Scores are running higher on the redesigned version of the SAT than on the test it replaced, according to College Board, sponsor of the entrance exam taken each year by more than 1.5 million high school students across the nation and internationally.
That’s not necessarily good news for high schoolers in the super-competitive scrum of college admissions who hope that better marks help them win entrance to Ivy League campuses and other selective schools.
Scores on the new SAT, first administered in March, are not equivalent to those on the old exam because College Board rescaled the entire scoring system.
To cite one example, a combined score of 1300 on the reading and math sections of the revised SAT would be equivalent to a combined 1230 on the old version. Scores on both versions of the assessment range from a minimum of 400 points to a maximum of 1600.
Score comparisons on the new and old SATs are provided in “Concordance Tables” posted on College Board’s website at www.collegeboard.org.
College Board officials cautioned against direct comparisons because of differences in the makeup of the old and new tests.
The revised SAT features a greater proportion of long reading passages. It also got rid of questions about obscure vocabulary, eliminated the penalty for guessing on test questions and dropped a written essay requirement it had added in 2005, making that optional. Colleges, however, may recommend or require that students complete the SAT essay.
Critics of the three-hour test, including many college counselors, described students as puzzled over the probability that they will have to get better scores on the new assessment than the old one just to retain the same competitive position among their classmates.
Many of those same critics contended that the test once described as “the most feared in the universe” has gotten easier.
David Coleman, president of Manhattan-based College Board, released a statement Tuesday defending both the new SAT and an accompanying set of PSATs. The latter are preliminary tests, organized similarly to the SAT and typically taken between grades eight and 11. Scores on one particular PSAT are used to determine which students are designated as National Merit scholarship semifinalists.
Coleman noted that several states, including Illinois and Connecticut, recently decided to use the SAT to measure students’ high school performance.
“We, as you know, have seen a particular surge in momentum, because leaders in states and districts are overwhelmingly not only embracing the new SAT, but also the new PSAT that’s based on the very same format,” Coleman said.
Many testing experts outside College Board were critical of the scoring changes.
“The College Board mismanaged the transition and is leaving kids, their parents and guidance counselors befuddled,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Boston. FairTest has long criticized what it considers overuse of standardized tests.
Last week, Kaplan Test Prep, one of the nation’s largest providers of SAT prep courses, released results of a survey showing that 69 percent of college officials expected the average SAT scores of applicants to rise. The survey was conducted in July and August among 354 admissions officers at highly selective and selective universities and colleges.
College Board has not confirmed that. On Tuesday, the nonprofit agency announced it would not immediately release nationwide score averages from the revamped SAT, as was done at this time in past years using results from the old test.
Agency representatives said they would wait a year to publish those scores, after collecting enough student data to ensure statistical validity.
“We’d be nervous about people drawing conclusions one way or the other on a sort of odd, and possibly biased, sample of students,” said Jack Buckley, College Board’s senior vice president of research.
Test sponsors, in information released Tuesday did report results from the old SAT, last administered in January. Results showed that scores for college-bound seniors in the Class of 2016 dipped slightly in both reading and math, continuing a 12-year trend.
Many educators have concluded that College Board made its test easier so it could better compete for customers with the rival ACT exam.
The ACT, sponsored by a nonprofit organization in Iowa, was taken by more than 2 million students this year, compared with more than 1.68 million for the SAT. However, the SAT remains dominant across the Northeast, including New York State and Long Island.
“The test has been dumbed down, no question,” said Laurie Rozakis, an English professor at Farmingdale State College who also writes SAT prep handbooks. “I see it as a real marketing grab.”
Maria Alcon-Heraux, director of media relations for College Board, did not answer directly when asked by a reporter if the rescaling of SAT scores was tied to the marketing battle with the ACT.
“The new SAT is a different test than the old SAT: It is scored on a different scale, and it tests a different domain of content and skill,” the spokeswoman said.