Earlier this week the College Board unveiled a wealth of data to help us compare scores from the Redesigned SAT to scores from the 2005-2015 SAT as well as the ACT. These are essential tools for us and for college admissions officers who very soon need to answer the question what the heck do these scores even mean?
At the same time, they raise a question or two. Here’s one: why are new SAT scores so different from old SAT scores? A student who scored a 700 on the old SAT Math section would score a 730 on the new SAT Math. That’s weird. It means that the scores are not being curved the same way. The original SAT curve intended 500 to be the mean score and each 100 points above or below represented a standard deviation. That meant that you could look at any score and know how it compared to average test score at a glance.
Scores on the new test range from 200-800 just like they did, but the mean on each section is now 550. Almost across the curve students scores will be higher by comparison on the new SAT than on the old SAT—by up to 100 points in some cases.
There are three possible explanations for this:
- 1) The old SAT curve was wrong or inaccurate.
- 2) The new SAT is wrong or inaccurate.
- 3) College Board is gaming scores on the new test to encourage students to take that test instead of the ACT.
The right answer (in my opinion) is 2 and 3. I’m absolutely certain the College Board has gorgeous and persuasive rhetoric stating otherwise (I’ve read some of it already), but it just doesn’t make sense. 550 is the new 500. Draw your own conclusions.
I’m not the only one drawing conclusions and getting hot under the collar about this. ACT and SAT execs got into a flame war this week about how College Board left ACT out of the concordance process. Check out that conversation here.
If this year had been any less unpredictable or the support from both SAT and ACT been any more reliable than it has been, I might be shocked, pissed, and annoyed. Instead, it’s another brick in the wall of a thoroughly maddening year of college admissions testing.