College Board SAT Bait and Switch?

 Maybe to call it “bait and switch” is extreme,  but we are pretty annoyed.  Last fall College Board introduced the redesigned PSAT and SAT, and released the scores  in January 2016.  At the time, it seemed as if all of the juniors we talked to were doing better on the new test, but we work with small numbers of students and figured that the new (and radically different) test was just better-suited to these individuals.  This was also the perception of counselors we spoke to at various schools.  Many of these same students also took an ACT in the fall with Inspiring Test Prep and in some cases, based on a comparison of 2015 PSAT scores and percentiles to the ACT diagnostic, we recommended they take the SAT, instead of the ACT.

New Concordance for both new to old SAT and new SAT to ACT.

Well, now that the March SAT scores have been released, some other information is coming to light.  The College Board has just released a concordance (a set of tables that allow a comparison of scores from test to test) that makes clear that a 700 on the new SAT math equates to a 670 on the old test, and a 500 new math equates to a 460!  So all those kids who felt confident about their scores back in January are having a rude awakening that those PSAT scores were inflated 60-80 points.  That score difference can put a student in a different category of schools.  Imagine you are looking to go to James Madison and you know the median SAT is 1150 with most scores in a 1050 to 1250 range.  You get a PSAT score of 1120 and then find out later that it equates to a 1040 on the old test.  Your probability of getting accepted to JMU just dropped.  

Here’s an analogy to help you understand.

$100 CanadianImagine your neighbor offers to pay you $100 for babysitting her three little kids all day Saturday.  Great!  But then she pays you with a $100 Canadian bill which is worth about $77 US currency.  Not so great.

How many students would have opted for the ACT if they had known their PSAT scores were inflated?

Adding to the confusion is the percentile designation.  The 2015 PSAT scores listed the percentiles just beneath those scores.  These percentiles misled many people because they actually reflected a pool of all high school juniors, not just college bound juniors.

610 Verbal = 1100 old SAT Reading and Writing 550 Math = 520 old Math 1160 new PSAT =24 ACT

610 Verbal = 1100 old SAT Reading and Writing
550 Math = 520 old Math
1160 new PSAT =24 ACT

Students see these higher percentiles on their score reports, and don’t realize the distinction.   It doesn’t help that College Board neglects to emphasize that there are two very different sets of percentiles.
The PSAT score report only highlighted this higher “Nationally Representative Sample Percentile”.  The SAT report lists both the higher percentile and what is labeled “Your SAT User Percentile – National”.  How much of a difference does this make?  One set of scores I have shows a student with a 1250 and a Nationally Representative = 86% but a Your SAT User = 80%.  That is a significant difference.

Here is College Board’s explanation of the score differences and how it created the concordance tables.

Developing Concordance Tables
We’re using the Equipercentile Concordance method, which relates scores on each test that have the same percentile rank. In other words, two scores are considered concorded
[sic] when the percentage of students achieving each score is the same. For example, if 75 percent of a group of students achieve a score of X on one test, and 75 percent of the same group of students achieve a score of Y on a different test, score X would be considered concorded [sic] to score Y.
Further challenging parents, students, and advisors is College Board’s release of an additional concordance to compare the new SAT with the ACT.  Back in 2005, when College Board changed the test to a 2400 scale, it collaborated with ACT to develop a concordance so colleges could more reliably compare students score.  This year College Board published a concordance without ever meeting with ACT.  ACT is fuming and pushing back!

May 11, 2016

By Marten Roorda, Chief Executive Officer, ACT

Here’s an SAT word for you: equipercentile.

Even though the College Board promised to get rid of “SAT words” on the latest version of its test, if you want to understand your new SAT scores, you’d better know what “equipercentile” means.

Let’s back up a bit to see why.

The College Board just completed the overhaul of the SAT. The new test has been administered to students on two national test dates, most recently on May 7, 2016.

The trouble for students, schools, and colleges is that it’s difficult to compare scores from the old SAT to the new SAT. If you’re asking different questions using different rules and different scoring scales, how can you compare an old SAT score from last fall with a new SAT score from this spring?

The answer is: You need sophisticated statistics. This is where “equipercentile” comes in. In short, using the College Board’s own explanation, if 75 percent of students achieve a score of X on Test A and 75 percent achieve a score of Y on Test B, then the scores X and Y are considered “concorded.”

In fact, the College Board recently has been promoting its new “SAT Score Converter,” which, it says, allows you to compare scores on the new SAT with the old SAT and with the ACT® test. However, this mathematical makeover comes with several caveats the College Board didn’t tell you about.

For example, after past SAT revisions, such as that from 2006, concordance tables were created after more than a year’s worth of data were in. One reason for this is that students who test in the fall are more likely to be seniors than those who test in the spring. Moreover, students willing to take the first iteration of a test that has undergone a major overhaul are likely quite different from the typical student.

Therefore, to get a full-and-fair sample, it’s important to get at least a full year’s worth of data to compare. With data from only the March SAT available, it’s clear that the current sample stands a significant chance of being different from the whole.

In 2006, the College Board did wait for actual results to come in—results that changed the concordance calculations. Now, not only is the College Board not waiting to make pronouncements about its own tests, it’s asserting the concordance with the ACT—which is why we have skin in the game.

To arrive at the ACT concordance, the College Board appears to have used a technique called “chained concordance,” which makes links between the new SAT and the old SAT, and then from the old SAT to the ACT. It therefore claims to be able to interpret scores from the revamped SAT relative to the tried-and-true ACT.

Speaking for ACT, we’re not having it. And neither should you.

A lot has changed in education since 2006. Linking scores from a single administration of the new SAT to the old SAT, and then to the 2006 ACT, is a bridge too far.

In 2006, the College Board and ACT worked collaboratively under the aegis of the NCAA to produce the official ACT-SAT concordance table. That work represented the gold standard in concordance, and it remains the only concordance ACT recognizes.

Now, without collaborating with ACT, the College Board has taken it upon itself not only to describe what its scores mean, but what ACT’s scores mean. That’s different from 10 years ago, and different from the standard you should expect from a standardized testing agency.

Meaningful concordance is difficult to achieve, particularly when you have tests that are so different—not only the new SAT from the old SAT, but both SATs relative to the ACT, which, for example, continues to have a science test that the SAT lacks.

ACT cannot support or defend the use of any concordance produced by the College Board without our collaboration or the involvement of independent groups, and we strongly recommend against basing significant decisions—in admissions, course placement, accountability, and scholarships—on such an interim table. Those decisions require evidence and precision far beyond what has been offered to date.

ACT remains eager to engage the higher education community in conducting a rigorous concordance between scores on the ACT and the new SAT—when the data are available. That will be in about a year.

Until then, we urge you not to use the SAT Score Converter. And not to listen to messages suggesting the old SAT and the new SAT, or even the ACT, are comparable.

For me that’s unequivocal, to use another SAT word. 

Our advice: check out the concordance, re-norm your March scores, then check out the requirements for the colleges you plan to apply to.  Don’t leave your scores to chance.  Not only will they help you get into college, but good scores can get you scholarship money.   If you aren’t sure if the scores work for you, try a practice ACT.  You can call us at 703-203-5796 for a free evaluation or you can download an ACT and take it at home.
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