SAT score reports for the first administration of the newly designed test in early March were just recently made available to test-takers. Because of the dramatic changes made to the SAT, the College Board is faced with a challenge. How should an SAT score from the new test be compared to one achieved on the old version of the test?
Why does it matter? Perhaps the best example is the student who will apply to college for Fall 2017 (most likely a current HS junior). Some of these students, unsure of what the changes might bring, took the Old SAT in January and then the New SAT in March. Without overwhelming you with details, we understand from the College Board that based on the methods used, New SAT scores are higher. In other words, your score on the New SAT translates to a lower Old SAT score. To continue with simple examples, let’s consider a student who took the New SAT in March and received a 680 in the new “Evidence-Based Reading & Writing” and a 680 in the new Math section. The College Board says that this 1360 total is equivalent to a 1300 combined Critical Reading and Math score on the Old SAT.
To get through this transition, the College Board has released tools for students, counselors and colleges to help interpret and use scores on the New SAT. One is an online calculator (and mobile app) that appears to be aimed at helping students understand their scores. In fact, if the College Board truly believes that scores on the new test are higher, students wanting to gauge their chances of admission will need to convert their scores in order to make sense of any data offered by colleges or in college guides that shows SAT ranges for accepted students or last year’s entering class. Here is a link to obtain the online converter and learn more.
Because the New SAT has a different structure with sub-scores on a 10-40 scale for Reading, Writing & Language, and Math and the old Writing section is gone, multiple combinations of test sections and comparisons are potentially needed. So the College Board has produced eight “concordance tables”, including several in which they show how New SAT scores can be converted to scores on the ACT, an alternative standardized test that in the last two years has overtaken the SAT as the most popular of these tests. As a competitor, the head of the ACT has disparaged the College Board’s attempt at “concordance”, in part because it appears the ACT was not part of the process, as it had been in the past.
So while the SAT and ACT folks squabble, what does all this mean for students taking these tests in 2016? If you feel strongly that the SAT is the test for you, I suggest letting this issue develop further and not getting too concerned about score conversions and comparisons. Otherwise, I believe this is another reason to focus on the ACT instead.
Before I leave this topic, I want to say that this kind of added complexity in the application process really concerns me when I think about the many under-resourced students who deserve a chance at college. Also, it’s not clear to me that the changes in the SAT will make standardized testing fair. If you share this concern, check out fairtest.org.