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New SAT Scores: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This past May College Board released both scores for the first administration of the new SAT as well as the Concordance tables. Concordance tables are tools used to translate the new, potentially unfamiliar SAT scoring gradient to the old SAT. Our February 2016 Newsletter articleIntroducing The New SAT explained in detail the redesigned SAT and the differences test takers would encounter between the new and old test. 

In the last several months we have received many questions from our students and parents concerning the new SAT scores and how (for the class of 2017) will college admissions handle the new scores?  Below are some questions our parents have asked, the questions we have asked college admissions officers, and questions that came up through our research.  Our hope is to educate our students and parents, so they are prepared to put their best foot forward when applying to colleges this fall.  

Q: I am so excited that my daughter scored 1330/1600 on the new Sat which was an improvement from her old SAT score.  Does her score make her a more competitive college applicant?

A: Maybe, but it depends on how much she improved from her old score. College Board curved the scores on the new test by approximately 8-10%.  College Board cites three reasons for the curve: 1. Each question only has four answer choices (as opposed to five on the old test) 2. There is no longer a penalty for wrong answers and 3. There are some mathematical inconsistencies because of the difference in points available (2400 - Old, 1600 - New) and the scoring and structure of the new test.  According to the College Board Concordance Tables, your daughter’s score of 1330 on the new SAT concords to a 1270/1600 on the old SAT or an 1870/2400.  If she received lower than a 1870 on the old test, then she did in fact improve.  However, if her old score was close to 1870 then there has not necessarily been marked improvement, she is benefiting from the curve on the new test.

Q: I understand that the scores on the new SAT are “inflated.” How will colleges be addressing the obvious inequity between the new scores and old scores for the class of 2017?

A: That’s a great question and the answer is not a simple one.  We have spent a lot of time in the last several weeks talking to admissions officers at colleges across the country about this issue.  The general consensus is, for colleges accepting both the new and the old SAT for the class of 2017, the scores on the new test will be concorded to an old SAT score on either a 1600 or 2400 scale depending on the school’s preference. The only school we are aware of not accepting the old SAT is Virginia Tech, which will only be accepting the new SAT and the ACT for the class of 2017.  You can view the College Board concordance tables or use the score converter at SAT Score Converter.         

Additionally, we want to caution you that more selective schools may analyze and concord the individual section scores to distinguish between candidates.  For example a student earning a 1530 on the new SAT (730 EBRW + 800 M) concords to a 2230 on the old SAT. However, the section scores are also individually concorded as 700 R + 680 W + 800 M = 2180, i.e. 50 points lower than the 2230.  This phenomenon is significant because the most competitive schools historically analyze the individual section scores in addition to the holistic score to distinguish among their high achieving candidate pool.  

Q: My daughter took the ACT and scored a 32. She also took the new SAT and scored a 1380. Should she just produce her ACT scores when applying to colleges?

A: Congratulations to your daughter, her ACT score of 32 is a very competitive score.  Following the concordance tables, her new SAT score of 1380 concords to roughly a 29 on the ACT.  So, her 32 performance on the ACT was 3 points higher than than her concorded SAT score and a far better representation of her accomplishment.  A word of caution when attempting to use the College Board concordance tables for ACT comparisons: ACT has gone on record to state that they were not consulted nor did ACT share data with College Board to develop these recent concordance tables. Since the ACT has not changed, colleges are very familiar with the test and will rely on their own historical data in deciding ACT cutoffs. So, in short, yes it would be in your daughter’s best interest to submit her ACT score alone.

Q: So, what now?

A: It is not lost on us how confusing all of this data, concordance, and old/new SAT’s are for our parents and students alike. The problem of concordance and comparison between old and new will most likely end in large part with the class of 2017 as the new SAT becomes the only option available from College Board. Some may ask, will the bar for acceptable SAT scores be forever raised? Perhaps. College Board created the concordance tables with very limited historical data, so as they collect more data from additional administrations of the test the concordance tables may change. However, once a college raises the bar will it ever be lowered?  It is too early to draw firm conclusions, but our research has indicated there is an increased focus on solid reading comprehension and writing skills. We suggest that students strive to enroll in a well rounded, rigorous course load to bootstrap the skills needed for both the new SAT test and college readiness.

The Essential College Coaches have the experience and relationships with admissions counselors to guide your student through this pivotal and exciting transition. We will facilitate your student as they create the most compelling college application package needed to reach their goals.

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