24 Dec 2016

What’s a Good Score with the New SAT?

One question we are constantly getting asked about the new SAT is: What is a good score? On the old (less new) SAT, 10 years of existence and associated data led to a pretty solid answer: 2200+ for top schools, 1800+ for competitive schools, and below that choices were limited to State Universities and/or careers in the fast food industry (not exactly true). But the numbers were there, the data were solid. But now the question raises its head again.

And the SAT is lying about what a good score is. Laughing, but still lying.

According to the College Board (the ultra-rich but totally NOT for profit organization responsible for the torture known as the SAT) concordance, a score of 1400 (650 reading 750 Math) on the new test is equivalent to a score of 1990 on the old one. This is patently untrue. Actually untrue. A lie based on number manipulation and all manner of data disfiguring.

This concordance is based on the first administration of the new SAT, March of this year, which is an incredibly small sample of test-takers, as well as a group that is self-selected (meaning they probably are more focused on college preparation than an average student). Additionally, it makes the claim that the two tests are equitable. This is not true at all. The new SAT is a completely different test, with different parameters and different scoring methods. The new SAT has no guessing penalty, has only 4 answer choices, and has no obscure vocabulary. So while the scale (200-800) per section is the same, the actual test is undeniably different. What these changes mean is that students are going to answer more questions, guess on more questions, and therefore statistically they will get more questions correct. More questions correct means a higher score, so the take-away is that the new SAT scores are inflated, in some cases by as much as 80 points higher than the old test (comparing a 1600-1600 score)(source).

What that means is the new higher score isn’t really as high as you thought.  It’s not as high as the SAT says, and the ACT (the #1 Admissions test since 2012) is saying that any current link to new SAT scores to current ACT scores is both misleading and incorrect and has refused to endorse the ACT to New SAT equivalency tables.  By removing its support from the equivalence posted by the College Board, the ACT has actually made the interpretation of SAT scores a little bit like stepping off an unseen ledge.  Oops.  Sorry SAT.

So what does this mean for our students? Simply stated the current high scores will not last for much longer, as the SAT will have to normalize the scores (adjusting the mean score to a preset standard, i.e. 500 in both sections for example) after this current round of testing (or this admissions cycle). That means every student should take advantage of the skewed scores and get in on the party while the party is still fun. Why? Because the only people the SAT scores matter to are the admissions officers at colleges, and even though there may be an intellectual understanding that the new SAT scores are skewing higher, thereís an instinctual reaction to seeing a bigger score: No matter what the egg-heads say, 1400 is bigger than 1320. This isnít even a matter of admissions offices educating themselves, this is a matter of the SAT eventually adjusting the scores to center where they want them to. Then the party will be over.

To summarize: whatís a good score? The exact same score it used to be: 1450+ for elite schools and 1200+ for selective schools. It just happens that currently, those scores are easier to achieve.

And now a sloth demonstrates how we all feel after that explanation:

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