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Wi-Fi Woes Derail SAT for Hundreds in Oakland

About 1,400 students went to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland, some from considerable distances, to take the SAT exam, which is now entirely online. Officials had to cancel the test due to Internet connectivity problems.

Hundreds of students who had come to Oakland to take the SAT on Saturday were told — after hours of waiting in the test room — that the exam was canceled due to Internet connection problems.

College Board, a nonprofit that runs the SAT, said about 1,400 students had gone to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland to take the college admission exam. Though the SAT is entirely online, students are required to take it at test sites. But a shortage of those sites throughout California has forced many families to travel long distances to exam sites — if they can find one with open slots.

At the scheduled start time of 7:45 a.m., problems started immediately, said Greyson Jones, an 11th-grade student from Half Moon Bay. The students tried to access the exam, but the online system showed only a “loading” message. Test officials checked repeatedly but said only that they were working on an issue with the Wi-Fi.

When officials finally announced they were canceling the exam, students cheered, Jones said.

But the students couldn’t leave yet. The proctors had collected their phones, and when they realized how long it would take to return them one by one, they placed all the devices on a table so the students could find theirs — a process that took some of them nearly an hour, potentially making the phones vulnerable to theft.

College Board said in a statement that the number of students wanting to take the SAT on the weekend had exceeded capacity due to the lack of high schools and other sites willing to host the exam. The nonprofit added that while it contracted with a vendor to manage test administration at hotels and other locations, it will “revisit vendor processes to ensure students do not encounter problems moving forward.”

“We know this was an incredibly difficult situation for students who worked hard to prepare for the test,” College Board added. “We deeply apologize to all affected students. They will receive a full refund, and we are working to ensure they are able to retest.”

Marriott Hotels did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many students don’t need to take the SAT, as the University of California and California State University systems don’t consider students’ scores as part of their admission process. Some other colleges have made admission exams optional. But many students in California still want to take it.

©2024 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.