese test.
The College Board will send corrected scores to colleges, students and high schools as soon as possible, O'Reilly said.
"Nobody is happy with this," he said, "least of all us."