The New SAT and ACT:
In 2016, the SAT and ACT tests were changed to be more effective at testing students' college readiness in the areas of reading, writing/grammar, math, and science (ACT only). There are two significant changes. The first is how the SAT is scored
From College Board, desingers and proctors of the official SAT tests: "First, the student’s raw score is computed as the number of questions correctly answered. The scores included on score reports are based on raw scores. There’s no penalty for guessing, so nothing is deducted for incorrect answers or for unanswered questions. Next, the raw scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section are each converted to a scaled score of 200 to 800. This conversion process adjusts for slight differences in difficulty among versions of the test and provides a score that is equated, or consistent, across forms. This process ensures that no student receives an advantage or disadvantage from taking a particular form of the test on a particular day; a score of 400 on one test form is equivalent to a score of 400 on another test form."*
*This means that the raw scores on ONE test may be different from the raw scores on ANOTHER test, but the SCALED SCORES may not be different.
What about the ACT?
The ACT is still graded with a numerical score, but as of 2016, is also graded on a composite scoring "scale" so that no one student taking one test is more or less likely to get a certain score than any other student taking any other test. From ACT.org, the official ACT test designers and proctors:
- "First we counted the number of questions on each test that you answered correctly. We did not deduct any points for incorrect answers. (There is no penalty for guessing.)
- Then we converted your raw scores (number of correct answers on each test) to "scale scores." Scale scores have the same meaning for all the different forms of the ACT® test, no matter which date a test was taken.
- Your Composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The Composite score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.
- Each reporting category includes the total number of questions in that category, the total number of questions in that category you answered correctly, and the percentage of questions correct. ACT reporting categories are aligned with ACT College and Career Readiness Standards and other standards that target college and career readiness."
At Academic Link, in order to provide the most accurate assessment of a student's test scores, we use a percentile-based approach instead of a numerical test score. Percentiles between 70% and 80% are considered "average" and will benefit from consistent SAT/ACT skills tutoring, which we tailor specifically to the needs of each student. Percentiles between 80% and 90% are considered "above average" and will benefit from a basic SAT/ACT skills overview and some tailored SAT/ACT skills tutoring. Scores in the 90th percentile, or above 90%, are considered "excellent" and will benefit from a brief SAT/ACT skills overview but don't require significant tutoring.
Essays are NO LONGER factored into the scores, and are often not required by colleges. Please check the college websites, but generally, we do not recommend taking or preparing for the essay portion of the SAT or ACT.
Many colleges now practice superscoring for students applying to their schools. This means that the college will review all the SECTION scores of ALL ACT or SAT tests, and use the highest-scoring SECTION from ANY of the tests as their foundation for the review. Not all school superscore, however, so make sure to check the college's admissions information.
When should we start preparing for the SAT/ACT?
The timeline is different for every student, based not only on their skill level and comfort in each of the subjects (math, reading, grammar/writing, science), but also on their testing skills (test anxiety, speed, etc), their other important work (AP tests, for example), and their daily workload. We have a generic timeline that we suggest for students who are "average" as far as test-taking and skills:
- Take a full SAT or ACT test with Academic Link in late winter of Junior year – usually around midwinter break in February.
- Review test with tutors in weekly sessions over spring.
- Take first official SAT or ACT test in early June.
- Use the summer to continue review and practice as much as needed once the scores for the June test have returned, now that the student is familiar with the official test.
- Take a second and/or third test October/November to be ready to apply to colleges in December as a Senior.