• Monica James

Do your new SAT scores help or hurt you?


If you have just received your March SAT scores, you may be feeling a sense of optimism. I hate to be the one to convey a harsh dose of reality, but there’s something you must know….

Your scores appear to be higher than they have in the past, right? That’s because a 700 from the March test is not that same thing as a 700 from the Old SAT.

To understand what your scores from the new SAT mean, you’ll need to use the newly released SAT Score Converter: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/scores/understanding-scores/sat-score-converter (go to the bottom of the page and enter ALL of the scores from your new report including the 2 digit scores that look like ACT scores).

Please understand that this is the same tool that your colleges will use to make sense of these new scores. All of us in this industry once had a firm grasp of what a “600” was, or a “700” or an “800”. But because the SAT changed so much, the scoring is not the same.

Most of us are thinking: “but wait—if the SAT is returning to the old 1600 scale, can’t I just compare the “old” and “new” SAT scores by removing the Writing score form my old SAT? Why do I need to convert it?

It seems logical to assume that CR (Critical Reading) scores from the old SAT and the ERW (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) scores from the redesigned SAT would be the same…..and that it would also be the same for the Math.

Logic would dictate that you could do the following:

Old SAT: CR 620 + M 580 = 1200

New SAT: ERW 620 + M 580 = 1200

With the thought being that a 1200 = a 1200, regardless of the exam.

But this is absolutely not the case. When you convert your new March score into an “old” SAT score, your 1200 suddenly shrinks down to an 1130. In order to really get a 1200 (that is, what colleges have traditionally considered to be a 1200), you’d need to achieve a 1270 on the redesigned SAT.

But what about the 1400 I just earned on the March SAT? According to both Dartmouth’s and the College Board’s website, my 1400 is within the average range for admitted students. So that means my new 1400 will be good enough to get into the Ivies, right?

While it’s true that reported SAT averages for Dartmouth indicate that a 1400 (ERW 700 + M 700) is within range, those averages are based on old SAT scores! That is, SAT scores that haven’t been re-centered (or inflated) for the redesigned SAT. If Dartmouth is going to heed the College Board’s advice and assess new SAT scores on the new scale, your 1400 is actually equivalent to an old 1340…not a bad score! But not a score that guarantees admission to highly competitive schools.

Does this mean that all colleges will essentially downgrade my new SAT scores and I don’t have a chance at getting in to some of these more competitive schools?

This is the question we don’t have an answer to yet. Most admissions officers will be instructed to use SAT conversion charts when reading applicants’ files so that they accurately interpret scores from the redesigned SAT. But given how overworked many admissions officers are, it’s possible that some colleges will simply accept those enhanced scores at face value. This may give those of you who took the new SAT a slight advantage. It depends on how well educated that admissions officers are about this convoluted situation.

We don’t know exactly why recent SAT scores have increased so dramatically. Some are speculating that because the number of possible answer choices went from five to four, your odds of answering correctly rose. Or, because the penalty for guessing was eliminated. Others speculate that there was a “marketing” approach behind the higher test scores. In order to compete more effectively with the ACT, the College Board wanted your scores to please you! Whatever the reason, this is one more element that makes the process of applying to college highly complex!


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