Tag Archives: Testing

The Impact of Superscoring the SAT and ACT

What Does “Superscore” Mean?

When a college “superscores” your SAT or ACT test scores, it takes the best sections of the test from your various test dates, and combines them to form a new total.  For the SAT, that means taking your best scores from the two sections of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, and adding them together for a new total score. For the ACT, this means taking your best subscores for the four sections of English, Reading, Math, and Science, and averaging them to form a new Composite score.

Here is an example of SAT superscoring:

Test Date Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Math Total
March 2019 640 720 1360
May 2019 680 660 1340
Superscore 680 720 1400

 

Here is an example of ACT superscoring:

 

Test Date English Reading Math Science Composite
April 2019 30 28 34 32 31
June 2019 32 32 34 28 32
Superscore 32 32 34 32 33

 

Which Colleges Superscore?

Most colleges superscore the SAT. Many of the colleges that do not are public universities, such as Penn State, University of Arizona, and University of California.

Unlike the SAT, the ACT is only superscored by a few colleges. Some private colleges that superscore the ACT include Amherst College, Boston College, and Johns Hopkins. A few public colleges that superscore the ACT include Indiana University and University of Colorado.

Some colleges have an intermediate approach; for example, Duke considers the highest composite score, and highest section scores, but does not recalculate a new composite.

In general, colleges look more closely at the test sections that correspond to your intended major. For students planning to major in business or engineering, the math sections are very important. For students with interests in the humanities, the verbal sections carry more weight.

How are SAT and ACT Test Scores Reported to Colleges?

 Typically students send scores directly to colleges through the College Board or ACT websites; and scores must be sent by entire test date, not individual section. A recent trend is for some colleges to not require that students release their scores from the College Board or ACT, but instead send them only if they matriculate; the motive is to increase access for students who cannot afford the fees of sending scores. The Common Application does not require students to report test scores but instead gives students the opportunity to report their highest score per section, If they so choose. 

So What Should I Do?

Evaluate your college list and the individual policies of your colleges. Make a chart to organize the information about which colleges superscore the SAT and/or ACT; this may well impact your college list as well as your consideration of where to apply early in making “reach” colleges more attainable. For information on whether to retake the SAT or ACT, read our blog.

How to Decide Whether to Re-Take the SAT or ACT

At this time of year, juniors are faced with a variety of decisions. Which colleges should I visit? Which teachers should I ask for recommendations? How should I spend the summer?

Another looming question is often whether you should re-take the SAT or ACT.  As with many of your college-related questions, IT ALL DEPENDS!  In this blog, we explore some of the following factors that should inform your decision.

What kind of test prep did you do?

There exist a variety of ways to prepare: on your own, one-on-one with a tutor, or in an organized test prep class. Determining which approach is most effective for you depends on your learning style and your budget. If you are not pleased with your initial test results, re-assess whether your test prep method is the best fit.

No matter which option you choose, it’s important to devote the necessary time and energy. How serious were you about completing test prep homework? Did you take at least three full-length practice tests for either the SAT and ACT? If so, how did you do on the practice tests relative to the actual test?

Beyond helping you improve your test scores, test prep will strengthen skills that you can apply to academic coursework in high school and college, such as test-taking strategies, reading comprehension, vocabulary and problem-solving.

How much time do you reasonably have to study for another standardized test?

Will preparing for the test compromise your academic performance in your coursework? Do you have significant responsibilities or commitments outside of your academics that would be affected by the time required for test prep?

Your grades in your high school courses are the top factor in college admissions. Your junior year grades are the most important, because colleges strongly consider the trends in your grades as you progress through increasingly more advanced courses.  If you are reasonably satisfied with your SAT or ACT scores, and your course finals and AP or IB exams will require extensive preparation, then it may not be a good trade-off to invest additional time in standardized test prep.

How many times have you already taken the SAT or ACT?

According to the College Board, most students take the SAT twice, and the majority of these students improve their scores. But it would be overkill to take either test more than two or three times.

Even the Princeton Review, one of the major test prep companies, advises: “For security reasons, the ACT will not let you take the exam more than twelve times, and technically the SAT is unlimited. But we don’t believe colleges will accept ‘taking standardized tests’ as an extracurricular activity! We recommend that you plan to take the ACT and/or SAT 1–3 times.”

AND THE TOP FACTOR IS… 

How selective are your colleges? How academically competitive are you as a candidate?

This may be the most relevant question in addressing whether to re-take the SAT or ACT—or to switch from one to the other.  Standardized testing is the third most important factor in college admissions, following your grades and the rigor of your curriculum relative to what’s available at your high school.

To assess whether your test scores will push your application into the “yes” or “maybe” admissions piles, look at the national mid-50% scores of accepted applicants at the colleges to which you wish to apply. If you attend school in a highly competitive part of the country, such as the New York metropolitan area, you should be above the mid-50% to be a viable candidate. Also check your own school’s admissions history to see if your academic profile matches those of accepted students.

Conclusion

As with all decisions related to college admissions, a variety of complex factors are involved. Choose the right course of action for YOU in particular!

For example, if you took the SAT twice already, did an extensive amount of test prep, have scores above the mid-50% of the colleges you are most strongly considering, and you prefer the SAT to the ACT, then you probably do not need to re-take the SAT or take an ACT.  Alternatively, if you took the ACT without any test prep, your scores are below the mid-50% of the colleges you prefer, and you realize that the ACT is too time-pressured for you, it may be advisable to switch to the SAT and prepare properly for the exam.

For more information or guidance, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

College Board Offers SAT in August, ACT has July Test Date

The College Board began offering the SAT and Subject Tests in August 2017 for the first time, and eliminated their January test date in 2018. Fewer test centers were available in August 2017, since schools had a lighter staff during the summer.

The ACT also changed its test schedule, adding a July test date, effective July 2018. July test dates are not available in NY test centers, but students can travel to another state if these particular test dates suit them.

Finally, the College Board has instituted a faster score release policy, in which scores for multiple-choice questions will be available 13-19 days after each test date; with essay scores available 24 days later. For example, for the March 9 test date, multiple choice scores will be available March 22; and essay scores will be available March 25-27.

Why did the College Board Add an August Test Date?

The August College Board test date is likely a response to the increase in seniors applying through early admissions and the consequent growth in SAT testers in the fall (see chart below). Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift towards early applications, in which seniors apply in November, and receive notification in December.

In large part, students are taking advantage of the strategic boost of applying early. The admit rates are typically much higher, and colleges are filling an increasing percentage of their freshman class through early admissions, leaving fewer spots to fill during regular admissions. As a result, the entire standardized testing schedule has shifted to earlier test dates. For early admissions, students need to complete their testing (SAT, ACT and Subject Tests) by October.

In addition to the recently added July 2018 date, the ACT also offers a test in September, an ideal time for seniors because they can prepare over the summer, and are just starting to deal with the academic requirements of senior year. The SAT has been steadily losing ground to the ACT over the past few years, and a strategic modification of the testing schedule may be an effort by the College Board to recover ground.

Who Should Take the August Test?

The August test date is ideal for seniors who would like an additional chance to improve their SAT or Subject Test score after their junior year testing, or would like to take additional Subject Tests. The summer typically provides a less intense environment in which to prepare, without the pressures of schoolwork.

For rising juniors, we do not advise taking the SAT until November or December, because students typically experience meaningful growth and maturity over junior year, and continue to learn content that can boost their scores.

One exception, however, would be rising juniors who are pursuing athletic recruitment, and need early testing scores for coaches to make a determination about whether they are viable candidates.

For each student, deciding when and how often to take the SAT or ACT depends on a variety of factors, including whether you are applying to colleges through early or rolling admissions, the selectivity of your colleges, how much time you can devote to test preparation, and your competing time commitments. 

The college testing environment is constantly undergoing changes. To help you sort through testing options and plan for successful college admissions, contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

2018-19 SAT and Subject Tests Test Dates

Note that Subject Tests are not offered in March. Also, while Literature, US History, Math 1, Math 2, Biology, Chemistry and Physics are offered every testing date (but March), World History and Language tests vary by month. In addition, although you can choose to add more Subject Tests on the day of testing (with a maximum of three), the one test that you cannot add on the spot is Language with Listening, because that requires special equipment.

SAT Date SAT Subject Tests Available Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline
March 9, 2019 *SAT Subject Tests not offered on this date February 8, 2019

February 19, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

February 27, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

May 4, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French
Spanish
April 5, 2019

April 16, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

April 24, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

June 1, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
World History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French
German
Spanish
Modern Hebrew
Italian
Latin
May 3, 2019

May 14, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

May 22, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

August 24, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
World History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French
Spanish
Not yet announced  Not yet announced
October 5, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French
Spanish
Not yet announced Not yet announced
November 2, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French with Listening
German with Listening
Spanish with Listening
Chinese with Listening
Japanese with Listening
Korean with Listening
Not yet announced Not yet announced
December 7, 2019 Literature
U.S. History
World History
Mathematics Level 1
Mathematics Level 2
Biology E/M
Chemistry
Physics
French
Spanish
Latin
Not yet announced Not yet announced

*Test Dates and Subject Test offerings for August 2019 through December 2019 are anticipated, but not yet confirmed by the College Board.

Recent College Board Changes

Last weekend, the College Board introduced a totally revamped SAT.  The major changes include:

  • Return to two sections instead of three sections: (a) evidence-based reading and writing; and (b) math
  • Return to maximum score of 1600 instead of 2400
  • Words in context instead of esoteric vocabulary
  • No penalty for wrong answers
  • Optional essay (though highly recommended)
  • Free online test prep through College Board’s partnership with Khan Academy
Along with this redesign (effective March 2016), the College Board has announced several changes that may be relevant to your future testing plans.
  1. Effective summer 2017, an August test date will replace the January test date. The College Board will offer a new test date in August 2017, and will remove the test date in January 2018; as such, there will continue to be seven SATs each year, and the March test date will not offer Subject Tests (as at present). The new schedule will be as follows:

August
October
November
December
March (no Subject Tests)
May
June

 

  1. Effective May 2016, the College Board will make 3-4 official tests available through Khan Academy at no extra charge, as soon as scores are released. Presently, the College Board has made test booklets available through the QAS (Question-and-Answer) service. It is not clear whether the QAS service will continue.

 

  1. There will be delays in score reporting for at least the first three new SAT administrations in 2016. Scores from the March 5th SAT will be available mid-May, scores from the May 7th SAT will be available mid-June, and scores from the June 4th SAT will be available mid-July. Previously, scores were available online 19 days from the test date.

The landscape of standardized testing evolves continually and, in the case of this new SAT, significantly: test experts continue to weigh the impact of the test’s increased emphasis on reading comprehension. In a recent NYT article, Jed Appelrouth, founder of  a national tutoring service, estimated that the new math test was “50 percent reading comprehension.” In a separate  blog post, he added that “students will need to learn how to wade through all the language to isolate the math.”

Follow us in order to keep on top of updates in all areas of college admissions!

The MCAT2015 is Coming – Will You Be Ready?

The Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, will officially launch a new version of the MCAT, called the MCAT2015, next spring, with the first exam scheduled for April 17th, 2015. The test has been changed for the first time since 1991, and AAMC is calling it “a better test for tomorrow’s doctors.” It was designed “to help better prepare tomorrow’s doctors for the rapidly advancing and transforming health care system.”

New Structure of the MCAT2015

The MCAT2015 is changing in a major way. Most notably, it’s going to almost double in length. The MCAT2015  will include 230 questions over 6 hours and 15 minutes versus the current 144 questions in 3 hours and 20 minute. Because of this, the new test will require a lot more stamina and focus of its test takers.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.03.17 PM

The MCAT2015 will also include different types of questions.  The first three sections are organized around “big ideas” in the sciences. According to the AAMC, these sections “reflect current research about the most effective ways for students to learn and use science, emphasizing deep knowledge of the most important scientific concepts over knowledge simply of many discrete facts.”

Here is a sample question from the MCAT2015 from the section, “Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.” It focuses on reasoning about scientific theories and models.

 The radius of the aorta is about 1.0 cm and blood passes through it at a velocity of 30 cm/s. A typical capillary has a radius of about 4 10-4 cm with blood passing through at a velocity of 5 10-2 cm/s. Using this data, what is approximate number of capillaries in a human body?

A.    1   104

B.    2   107

C.    4    109

D.    7   1012

The new sections will also test additional skills, including research design, graphical analysis and data interpretation. Kaplan claims that the “passages will be restructured to test all of the natural sciences within biological systems,” giving the test a more medical focus by showing the application of the sciences to medicine.

The following visual, from Kaplan Test Prep, illustrates the structural and content changes between the two tests.

 Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.03.52 PM 

The US News blog, “Medical School Admissions Doctor,” is estimating that the vast amount of information covered on the MCAT2015 requires “a year of biology, a semester of biochemistry, a year of chemistry, a year of physics, a year of organic chemistry, a semester of psychology, a semester of sociology, and a recommended year of humanities – several requirements above the standard medical school prerequisites.”

Score Scale

Each of the four sections will be scored individually, from a low of 118 to a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125. Scores are combined to create a total score ranging from 472 to 528, with a midpoint of 500. The new score reports will provide details on your test performance. “The AAMC envisions a score report that will bring together MCAT scores, percentile ranks, confidence bands, and score profiles in a way that highlights applicants’ strengths and weaknesses.” The MCAT Score Report Prototype released by the AAMC illustrates each of these aspects of scoring on a sample score report.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.04.36 PM

Percentile ranks are included so examinees can compare their performance to others who took the new exam. Confidence bands show the ranges of scores an examinee could expect on another MCAT attempt. Score profiles provide information about applicants’ strengths and weaknesses across the four sections of the exam.

Should You Take the Old, or Wait for the New?

Some students are wondering if they should hurry to take the MCAT before the change. “The Medical School Admissions Doctor” reminds potential applicants that the current MCAT still requires a solid college-level background. The blog recommends that students who “can get two semesters each of biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry all done before January 2015” might benefit from taking the current MCAT before it is removed from testing options after January.

Just because the MCAT2015 will propose new challenges, doesn’t mean you should rush to take the current exam before you’re ready. Bonnie Miller, senior dean associate for health sciences at Vanderbilt University advises her students to wait before taking the MCAT. “Honestly, I think you’re better off taking an exam that you’ve had a while to prepare for,” she says. Since most medical schools accept scores from two to three years ago, many students will be able to keep their options open when it comes to choosing what scores to use.

No matter which test you take or when, be prepared!   And if you have any questions, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

 

Update: The New SAT

At this week’s annual conference of NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors), Collegiate Gateway had the opportunity to speak directly with the staff of the College Board about plans for the new PSAT and SAT testing, to be implemented in 2015-2016. Upcoming changes were described as “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Overall, the tests will be more context-based: both vocabulary and math problems will be viewed within a context and not presented in an abstract way.  Here’s the latest on the new PSAT and SAT.

Timing

Below is a chart of the launch date for the new PSAT and SAT, as well as when practice tests will be available.  The new PSAT and new SAT will have the same content, except that the SAT will have an optional essay.  In March 2015, the College Board is expected to post an online full-length practice PSAT, written by both Khan and the College Board.

TEST

LAUNCH DATE

AVAILABILITY OF PRACTICE TESTS

PSAT October 2015 March 2015
SAT Spring 2016 (probably March) May 2015

 

Content

The College Board identified the following features in their new approach to testing:

  • Relevant words in context: The tests will no longer include obscure words, but rather everyday words with meanings that are influenced by context.
  • Command of evidence. Students will be asked to demonstrate understanding of the evidence the authors of documents used to support his/her claim.
  • Focus on “math that matters most.” Three mathematical areas will be tested: algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, and higher-level math (including trigonometry, pre-calculus and statistics).
  • Problems grounded in real-world contexts. For example, math problems may relate to science applications, such as interpreting a chart on bacteria growth.
  • Analysis in science and social studies. Throughout the math, reading and writing questions, applications to science and social studies will be integrated. While there will not be a separate section for science (as in the ACT) or social studies, there will be a new score called “Insight,” to measure students’ grasp of the social sciences.
  • Founding documents and great global conversation. Every exam will have at least one example of a significant historical document, such as the Constitution. Students will be asked questions that require contextual understanding. For example, in the Gettysburg address, Lincoln uses the word “dedicated” seven times; students could be asked about the different meanings of the word, based on context.
  • Essay analyzing a source: optional section. Colleges continue to consider primarily the Critical Reading and Mathematics sections of the SAT; the Writing section (which includes the essay) has never caught on as an accepted portion of the SAT.  The College Board is now making the essay optional (similar to the ACT), though some colleges will require it. The prompt itself will not change, and will be available on the website www.deliveringopportunity.org.  Instead, the source material (passage) will change, and  students will be asked to identify how the author supports the thesis.  Students’ own opinions will no longer be involved.
  • No penalty for wrong answers.  The SAT has previously had a ¼ point penalty for wrong answers; the new test will not. Correct answers will receive 1 point; incorrect or omitted answers will receive 0 points, similar to the ACT approach to scoring. The goal is lessen the importance of test-taking and guessing strategies..

Though some colleges are becoming test-optional, standardized testing is still considered the third most important factor in college admissions, after grades and rigor of curriculum.  Colleges vary in their testing requirements, as well as what they consider competitive test scores for admission – sorting through it all can get complicated. If you need any help, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

The End of the SAT? The Trend Toward Test Optional

More and more colleges are moving away from traditional standardized testing options. Over 800 colleges and universities across the country no longer require that students submit SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered for admission, according to a recent survey by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or simply, FairTest (a long-time critic of the SAT).

And while the majority of these schools are technical, art, and religious institutions, more than three dozen are selective, even top tier liberal arts colleges, such as Wake Forest, Smith, and Bowdoin. Many others, including NYU, Middlebury and Hamilton fall under the category of “Test Flexible,” meaning that applicants have the option to submit alternative college entrance examinations, such as SAT Subject, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate examinations in place of SAT and ACT scores.

Arguments Against Standardized Testing

Supporters of the trend offer a number of compelling arguments against the examinations, claiming that standardized tests are incomplete measures of a student’s abilities, and a flawed predictor of how well a student will fare once in college, especially when compared to the four years of academic achievement reflected on their transcripts. Others claim that the exams favor wealthier families who can afford tutors and test prep, while minority students tend not to score as high. According to FairTest’s Public Education Director, Bob Schaeffer, “We expect the ACT/SAT optional list to continue growing as more institutions recognize that the tests remain biased, coachable, educationally damaging and irrelevant to sound admissions practices.”  In fact, Wake Forest has found that, since becoming test optional, it has further increased the diversity of its applicants.

Critics of the Test-Optional Movement

Some critics, however, see more cynical motivations at play. Admissions are more competitive than ever, and not only for applicants. Colleges and Universities compete fiercely to attract the talented and diverse students, and becoming test optional is a proven way to increase applications.  The more applications a college receives, the lower the acceptance rate, the higher the reported “selectivity,” and the higher the U.S. News rankings.  In addition, lower-scoring applicants are less likely to report their scores, which could lead to falsely inflated test averages.

How does this Impact You?

For college applicants, the trend toward test optional should be carefully considered. Whether you choose to report scores will depend upon the selectivity of your colleges and their specific policies, as well as your individual qualifications. Consult a college counselor to determine the best approach for you!