With College Board’s statement that they needed 9 weeks to release scores from the first “new” SAT exam given in March, everyone was hopeful for concise scores that could be easily understood by students, parents and colleges. College Board’s reputation had been tarnished a few years ago by a disastrous poor quality release of the “new” Common Application and didn’t want a repeat performance. So the good news is they released the scores when they said they would but the bad news is most parties are confused with what the numbers actually mean.
There were many statements and much speculation as to why College Board revised the SAT to begin with. They claimed it had to do with aligning the exam more closely to high school subject content. But doubters, including myself, are of the opinion that it had more to do with losing significant market share over the years to their only competitor ACT. SAT had a monopoly on college prep testing until the ACT came around and recently overtook them as the dominant test provider in the US market. In fact, the new SAT incorporated many of the features of the ACT. So it appears they took the position, “if you can’t beat them, become more like them”.
So all that aside, when the March scores were released this month, many students (and parents) were elated when the vast majority of scores were higher than what the student obtained on the old SAT or what they were expecting for scores. College Board quickly doused that joy with a comparison scale that indicated the new scores were inflated by about 60-80 points depending on your specific score. I’m not a mathematician but I don’t understand with 9 weeks to make adjustments why they couldn’t align the scores with historical percentile positioning instead of inflating the scores and having to develop a new comparison scale. To make the matter a little muddier, they included comparison ACT scores in their new concordance. About 10 years ago, SAT and ACT collaborated on a concordance as a benefit to all concerned when comparing scores between the two test companies. This time however SAT determined they didn’t need ACT’s inputs and just developed it themselves. ACT has now come back and said the new concordance has no validity in their view as they were not consulted on it in any way.
The bottom line is that for seniors who will be applying to colleges this fall there will be uncertainty on several fronts. When you compare a college’s present profile for SAT scores, you will have to factor the inflated SAT scores into the equation. If you’re trying to determine whether to submit your SAT or ACT scores, you can review the new SAT/ACT concordance from College Board but you can’t be sure a particular college will actually accept its validity. For colleges who publish that a specific high school GPA and a specific SAT score will get you a specific merit scholarship, will that still be honored given the inflated scores? The best approach at this point as much as it will require more effort is to attempt to ask each college you’re interested in what their policy is on test scores as it relates to the new SAT and SAT/ACT comparisons for admission as well as the impact of the new SAT scores on eligibility for merit scholarships. An already complex college admissions process has become even more difficult to navigate.