Colleges today do students a big favor by accepting SAT and ACT scores equally for admissions purposes. Students can choose the test that suits them best and only submit scores that cast their abilities in the best light. The big challenge becomes determining which scores are better, in terms of placing you higher in the continuum of test achievement. Complicating the mix even further, students who took the previous version of the SAT can still submit those scores to colleges as well. But should they?
We cannot just assume that scores of 600 on the three sections of the old SAT equate to 600s on each section of the new one; these tests differ in profound ways. The College Board purports to make comparisons simple through the new SAT Score Converter mobile app and online tool. The main function of the SAT Score Converter is to compare old and new SAT scores through calculations of concordance. Following our earlier example, I submitted 600 Critical Reading, Math, and Writing on the old scale. Apparently, these scores are equivalent to a 1290 out of 1600 on the new test. The new paradigm of SAT scores equates 600s in Critical Reading and Writing to a 650 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. No wonder this new test comes with accusations of grade inflation.
While the College Board is perfectly within its rights to define concordance for multiple versions of its own test, the organization appears to have overstepped its bounds in including the ACT in its Score Converter. ACT, Inc. has officially questioned the methodology and validity of the College Board’s new concordance tables:
“ACT believes it is important for students and colleges to be aware of the limitations of the SAT score converter when it comes to comparing new SAT scores to old SAT scores and new SAT scores to ACT scores, as using the concordance could lead to incorrect admission decisions. Until a complete concordance study can be conducted with involvement of and cooperation between both organizations, such concordance tables should be viewed as suspect.”
It’s hard to find fault with this position. Previous concordance tables have been flawed as well, but this new effort by the College Board comes before the first season of the new SAT has even been evaluated. Our recommendation has always been to use percentiles to determine best test: if you score 60th percentile in one test and 80th in the other, you don’t need any other evidence to bury the former and lead with the latter. We won’t have percentiles data for the new SAT, but the old SAT percentiles can help in the interim.
Students in the high school graduating class of 2017 still have plenty of time before they need to submit test scores to colleges. If you are feeling rushed or uncertain, contact a test prep professional to make sense of your scores. But whatever you do, consider College Board’s new SAT Score Converter a work in progress rather than a definitive declaration of score concordance. The College Board has rushed most aspects of the rollout of this new SAT, often with regrettable consequences; this score converter appears to be more of the same.
UPDATE: In June 2018, College Board and ACT finally collaborated on 2018 ACT/SAT Concordance Tables for the current versions of the tests. You can now compare test scores with a reliable level of accuracy, at least for the moment.