In order to apply to college, high school students throughout the United States will need to take either the SAT or the ACT. One of the biggest discussions revolving around these tests, specifically the SAT, is scoring. This is because the score you get on the test can have a major impact on your college application and what prospective schools will admit you based on those scores.
Thus, students might have some concerns regarding what's considered a "good score," what's considered an "average score," and what's considered a "bad score" on the SAT. But before even taking a look at this, it's important to understand how scoring on the SAT works, as scoring has changed dramatically in recent years.
When Did the SAT Change?
The SAT test has been around for almost 100 years. In fact, the SAT first came out in 1926 as an adaptation of an IQ test that was given to army recruits, according to Peterson's. In those days, only a couple of thousand students were applying to college, and the test was designed accordingly. Nowadays, more than a million students apply to college each year, and the standards that colleges use to assess these students have changed, too.
The SAT has been the go-to standardized college-readiness test for American students since its inception, until the ACT became popular. Over the years, the SAT has changed to keep up with the times. And it will continue to be altered in order to accommodate what students are learning in school.
Through each redesign, test creators have changed everything from the format of the test to the questions it has asked, based on the audience it was intended for. Additionally, one of the major areas that has been changed is how the SAT is scored.
Scoring for the SAT has been changed many times throughout the test's history. Sometimes, it seems as though the test always changes just as society is starting to get used to this scoring. In 2016, scoring on the SAT was changed yet again, and it has been one of the most drastic changes the test has seen in decades.
What Is the Old SAT Score Range?
The old SAT score range, prior to the SAT's redesign in 2016, was from 600 to 2,400. 2,400 was the highest score a test-taker could get, and what was considered the "perfect score" while 600 was the lowest score a student could get.
On the old SAT scale, a "good" score, or a score in the 75th percentile, was a 1,720. A "poor" score, a score in the 25th percentile, was a 1,260. And, the average score on the old SAT, in the 50th percentile, was a 1,480.
What Is the New SAT Score Range?
When the SAT changed in March 2016, the score range changed from a 2,400-scale to a 1,600-scale, with the score ranging from 400 to 1,600. With the new score range, a "good" score, or a score in the 75th percentile, would be between a 1,190 and 1,200. A "poor" score, a score in the 25th percentile, would be between a 910 and 920. And the average score on the old SAT, in the 50th percentile, would be between a 1,050 and 1,060. A "perfect score" on the new SAT is a 1,600.
Understanding New SAT Scoring
It's one thing for the SAT to change its scoring. But what does that mean for you as a student in high school that has to take the SAT? What about a student in middle school who is starting to think about the SAT, or someone who has recently graduated from high school, especially before the test was changed?
As the changes are so recent, there's not a lot of data out there just yet regarding these new scores, what your target score should be, and what the averages are among college applicants. While the data is starting to come in, and you can find information online and at each college's website, it takes years to gather reliable data in anything.
Therefore, the first place to start is by understanding the reason behind the change in scoring, and what scorers are looking for when they will be grading your test. Overtime, the SAT has been changed to put more of an emphasis on grading students on different aspects from what they were previously being graded on. For instance, nowadays, the modern-day SAT grades students on mathematics, computation and evidence-based writing and reading, according to Peterson's.
In terms of the essay, which is optional, the change to the SAT reflects how the test-makers wanted to incorporate the areas of "study and scholarship" which were neglected in previous tests, also based on Peterson's. The essay is scored based on the idea, concepts and how those ideas and concepts are expressed and supported with evidence and detail.
Differences Between the Old SAT and the New SAT
When the test was changed in 2016, it wasn't only the SAT scoring rubric that was affected. There were also changes to the content of the test, the time allowed and how much each question was worth.
In general, these differences won't matter to you so much as a student because any course preparation materials you'll find are already aligned with the new test. But if you're just curious, the differences are quite elaborate, according to PrepScholar:
- Time: The old SAT was three hours and 45 minutes, but the new SAT is three hours without the essay and three hours and 50 minutes with the essay.
- Questions: The old SAT had 171 questions, but the new SAT has 154 questions.
- Sections: The old SAT had a Critical Reading section, a Writing & Essay Section, and a Mathematics section, while the new SAT has an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, a Math section and the optional Essay section.
- Guessing Penalty: On the old SAT, you would lose 1/4 of a point for a wrong answer, but on the new SAT, you don't get penalized. Therefore, you can guess if you don't know the answer.
Using a Conversion SAT Chart
If you took the SAT before the scoring was changed, you might be wondering what your score would be based on the new scoring system. Or if you took the test after it was changed in 2016, maybe you're wondering how you would have done on the old SAT.
Whatever the reason, because scoring is so complex, a simple proportions equation won't give you the answer as the test was completely redesigned. Instead, you would have to use a conversion chart like the one found on Prepscholar, to find out the other score.
In order to figure out what your score would be on the old SAT or what your score would be on the new SAT, you have to input the score from each section separately and convert them, using the conversion tool or the charts. Then, you can add those together to get your "new" composite score.
However, it's important to note that even this conversion is not entirely accurate, and there are some major discrepancies. At the end of the day, the score you got on the SAT before it changed would have nothing to do with what your score would be if the test didn't change. All that matters is you strive to do your best when it comes time for you to take the SAT.
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.