With money on the line, the clock is ticking and everyone is cheating on the test.
That's the premise of an art collective's new online game, which is designed to look familiar to anyone who has taken the SAT as a college-entrance exam.
The MSCHF collective – the group behind Lil Nas X's Satan Shoes and other viral stunts – is calling its exam the “MSAT.” And for $52, anyone can sign up for the virtual test on Saturday. The entry fee for the online game is three dollars less than what the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the actual SAT, charges.
The fee goes to a prize pool, and the person with the highest score wins the pot, MSCHF says. Tiebreakers will be decided by time.
The test – with questions organizers say are inspired the real SAT – is open book, which means "everyone will be cheating and we don't care," the group says.
In its "manifesto" on the project's landing page, the collective presents a cynical view of the status of higher education, especially on how college admissions tend to favor wealthy students.
The group says rich students get an edge at standardized tests. MSCHF says that includes being able to take standardized tests multiple times to get a higher score – as well as more overt ways, such as family donations to prestigious schools aimed at making sure rich students gain admission to a selective university.
“College admissions are already a contest, but instead of winning money, a significant portion of players win a mountain of debt,” MSCHF said of its project.
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The MSAT game launches as the College Board is attempting to reinvent the SAT. Fewer universities are requiring students to submit any standardized test score in the admissions process.
About 80% of four-year universities will not require exam scores for high schoolers in the 2022 class, according to FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit critical of standardized exams.
In January, the College Board announced it would administer the test digitally in the U.S. by 2024 and that it would reduce the exam’s length. That shift didn’t satisfy critics, who say the digital transition did not make the test more equitable. The College Board and other test advocates say the exam helps connect underserved students to colleges or scholarships they might have otherwise missed.
In a statement to USA TODAY, the College Board said Monday that it "is not affiliated with the organization or the project."
How does MSCHF's 'MSAT' game work?
MSCHF says registration for the exam runs through Friday, and the test begins at 12 p.m. EST Saturday. It only works on computers, not mobile devices.
The game will run up to three hours and 40 minutes, according to MSCHF. That's longer than the College Board's new digital version of the SAT, which runs about two hours.
MSAT says results will be broadcast the Sunday after the test. Participants will be ranked publicly, akin to an arcade leaderboard.
The questions will be based on past SAT exams and practice exams, "but none of the questions we have in the exam have ever shown up in an SAT in the wording we have," Sam Thompson, a member of MSCHF, told USA TODAY.
The group says in its terms and conditions that the SAT is "a trademark owned by The College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this promotion."
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The prize is determined by the number of people who sign up for the faux exam. As of Monday morning, 213 people had signed up, making for a pot size of nearly $11,000.
The group says the winner will be determined by who finishes the exam with the highest score, with the score capped at 1600 points.
In the case of multiple 1600s, Thompson said the fastest finisher would receive the prize. Should multiple people finish at the same time, they'll split the pot.
Who is running the 'MSAT'?
MSCHF may be an unfamiliar name to most people, but it has made national headlines before, including working with rapper Lil Nas X’s to produce the infamous “Satan Shoes.”
The modified Nikes featured pentagrams, an inverted cross, and other satanic-themed imagery, but the shoe company sued the collective to prevent the devilish sneakers’ distribution. Both parties settled after MSCHF agreed to buy back any of the original shoes.
The faux college assessment may be less controversial than the Satan Shoes, but the approach of tweaking an established brand is similar. The MSAT’s website bears a similar font and color to that of the College Board’s branding of the exam. And like future versions of the SAT, the MSAT will be administered digitally.
Can you really cheat on the 'MSAT'?
Yes. In fact, it's nearly encouraged.
No IDs will be required, and the contest structure incentivizes test takers to finish the exam more quickly than the time allotted. Participants can also take the test in the privacy of their home, where they could presumably discuss the test with whomever they want.
The organizers even bill their test as an MMO — massively multiplayer online game. Those competing will be doing so digitally in real time, and there's nothing to prevent players from collaborating on answers.
And according to the organizers, it's only fair that everyone could game the test, since higher education has long favored the wealthiest of students.
"Cheating is a legitimate test-taking strategy,” they write.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SAT test mocked by MSAT online game; Fake test by MSCHF has cash prize