Myth: it’s harder to score well on the October SAT because the curve is higher

OK, we’re tackling an old wives’ tale today!

The myth/story/constant refrain I hear from parents is that their son/daughter shouldn’t take the October SAT. The explanation goes that a lot of seniors take the test in October, and since the seniors are more experienced, they’ll do better, and thus they’ll make the curve steeper. When the curve is steeper, it’s harder to score well.

It’s a well-constructed myth–I admire its clear logical flow!
It is myth, though, and myths, as you know, are baloney.

Here’s proof! Ready?

January 2012-14 Critical Reading
Average question difficulty: 2.88
Average point total required to score 800: 66
Average point total required to score 700: 59.7
Average point total required to score 600: 48
Average point total required to score 500: 32.7

October 2012-14 Critical Reading
Average question difficulty: 2.92
Average point total required to score 800: 64.7
Average point total required to score 700: 58.7
Average point total required to score 600: 47.3
Average point total required to score 500: 32

So what do we see here? The October tests from the past three years had questions that were on average more difficult than the January tests by 0.04, but they also had score requirements that were lower across the board than the January tests. On an October test, you could score 64.7 (out of 67) and get an 800, whereas on the January exams, you had to average 66 points out of 67.

If you blindly compared the score curves, you would actually say that the January exam was harder to score well on than the October test. When you stop and think about it, however, you’ll see that the question difficulty and the score curve travel together, regardless of what month the test is given. In other words, if the test is harder, the curve will be lower, and if the test is easier, the curve will be higher.

The takeaway is this: ignore the old wives’ tale. Instead, take the test when YOU feel prepared, ready, and confident to do so.

One thought on “Myth: it’s harder to score well on the October SAT because the curve is higher

  1. This is like math 1& 2 subject tests.
    Advanced math students will do better in math 2 because the curve is lenient, esp when people make careless mistakes. Similarly, for advanced students who make careless mistake Oct will be better.
    So, there is a reason to the myth.

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