Case studies

College Board – Crisis Response


On June 6, 2015, there was a printing error on the SAT college acceptance test. Students were told verbally that they had 20 minutes to complete the section of the test but read that they had 25 minutes to complete the section. A number of key stakeholders, including students, families, admissions counselors and the news media, were concerned about the impact it would have on the scores of the test.


Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.


The first challenge was to determine what needed to happen immediately with the misprinted tests. Should students retake the test? Should certain sections of the test be excluded from grading? After a decisions were made, we faced the secondary challenge of communicating to all stakeholders what the process would be without causing panic and concern. Our goal was to minimise any reputational impact.

How You Helped

Our company deployed a team to College Board’s offices to design a comprehensive, rapid response mechanism that included social media, traditional media, admission counselors, and families. We shared with these stakeholders very transparent, useful information. Using social media, we were able to keep all interested parties up to date in real time.

The results of the test were released in the end of June. Using a special website, we provided question and answer documents and used video to explain how the tests were being scored and the limited impact it would have on student scores. We met with key groups to reassure them and sure they understood why and how decisions had been made. Lastly, we offered all students affected an opportunity to sit the October test for free.

Their Results

Being proactive in the face of a crisis helped College Board move on smoothly. We were proactive when the error occurred and didn’t allow a vacuum of mis­information to be created. Instead, we filled the air with facts that were transparent and genuinely helpful. We became a leader on the issue and the result was positive feedback from parents and counselors for the open and honest way we dealt with this mistake.

“We met with key groups to reassure them and sure they understood why and how decisions had been made.”