Now, let’s assume that on the SAT, you received a 560 in Critical Reading, a 740 in Mathematics, and a 630 in Writing. Your overall score would be an 1930 (out of 2400). Students might compare their score to the scores of admitted college applicants. This measure is somewhat helpful in determining what their scores mean, but what students really want to look at are their percentile ranks.
While our imaginary scores would place you above 78 percent of the students in the country for your reading score, above 96 percent of students for math, and above 82 percent of students in writing. Note that although you have a separate score reported for your essay (on a scale of 1-12), that score is already part of the complex calculation used to arrive at the 600. You will also see a writing subscore for the multiple choice questions (on a scale of 20-80). The score between 200 and 800 is what matters.
Keep in mind that your scores are estimates. And the many versions of the SAT all have the same level of difficulty among all the various questions; the SAT writers are only human.
This is part of the reason that some colleges superscore the SAT. Many students take the SAT multiple times. We recommend that students take the SAT no more than two times. There are variations in the test content, thus the second time a student takes the SAT, he might do worse in reading but much better in math. And it would not be fair if your higher reading score from the first test was disregarded. So, some schools will look at all of the test scores you submit and use the highest score you achieved in each section. For example, they may take your reading score from your first test and your math and writing scores from your second test and then combine them to give you your highest score possible out of 2400.
The College Board publishes data that tells us whether the schools we are interested in superscore or only look at the scores from the last time you took the test. If you have ever wondered how applicants at Ivy League schools seem to have near perfect SAT scores, this is how. Few applicants attending the elite institutions scored a perfect 2400 in a single attempt.
If students took the ACT, the percentile-based interpretation of their scores makes more sense than does the numbers-based interpretation. In terms of percentiles, if scores are 82% in English, 75% in Math, 85% in Reading, and 90% in Science. Again, that’s the percentage of students across the country that you performed better than. The composite score is the average of those four subscores. If you took the optional essay, a separate English score is also reported (on a scale of 1 – 36) that combines the multiple-choice writing with the essay score, but the composite score uses only the multiple choice subscore.
Similar to the SAT, there is some variation across the ACT tests (with some being noticeably harder than others). Again, this is why the percentiles matter more than the raw score.
The difference between the tests, though, is that superscoring is not widely practiced with the ACT. ACT recommends that colleges use a single highest composite score for their admissions criteria and many schools abide by this recommendation. The ACT content is presented in a more straightforward way, which allows students to easily assess their errors, practice, and improve their scores, thus taking the ACT after studying is beneficial.
SAT and ACT Tutoring
If you are considering hiring an expert SAT tutor or ACT tutor to help your child prepare for the SAT or ACT, Lee Academia can help. Please call us at 646.266.6084, so we can begin to develop a personalized SAT tutoring and/or ACT tutoring program for your child.