Comparison and Concordance of the New SAT and ACT

New SAT results and concordances are in! But what do they mean? How have scores changed from the old SAT? And how can scores help students determine whether the SAT or ACT should be favored? 

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Compass has analyzed available research and concordances to create a comparison tool in both chart and table forms below (or access the PDF for easy distribution). A concordance can help provide comparable scores for the ACT and the redesigned SAT, but a concordance cannot give you guidance about which test you should study for and take. Although many students will find that their SAT and ACT scores intersect somewhere in the gray “Judgment Call” band, some may discover that one test is actually better suited to their skills.

New SAT to ACT Decision Chart

The release of March SAT scores and the publication of New SAT concordance tables means that students are armed with more information about the respective merits of the SAT and ACT. Sometimes there are specific reasons why a student prefers one test over another: National Merit requirements, scheduling needs, or a strong negative reaction to a previous testing experience. For most students, however, the question comes down to “where is my time best spent?” Three common situations are:

  1. You took the old SAT in January 2016 or earlier and want to know if you are “done.” The concordance tables can help you see where your old SAT score stacks up in comparison to the new SAT and to the ACT. Since retaking an old SAT is not an option, you will need to decide on a path forward if you are not satisfied with your scores. The old SAT and redesigned SAT are completely different tests, so you should not favor the New SAT simply because of experience on the old exam. Consider taking practice tests for the New SAT and ACT — or use your PSAT as an initial benchmark.
  2. You took the New PSAT and have taken a practice or real ACT. You can use the tables provided on our PSAT post. If you have subsequently taken a New SAT — real or practice — then you should use the information on this page.
  3. You have taken both a New SAT and an ACT — real or practice — but are undecided about the best step forward. Use the chart above and tables below to inform your decision.



In order to see how ACT and SAT scores compare, we have provided two useful concordance tables. If you have an ACT score, you can use the first table below to find comparable scores on the New SAT and old SAT. If you have taken the New SAT, the second table gives you a score-by-score comparison with the old SAT and ACT. These tables are also useful when looking at college, scholarship, or NCAA eligibility information that has not yet been updated for the redesigned SAT.


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About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.


  • Rita says:

    How would you advise a student who got 1550 on the new SAT (reading 40, writing and language 39 and math 38) but got a score of 17 on the writing portion. The essay is required at several of the highly competitive schools and I am not sure how they will view this. Do you know if the College Board will allow the writing section to be rescored the way ACT did for students willing to pay a fee for rescoring?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Let me answer the most straightforward part first: College Board’s policy is radically different from ACT’s, and a rescore — in the sense of a re-reading or re-grading — is not even an option. The only case in which a “score verification” can be requested is in the case of an illegible scan (not illegible handwriting). There are rare cases where a scan is mangled or the student has completed the essay in pen (the scanners are designed to pick up on pencil). Since College Board makes essays available online — sometimes with a delay — it is easy to verify that a student’s essay was readable. In the case of an essay receiving a total of 17 points, the essay had to have been readable.

      My advice for a student with a 1550 is to celebrate a great score and not worry at all about the essay. College Board has made some good decisions regarding the essay. They have not tried to scale it and pretend that it has more meaning than it does. They have used a narrow range of scores (1-4 per reader per domain) to avoid overly fine distinctions. They have not tried to build a concordance with the old essay. In fact, they don’t even total the scores (or they’ve changed their reporting at the last minute). Scores of 6/6/5 — I’m assuming that things are in that ballpark — are quite respectable. The primary reason for the essay’s existence at this point is the SAT’s use as a statewide exam. Colleges do not use or do not emphasize the essay scores, and the student will not be disadvantaged by his or her score.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Rita,
      Unlike the ACT, College Board will only rescore an essay if it was illegible due to a faint scan. Your student can login and see the essay for herself to see if this is the case. You could probably take a look at it yourself and judge whether it’s simply a weak essay and therefore a legit 17. Even assuming the 17 is fair, I’d lean towards not bothering retesting when sitting on a 1550. Seems very unlikely that could be a significant tip factor in a denial. Finally, 17 out of 24 really isn’t that bad at all. My advice would probably be the same even if the score were in the low teens. I also like to remind students with 1500+ scores that there are quite certainly many other strong indicators of their writing skill elsewhere in their application.

  • Elle Ryan says:

    Similar question here…daughter has a 34 ACT but writing score of 24. New SAT score is 1460 (she didn’t take the writing). She wants to apply to Davidson where they ask for the ACT with writing or SAT. The ACT seems to be the better overall score but I’m worried about the writing score. (We asked for a rescore on the writing but it didn’t change.) Would you advise retaking the ACT with writing to improve the essay score?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      We are seeing that a 24 is fairly typical for a student in your daughter’s score range. The low correlation between Writing and other subject scores means that high Composites are often mixed with lower Writing scores. Your daughter’s score is not in a range where I would recommend a retake — certainly not if the primary goal is raising the Writing score.

  • Lucy says:

    Say a student took old SAT with 2370 : 800 CR 800 M 770 W. Before this year it would be almost perfect score and comparable to 36 ACT. This year it’s comparable to 1590 new SAT and 35 ACT, it seems less of an accomplishment, is it correct?

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      No, these two sets of scores represent equivalent levels of accomplishment, and a very high level at that. Both sets of scores are well into the 99th percentile, and the very slight differences between the scores are both a) within the range of measurement error for the tests and b) entirely irrelevant to colleges.

    • rey says:

      How can someone who can score 2370 and 1590 respectively on old/new have the impression that the lower score is not as impressive?
      Reminiscent of Spinal Tap (Wonder what Nigel’s score was?):
      Nigel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
      Marty: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
      Nigel: Exactly.
      …[Edited for length]
      Marty: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
      Nigel: [pause] These go to eleven.

  • Cherie says:

    On sample sat put out by board I got a 1380 and on practice act I got a 30. Which test should I take? Thanks

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Hi Cherie, you are squarely in the “Judgment Call” zone based on these scores alone. That means colleges would view a 1380 SAT and 30 ACT as equivalent. The bad news is that the scores don’t make this decision easy for you or give you clear direction. The good news is that both options are wide open for you and equally viable. Also, your situation is quite typical. Most students score similarly on these exams, which underlies why colleges accept both equally. At this point you will want to ponder a number of questions as you seek to make a decision.

      These questions may include:

      Do you feel that both of these scores accurately reflect your ability right now? Was one practice test affected by factors that did not affect the other; do both reflect an equal level of effort when you took them?

      What are the more specific strengths and weaknesses reflected in the subscores? Each test has unique elements, e.g. ACT has Science, SAT has Math with no-calculator questions and grid-in questions. Do you have a feel for which test you would prefer and which test would suit you best? Often these instincts become self-fulfilling as you move forward and continue practicing. The caveat is that sometimes an area that is a relative weakness is also an opportunity for significant improvement. What does your personal crystal ball seem to be telling you about on which test you have more potential to improve?

      How did each test’s unique structure and rhythm feel for you? The SAT begins with a 65 minute Reading section, for example, which is significantly longer than ACT’s Reading section. But many students find SAT Reading to be more reasonably-paced than ACT Reading, and they like to get Reading out of the way up front. There are many other distinctions like this. Which feels more comfortable to you?

      Logistics. Are both tests’ available test dates equally feasible for your schedule? Any other special considerations?

      All the above aside, there is no need to overthink this. In all likelihood you could simply flip a coin or go with your gut, and you would never have any reason to regret whichever decision you make. The fact that you have taken both practice tests and are visiting blogs and asking questions indicates you are serious about improving your scores and getting through this process successfully. Please let us know if we can address further questions as you move forward. Best of luck to you.

  • BB says:

    My son received a 1530 on the March SAT (730 EBRW + 800 Math). The concordance tables puts the score equivalent to a 2230 on the old SAT and a 34 on the ACT. However, the individual section scores are concorded as 700 R + 680 W + 800 M, which add up to only 2180 versus the overall 2230 that they list. Also, he scored a 6/6/6 on the essay. My question is can we trust the 2230 number? Can we trust the 34 on the ACT? How should one decide whether or not to retake the test? Does the 1530 make him less competitive for certain schools? Also, I don’t understand how a 1550 translates to a 2280, a 1540 to a 2260, but a 1530 to a 2230.

    • Adam Ingersoll says:

      Congrats to your son on his excellent March score. You’ve raised reasonable and tricky questions. I’ll take them out of order.

      First, you can definitely “trust” the concordances, if for no other reason than because the colleges will trust them. At the admission committee table in 2016-2017, the concordances will be considered gospel and a 1530 new SAT will be “worth” the same as a 2230 old SAT or a 34 ACT. Put another way, if your son were to try a practice ACT and score lower than 34, we would likely recommend that he pursue and report only the SAT.

      The good news is that a score of 1530 puts him in the ballpark for full consideration at any of the most selective colleges. See the Competitive Landscape on pp. 8-9 of for more context. It would not be misguided by any means for you to declare him done with the SAT/ACT at this point and let him move on to focus on other meaningful aspects of his college applications (and his life, for that matter). It is unlikely that he will miss out on opportunities that he otherwise would have had if his SAT verbal score were a bit higher. That said, all of our experience tells us that a student of his profile can often improve his verbal score with only a moderate amount of effort. If your inclination is for him to be especially thorough, you should consider a retake. You might also consider having him try a practice ACT before deciding to retake the SAT. Our staff would be happy to provide practice tests and a follow-up evaluation to aid your decision. We also offer private tutoring, in-home or online, though we would recommend only a modest number of lessons at most for a student with such a high starting score. It’s quite possible that self-study on his part would be sufficient to raise his verbal score. You have a range of good options here, including doing nothing.

      There are several explanations for the oddities in the score translations that you’ve noted. The first is that the SAT, in moving from a 2400 to a 1600 scale, has fewer points on the new scale from which points on the old scale can be mapped. Therefore gaps (2230 to 2260 to 2280) were inevitable. Second, a shrunken scale results in score compression at the high end; there is a reduced range of possible scores on which high-scoring students can spread out and settle. On the old SAT there were 11 points on the scale from 2300-2400. On the new SAT, these 11 points map to just five points: 1560-1600. Finally, the reasons that his individually concorded scores on the old SAT (700 R and 680 W) concord lower than his combined 730 EBRW on the new SAT are a) scores are inflated across the board from the old to the new based on numerous technical decisions made by the College Board, including the elimination of a guessing penalty and reducing the number of answer choices from 5 to 4, and b) individual scores often concord lower than combined total scores; put simply, fewer students are able to demonstrate commensurate strengths on individual sections (many students have lopsided scores, e.g. Writing significantly higher than Reading).

      • BB says:

        Thanks, Adam. This is very helpful. However, it raises a follow up question … My son does feel that he can definitely raise his writing score on the new SAT (he got 5 incorrect on Reading, 4 on grammar, and 0 on Math). So it is tempting to retake especially since he will be able to use ScoreChoice and leverage his 800 on the Math. However, the next available SAT dates are not the most convenient. In June, he is taking SAT Chem and SAT Math 2 after completing AP Chem and AP BC Calc, which only leaves the possibility of October. Any advice?

        • Adam Ingersoll says:

          Ah, it’s unfortunate that the timing doesn’t work optimally, This is an unfortunate consequence of College Board’s delay in reporting scores for the first administration of a new test. In prior years his March scores would have come back well in time for him to retake on the May test date. Definitely do not mess with his Subject Test plans in June. I would recommend he invest three hours in an ACT practice test ASAP. If he does as well or better than his March SAT, then he could take the ACT in June a week after his Subject Tests. Otherwise this will need to simmer over the summer and a retake of the SAT in October is the only option. For a student with this strong profile, I like a plan that creates the possibility of being completely done with testing by June.

          • John says:

            This is so very helpful. Thank you. You mention lopsided scores. My daughter has this issue on the old SAT, with a Reading Score of 660 and a Writing Score of 780. Her math is also a 780. Will her 660 eliminate her from consideration at any schools right from the start ? Or are will they consider that she has a 2220 overall? Should she even bother with the new SAT (she did not like the ACT)? If it helps matters, she got a 720 EBRW/730 M on the PSAT. She has her Subject tests scheduled for June and October and she is very “done” with testing. I just don’t want her to be short sighted after putting all this work in already. Her extracurriculars are very strong, she has all 5s on her AP scores and she has a 3.95 GPA. The 660 is the only “weak” part of her application.
            Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you again.

          • Adam Ingersoll says:

            Hi John, well, this is a tough one. Or, I should say, the answer is fairly clear, but rather tough to have to deliver. While there is only a small fraction of the colleges in this country that would split these hairs, the fact is that her 660 Reading is a minor blemish relative to her other scores/GPA and within the competitive applicants pools in which I assume she will be competing. Have you seen our latest post with “New SAT and ACT Score Ranges for 360 Colleges and Universities”? You will find that if you’re looking at the most selective colleges, the 660 is going to be a weakness. Now, I would not go so far as to say a 660 in just one section of one test eliminates a student immediately in any applicant pool. But it could certainly work against her, whereas the 780’s in Writing and Math are of course above the line at which you know “well, that can’t possibly be a negative.” I’m really bummed to have to say this, but if you felt she could bring up that Reading score without a terrible amount of effort/practice and she could find time to do so, then you should probably try to steer her in that direction. Are you sure you need the October test date for Subject Tests? That’s a bit of an unusual time to be taking Subject Tests. Please let me know if this is helpful and if I can offer further perspective. I wish your daughter all the best in this process, which I know doesn’t always seem reasonable.

      • JSG says:


        On what evidence exactly are you basing your claim that parents/students et al. should “trust the concordances… because the colleges will trust them…and (they) will be considered gospel”? Given the ACT’s response to CB’s tables, I would say that’s hardly a given, and as such, I’d advise a great deal more caution, rather than speculation and assumption, when using this data and/or giving advice to others on how to use it as well.

        And one piece that seems to be missing from your otherwise generally sound advice regarding which test to take is that of the value of prepping for a test that has a handful of practice exams available vs. one that has scores of tests to use. If a student is working with a tutor for the new SAT, they should be aware that it’s virtually impossible that tutor will be as helpful in preparing for the new SAT as they will be in prepping for the ACT (assuming the general competency of said tutor, of course). Why? Because there is so little material on the new exam from which to work. Barring an incontrovertibly and dramatically ‘higher’ SAT diagnostic score, I’d rather my child prep with a tutor who has mastered the current iteration of the ACT over the past decade plus, than that same tutor who has essentially started anew with a brand new test just recently. Wouldn’t you?

        • Adam Ingersoll says:

          JSG, I would say that ACT’s intent was to shame and scold. ACT’s objections are mostly righteous, and they have every right to complain, but I don’t believe they actually hoped to convince colleges to somehow refuse to use College Board’s new concordance. I say “somehow” because colleges really have no reasonable alternative. As for bad alternatives, I see two: 1) Accept only one test, not either. 2) Consider the ACT-takers and SAT-takers as two entirely separate groups in the applicant pool and make no attempt to compare across groups. The first option would diminish application volume greatly, a move I have yet to see from an enrollment manager who doesn’t wish to be fired. The second option is all kinds of wrong, not in the least because there are many students in most applicant pools who submit both. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the words “trust” and “gospel.” It’s probably more accurate to say that many colleges will note – as ACT did – the flaws in this “derived” concordance that College Board has pushed on them, and they’ll do some scolding of their own, but ultimately I believe that colleges will hold their noses and use the concordances as their least-worst way of evaluating students who have taken different tests. What other scenario could you see playing out? Finally, I found it interesting to notice just today that the link that ACT had put out previously with its anti-concordance rant is now broken and links to nowhere. If you look hard, you can now find their two position statements buried at I take this, and other feedback from sources in Iowa City, to suggest that they’ve made their point and likely won’t press it further. Because it has nowhere productive to go.

          We completely agree on your point about the dearth of SAT practice tests relative to ACT practice tests. I didn’t fit that caveat into this post on concordance, but I’ve written about it extensively, starting in June 2014 with a post titled “ACT as the Safe Choice for the Class of 2017.” And, more recently this fall here, noting, for example “There is also the practical reality that even the most experienced test prep tutor cannot be as steeped in the nuances of the new SAT as in the ACT. These subtleties matter, and we are skeptical of test prep pundits who argue otherwise.” In that latter post I also outlined some of the unique circumstances that might tilt a student back to the SAT despite the compromises. Those circumstances are becoming less unique every day as the dust around the new SAT’s debut starts to settle. Approximately 90% of our students in the most recent testing cycle opted for the ACT over the SAT, but we see that ratio steadily leveling back off over the next few years.

          Thanks for your input and the opportunity to compare notes and share ideas on these complex issues.

          • JSG says:

            Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough response, Adam.

            I did notice that their critique got buried on their site, which is certainly interesting and perhaps indicative of their intentions.

            I suppose one alternative scenario would be that the ACT and CB actually get together, as they’ve done in the past, to jointly establish new concordance tables. But, given the recent enmity and ACT’s insistence on more data on which to base such tables, that seems less likely to occur at this point. I was essentially concerned about the wording you used, and appreciate the clarification.

            Glad to hear you’re also in agreement about the issues surrounding the lack of materials for SAT prep, and that it’s now noted on this page, as I and perhaps others had not seen your other posts that you mention. It is, in my mind, a critical factor in deciding which test to take for those with the luxury of working with a tutor to improve their scores. What do you estimate your SAT/ACT breakdown will be for the class of 2018?

          • Adam Ingersoll says:

            I’m guessing about 30/70 SAT/ACT for the class of 2018 and then back to roughly 50/50 for class of 2019 and beyond.

  • scott says:

    My daughter scored a 680 E and 660 M on the new SAT. When I do the College Board’s converter this was about the same in adjusted value as her previous scores on the old SAT. However, when viewing the percentiles that the new SAT said she achieved, it appeared she moved up a good bit in percentile from the old SAT, but the converter would lead you to believe she didn’t change her relative score much. Any thoughts on why the percentile wouldn’t have been in the same range for the old and new SAT if the converter is saying her old and new scores are similar?

    Also, the new SAT shows two percentiles each for Math and English. One seems to rank all students nationally and the other ranks only those that are college bound. Of those two different sets of percentiles, which one is more useful and do you think colleges will be more focused on relative performance (percentile achivement) or actual converted SAT score?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      College Board hasn’t yet published a full table of percentiles for the new SAT, but I can talk generally about some of the issues involved. I’ve spent a lot of time on the issue with the PSAT. In the choice as to whether to believe the converter or the percentiles, believe the converter. Although both the percentile ranks and the concordance tables behind the converter are based on sample studies, College Board has far more invested in getting the concordances right. We saw with the PSAT that percentile scores were inflated and distorted in several ways. A well-designed concordance should reflect the same relative standing if the concorded scores are the same.

      As for why the percentiles are misleading:
      1) When the College Board moved from the old SAT and PSAT to the new SAT and PSAT, they adopted a new definition of percentile rank. Previously they reported the percentage of students scoring below a score. Now they report the percentage of students at or below. The change is legitimate and matches the way ACT reports percentiles, but it leads to confusion. The new percentiles are a notch higher.
      2) The national versus the user percentiles are another new twist, and I am less fond of this one. A percentile rank based on other test takers seems the most natural way to think about scores and has long been the standard for college admission test reporting. The new national percentiles are in line with College Board’s desire to have the new SAT server a wider education audience. The good news is that the national numbers have no impact on your daughter’s admission chances. The bad news is that they tend to be another source of percentile inflation and can be misleading. Ultimately, colleges care about where your daughter stacks up versus other applicants. The percentile numbers are just a way of putting scores into context.
      3) The percentiles are based on a “representative sample.” College Board has no way of predicting the exact make-up of students in your daughter’s cohort that will take the new SAT over the next year. Instead, it must estimate percentiles from studies. As with any estimate, results are not always reliable.

      • Kjell A Nygren says:

        The difference between the percentiles reported on the new SAT and the percentiles implied by the “concorded” scores on the old test are of concern and it makes it very hard for me to put my son’s new SAT score into context. His overall score was 1470 (760 Math, 710 Reading/Writing). According to the Percentiles for the new SAT, the overall and the math score would both be in the 98%. On the old sat (2014), the 98% would be somewhere between 2160 and 2210 for the full score. Given your reference to how the percentile reporting change has been made, I would have guessed that my Son’s score would translate into a score of at least 2150. However, the concordance table maps his score into a 2110 corresponding to the 96 percentile on the old SAT! Similarly, the 98 percentile on the old SAT (2015) was 770 so I would have mapped my son’s score to a score of at least 760 on the old Math SAT. However, the concordance tables maps it to only a 740…

        My guess is that any concordance and percentile calculations made on samples prior to the actual administration would be fine in the center of the distribution but unreliable in the tails due to modest samples sizes. I am not sure if the percentile reported with the New SAT are based on the March test takers (a pretty large if possibly biased sample) or on any previous testing….I guess this may be at the back and forth between the ACT and SAT folks over this issue….Really trying to determine how good the 1470 score is (is it really closer to the 98th or 96th percentile) as the higher end of the mapping would put my son into the top 25% at some of his target schools while the lower end of the mapping would not….

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Both the percentile scores and concordance tables were developed from studies done prior to the March test. Both are subject to the same concerns about the accuracy of the sample population and how testing was conducted. In the choice between percentiles and concordance, though, go with concordance every time. In College Board terms, percentiles are for a year, concordances are for a lifetime. It’s the concordance that links their old flagship test to their new. We saw on the PSAT how flawed percentiles were and how the primary reaction from College Board was a shoulder shrug and a denial. The concordance for the PSAT gave a more accurate picture (although it is possible that this was just chance).

          It is unlikely that we will see accurate percentile data on class of 2017 test takers come out until the summer of 2017 when College Board traditionally reports on the college bound class. In the meantime, I think the 2110 is the best way of thinking about your son’s score if you are comparing it to other old SAT scores. Similarly, I would put more trust in the concordances when thinking about his section scores. In looking at the 2015 data for the number of students at each score, I calculate a 2110 as the 97th percentile under the current definition. In fact, it was 97th percentile even under the old definition.

          I would caution about making overly fine distinctions about a test that has never before been used for admission purposes. The new SAT is not the old SAT and concordances don’t bridge that gap. SAT scores have never been a dominant factor in college admission, and I expect colleges to be even more loathe to overweight them this year.

  • CR says:


    My daughter is in a situation as few others here. She has a 34 on ACT and she scored a 1520 on the new March SAT. She also has 800’s on SAT math2 and SAT Bio.
    She feels she can improve her SAT score if she makes another attempt. She is planning to do an early decision to one of the selective colleges.She is worried to take the Oct. SAT as the scores may not be available on time for ED.
    Does she need to take one more subject test? Can she try taking the SAT on June 4th instead of SAT Chem. What would be your suggestion?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Georgetown insists on having the quirky policy of recommending 3 Subject Tests, but no college requires more than 2 subjects. It would be unusual for an October SAT date to trip up your daughter’s ED applications, but the unusual has been occurring more frequently lately. Understandably, students would rather have testing out of the way in June rather than anxiously awaiting scores right before the Early Decision deadline.

      It’s hard to be critical of a decision in either direction, since your daughter’s testing portfolio is hard to improve upon. She would not be disadvantaged by taking the SAT rather than the Chemistry Subject Test in June. What she might want to consider is taking Chem in October. Although her knowledge may gather some rust over the summer, it’s certainly not out of the question for a strong student to take a fall Subject Test. Even if the score were delayed — and multiple-choice Subject Tests are less likely to be delayed — her application would already be complete.

  • Melissa says:

    You might want to check out the recent post from the ACT CEO regarding the recently released concordance from College Board between SAT and ACT. Check it out here – Collaboration essential when claiming concordance –

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, the distrust between ACT and College Board runs deep, and College Board replied quickly. Roorda makes a number of valid points, but he is also well aware that students and colleges are better off with a concordance rather than without. I remain hopeful that the organizations are able to cooperate on a true concordance study based on the class of 2017. Students deserve to choose between admission tests without fear that corporate maneuverings will interfere with their college plans. Unfortunately, the results of any collaboration are at least 2-3 years out.

  • Leah says:

    My son took the PSAT and got a 1490 sectional index of 222. He then took the Sat in April and got a 1500 which corresponded to a 2170 old sat. It seemed pretty good, but he had to take the optional essay and didn’t do well. 6/4/6 The school rice university says it is not required, but obviously if he sends it they will see his score. Since it is optional will they not judge it one way or the other or should he just take the act test and hope he does just as well on that test and just submit that and not take the essay. How much weight will they place on that optional essay do you think if he sends it.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The 6/4/6 may not be as weak as you think and should not be an obstacle at Rice (which does require Subject Tests from SAT submitters). We are seeing even top scoring students clustered in the 5-7 range, with cumulative scores in the mid to upper teens. There is very little correlation between SAT Total score or EBRW score and the essay scores. Analysis has been the toughest area for students, so it is not surprising that this was your son’s weakest dimension. The SAT scores and Subject Test scores dwarf the essay in importance. Your son should not be concerned about sending his scores.

  • Bo says:

    My daughter scored a 35 in ACT ( composite) but got only a 1380 in the new SAT. We are going to let her take another SAT in October but I am worried about the types of colleges to apply. Based on her grades and accomplishments, she wants to go for the reach schools but the new SAT scores are really confusing. By the time the results come on Oct 23, we will be nearing the deadline for early decision.

    Any suggestions

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Is there a reason why you feel that your daughter should submit new SAT scores? Her 35 is very strong. Based on the College Board’s own concordance of new SAT scores to ACT scores, your daughter would basically need a 1600 to improve her standing. Most schools are fine with the Oct SAT for ED, but you are right that it can give your daughter precious little time if she wants to evaluate her scores before submitting them. My recommendation would be to stick with her ACT score. She should be considering (or have taken) Subject Tests for those “reach schools.” Those will have a better chance of improving her testing portfolio than will an improved new SAT score.

  • Michael says:

    My son scored (old SAT) 650 CR, 800 Math and 780 Writing. When I do the College Board’s converter this was 1530/1600. However, I was told by an IVY university admission staff that they would only consider CR/Math on the old SAT and compare the score to the new SAT score since the new version no longer requires writing. This seems to be inconsistent with College Board’s concordance table. Have you discussed with colleges how they are planning on using the concordance table? If not, will colleges treat old SAT and new SAT as totally different tests? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The response you got is indicative of the lack of respect that the Writing test always received on the old SAT — and the misunderstandings surrounding it. The old SAT and new SAT are treated as totally different tests, which is why a concordance is needed in the same way that one is needed between the SAT and ACT. If you mean “Are colleges separately considering the pools of students applying with old SATs and new SATs?,” the answer is “No.”

      The College Board maintains that the “best” concordance between the old SAT and the new SAT is from CR+M+W to EBRW+M. The admission office is both right and wrong. Wrong: Although the essay is not part of the new SAT score, “writing” is very much a part of the new test. Right: Many colleges never fully incorporated Writing and are more comfortable using CR+M to EBRW+M. To allow for this, College Board does provide this concordance. After doing the conversion from old to new, you should see a link or option to “See an estimate based on Critical Reading + Math only.” In your son’s case, the CR+M estimate converts to a 1490 on the new SAT. We’ve also provided a table with the CR+M concordance. Unfortunately, there is no universal rule as to how colleges will convert among old SAT, new SAT, and ACT, which is why College Board has provided them a number of options.

  • Bo says:

    Thanks for the encouraging reply. She is taking subject tests. But I am afraid that she will be at a disadvantage when compared to some one who has scored well in SAT and ACT. Will the schools not be ” suspicious” when you submit one and not another? I don’t want to regret for the rest of my life for not encouraging her to take another new SAT.

    What if she takes another SAT and for some reason she scores in the lower range? Can I NOT send it to the colleges?

    This is so confusing and nerve racking to say the least. More so because of the fact that there is a 3-4 month gap before next SAT. I wish they had one in August.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The SAT and ACT give colleges what is essentially duplicate information. Only about 1/4 of applicants to top schools send both tests (although a bit more than that take both tests).

      Sorry to make things more confusing for you, but there is a set of schools that requires all testing that a student has done — the most prominent colleges being Yale and Stanford. There are not a lot of these, though. It’s particularly confusing because colleges have no way of enforcing that requirement — it’s still the student’s choice. Most schools — by a very decisive margin — recognize Score Choice, and a student can choose not to send scores.

  • John says:


    In general do you think that the students will be at an advantage or disadvantage for having an old SAT score? Some schools (e.g. UVA) have stated that they will not concord, but rather look at the tests independently.

    Also for schools that traditionally only looked at the CR/M components of the old SAT, how will they look at the new SAT? Do you think they will discount the writing portion that is built into the test? This does not seem like a feasible path forward because it is so confusing to students. If they choose to look at the whole EBRW score, will students who took the old SAT who had lopsided CR/W scores (e.g., 660 CR and a 780 W), be at a disadvantage? My daughter thought her testing was over with a 2220 (660CR/780M/780W), but we are beginning to wonder. Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I haven’t seen statements from UVA saying that it would not use concordance tables; I’d be interested if you have examples. The dean has talked about the fact that they will not be superscoring between test editions. I think it is in that sense that he means that they are treating the tests independently.

      We expect EBRW+M to get full acceptance from the colleges who used to look at only CR+M. The rejection of SAT Writing was more about the essay (even though it only represented about 30% of the score) and the fact that colleges had 60 years of experience using “verbal” and “math.” The material tested on the new SAT is very similar to that tested on ACT Reading and English, and there has never been a boycott of those sections. The transition may not be seamless. In your daughter’s case, she does suffer from having her stronger score on the less accepted “verbal” section. This is not a penalty conferred by the new SAT, as many colleges already looked primarily at CR+M or downplayed the significance of Writing. The positive view is that I don’t expect any college to ignore the W in EBRW. Your daughter’s strength in grammar will be part of her score. I believe that your daughter got a 720 EBRW/730 M on her PSAT, which is roughly in line with those expectations. She can likely improve on those figures on the SAT. In some ways, the new SAT may be the ideal test for her.

      • John says:

        Art, Thank you very much for your response. Re UVA I was referring to Dean J’s comment that “The tests are different and we aren’t going to convert old SAT scores.” It is buried in her post about updated the waiting list. Thanks again.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Great. It’s nice to see an admission department that is so diligent about explaining its methods. Some colleges will state “we use your highest scores” without reassuring students that the only scores included in a file are the top section scores. Similar quote here to the one you cited: Basically a file will have potentially 3 sets of scores: SAT, rSAT, and ACT. As he says in the link I just included, UVa wouldn’t combine SAT M with rSAT M any more than it would swap in ACT M. The rSAT gets neither points nor demerits for being published by the same company as the SAT. To make test-to-test comparisons, a concordance is required.

  • Bo says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I find this blog very useful. Do Cornell, Brown and Columbia want ACT and SAT scores reported?

    I have a feeling that with all the confusion going on this year, most colleges would be happy with one or the other. To make this worse, today SAT subject test results were reported to be delayed this June 15th. Makes me have less confidence in them.


    • Art Sawyer says:

      Brown and Columbia participate in Score Choice and there is no reason to send any scores with which your daughter is not completely satisfied. Cornell does not recognize Score Choice for SAT scores. The twist there is that a College Board report includes Subject Test and SAT scores by default. Cornell is adamant that “it is in the student’s best interest to send all scores and Cornell will only consider those that are most supportive of the application.” [emphasis added]

  • Tim says:


    My son chose to automatically have his new SAT scores sent to four universities (Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, University of Florida, University of Central Florida). The score report also shows his PSAT scores and 10th grades scores. Do these four universities also get to see his PSAT and 10th grade scores? (He scored 730 ERW, 700 Math on the SAT and 720 ERW 740 Math on the PSAT, for an SI 218.) Thanks.

  • Joey says:

    Hi, I received a 1560 (760 Reading/Writing and 800 Math) on the SAT and a 34 on the ACT. I was planning to use the SAT for all colleges not requiring subject tests and the ACT for colleges that do (I only have taken the Math II subject test and scored 800). However, I got my ACT writing score back a few days ago and scored 21. Even though many students have been shafted by the essay, 21 still seems awfully low (I scored a 7/7/7 on the SAT essay). Should I study the essay and retake the ACT? I don’t want to have to do any more subject tests unless I really have to. I got a 4 on the APES exam via self-study. MIT and Georgetown are on my list and both seem to like subject tests. Thanks in advance!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Great scores and an interesting situation because of Subject Tests. My recommendation would be to submit both SATs and ACTs. Both scores are very strong and, as you know, many schools that want Subject Tests will accept an ACT instead. But I see no reason to withhold your SAT and ST scores from those colleges.

      As for the 21, I would not be too concerned. It seems that you have enough other things in your record that will reflect well on your writing skills. The bigger outstanding issue is Subject Tests. It wasn’t clear if you are planning on taking more — you should. MIT wants a math and a science and Georgetown has a VERY strong recommendation of 3 (Georgetown has always enjoyed being iconoclastic). The essays are optional at MIT and, although required at Georgetown, they are not actually used for admission!

      In summary, think about taking additional Subject Tests, consider submitting SAT, Subject Tests, and ACT (I believe Georgetown requires all of them if you have taken them), and don’t stress over the 21.

  • Alexander says:

    Daughter got 1500 on PSAT in PA and got 1550 in June SAT, that being her only admission standard test (She does have 4 subjects tests, 760 Math2/760 US history/800 Bio/800 Chem). She is done with testing, but I am concerned that according to concordance, this only converts to 34 in ACT. Thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You have nothing to worry about. Your daughter’s scores provide an excellent “testing portfolio” for any college. A 34 is an excellent ACT score. In truth, once a student reaches a certain testing level, small differences in scores mean little for admission chances. Having 4 strong Subject Test scores rounds out her application nicely!

  • David Lee says:

    Mr. Sawyer,
    Thank you for your post.
    Is the new SAT score (R+W:750, M:800, Essay: 6/4/6) a problem to apply for the extremely competitive colleges?
    I am mainly concerned with the bad essay score: 6/4/6.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      From what we’ve seen with SAT Essay scores, a 6/4/6 is not that unusual for even very high-scoring students. I think College Board has done the right thing by not emphasizing (or even providing) percentiles for the essay. Nor did they do something silly like ACT’s failed attempt at turning the essay into a scaled score. Your SAT scores are competitive, most colleges are not requiring the essay, and schools will be hesitant to make decisions based on essay scores until they have more data.

  • Rusty Bice says:

    My daughter wants to go to University of Alabama. Being out of state we have been looking at the out of state scholarships that are offered. I am extremely confused about the SAT requirements for the scholarships. They list the old SAT requirements and the new SAT requirements and they are very similar, if not the exact scores. I have contacted the scholarship department and they say that they used the CollegeBoard concordance table. Can you explain how the scores needed can be so similar? Thank you!!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Alabama uses only the Critical Reading and Math components of the old SAT, so you are seeing scores on a 400-1600 scale for both the old SAT and the new SAT (EBRW and Math). New SAT scores are somewhat inflated in comparison to the old SAT. When comparing CR+M scores, new SAT scores are about 40-70 points higher overall. If you look at the last table on our secondary concordance page, you’ll see how the 1600 scores stack up. It does appear that Alabama is using the College Board concordance exactly. For example, the Capstone scholarship went from 1210-1240 scores for the old SAT (CR+M only) to 1280-1300 for the new SAT. The UA Scholar scores have gone from 1330-1390 to 1390-1440. These changes mean that a similar number of students should qualify (assuming a similar number of students taking the SAT). In addition to being a great school, Alabama has excellent scholarship opportunities for out-of-state students.

  • David says:

    I don’t know why I cannot see my questions I submitted.
    This is a test.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Test successful. We moderate our comment threads and have fallen behind. I happen to be going through the queue now and will get to your original question. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have a question about the reliability of translating new SAT scores to old SAT scores.

    My son has a June SAT score of 1500–750cr and 750m. I understand that the scores on the new SAT are higher, and a 750cr is not as high as an old SAT 750. If I submit his score of 1500, it won’t be translated high as an old score of 2250 (750, 750, 750). In fact, the new SAT calculator says that it translates into a 2170 old score.

    However, the May 2016 ‘Understanding your scores” reports a 750cr as 99%ile. Oddly, the 2015 SAT percentile document for the old SAT says that a 750R is 98%ile and 750W is 98%ile. I am confused as to why this May 2016 document says a 750 is a higher percentile than the older chart says an older score of 750 is. Is there any chance that a new SAT 750cr is really the top percentile and should correlate at least as high as getting an old SAT 750r and 750w?

    To further complicate the issue, my son got a 34 on the ACT. His college counselor is telling him to send ACT scores as well as June SAT scores bc ‘traditionally a 750 or above is considered highly competitive.’ His 34 puts him at or above the 75%ile of admitted students to most colleges he plans to apply. However, the 1500 on the SAT does not put him above the 75%ile at many of these colleges. It is important, I think, to figure out which to send.

    Thank you for your time!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Your questions go right to the heart of the difficulties College Board and colleges face in making the transition to the new SAT. Let me start by explaining why the percentiles are not useful in making a comparison (for a far more detailed explanation involving the PSAT — the issues are similar — you can see my previous posts). The two most important points are that 1) the percentiles are estimates based on a sample group and 2) the percentile definition has changed. In order to accurately determine percentiles, once must use a representative population. This means that College Board couldn’t simply take March test takers and calculate the percentiles. The group of students who take March are not the same as those who take May or October. And the group of students taking the new SAT this spring were not necessarily the same profile as those taking the old SAT in the spring. Instead, what College Board did was base the percentiles on reference groups who took non-operational tests (test days at schools or paying college students to take the test). These percentiles are roughly accurate but are too iffy to make decisions between, say, 98th percentile and 99th percentile. 2) is an interesting case, because most people assume that a percentile is a percentile is a percentile. There are actually multiple ways that percentile ranks can be defined. The old SAT used “the percentage of students scoring BELOW” a given score. The new SAT (and the ACT) uses “the percentage of students AT OR BELOW.” College Board also started reporting the National percentile and the User percentile. These changes have the effect of “inflating” percentiles somewhat. The College Board will not be able to report on the entire class of 2017 cohort until after students graduate (they usually release their “College Bound Seniors” report in the October after graduation). Clearly that’s not helpful for your son. I counsel people to ignore the percentiles. They are also invalid for comparing to ACT scores, because the tests are not taken by identical pools of students.

      Now to your first question about your son’s 750 EBRW / 750 M. Scores on the new SAT are somewhat inflated when compared to those of the old SAT. This is largely the result of College Board’s decision to eliminate the “guessing penalty” and to not re-norm the tests. What the 2170 / 1500 concordance is saying is that the percentage of students scoring 1500 or lower on the new test is equivalent to those scoring 2170 or lower on the old test. In this sense, they represent comparable achievements. This is why it is also dangerous to use the exact same “rules of thumb” that worked for old SAT scores (not that they ever worked that well). A 750 M on the new SAT is better compared to a 720 M on the old SAT. A 750 EBRW is closer to a combined 1450 (CR+W) on the old SAT. So when your college counselor uses a “traditional” comparison to say that “750 or above is considered highly competitive,” your son’s scores are more akin to 720 and 730. Still, those are quite competitive, and it’s not as if there is some hard cutoff at 750. Another way of saying that is that the students who used to get 750 or above are now far more likely to be getting 770 or above. Yes, quite confusing for everyone.

      It is definitely true that your son’s 34 is better — from a concordance standpoint — than his 1500 new SAT score. I don’t think that means that your son should not send his SAT score. It is in the same range, and most colleges will work with his best scores. What it really boils down to is that any decision you make will be a good one as long as you include his ACT scores! Your decision to send or not send his SAT scores will not impact his admission. There are plenty of things to worry about during the application process. In your son’s case, the SAT decision is not one of them. I hope that I haven’t muddled things further for you. Your son’s scores are excellent. Best of luck during the admission process!

  • Anonymous says:


    I have a question for you about whether my daughter should send both her new SAT score and her ACT score to colleges. She scored a 1510 (760R, 750M), 6/6/6 on essay) on the new SAT, and a 34 (36E, 36R, 32M, 33S, 23 essay) on the ACT. She took each test once, and she does not plan to re-test. Although the SAT is lower than the ACT overall, we are considering sending it to show the relatively higher math score. She is applying to engineering programs. She also has a 760 Math Level II and a 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam. Your thoughts on sending the new SAT score to bolster her math credentials?

    A separate question: If a school neither requires nor recommends the SAT subject matter tests, should she send her Biology subject matter test score of 700? (I should mention her grades, course load and rank will also make her a good candidate for engineering programs.) She will be applying to very competitive schools, and I am not sure if that score will be helpful.

    Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’d be hesitant to say that the SAT Math score will boost your daughter’s math credentials, but I can’t muster an argument against sending both scores. Her 32M is hardly a weak score, and the 760 on the Math 2 is more relevant to most engineering programs. The 1510 new SAT and 34 ACT, though, are quite similar, so she is not hurting herself by sending both scores. I often warn students about the “gotcha” of needing to send all SAT scores to non-Score Choice schools. Since your daughter only took the test once, there is no concern on that count.

      I’d also opt to send her Biology score. Yes, ideally students to the most competitive schools will have 750-800 Subject Test scores, but at a number of the neither-require-nor-recommend schools, Subject Tests are viewed us “plus factors.” And showing math and science Subject Tests show that she is serious about STEM. Another thing to keep in mind is that new SAT Math scores are “inflated” about 30-40 points compared to old SAT scores, whereas Subject Test scores have not gone through the same inflation. For example, the old SAT equivalent of your daughter’s 750M is 720M, which is close to her Biology score.

  • Sam says:

    Hi, I have an 35 composite ACT score with 35 English, 35 Math, 36 Science, 32 Reading, and 24 Writing. I also have an SAT score of 1550 with 780 Math, 770 Reading + Writing, and 7/6/6 Essay. I want to apply to the top schools like Harvard with a concentration in liberal arts possibly political science or something of the sort. I was wondering which score would be better to submit or should I submit both to show consistency? Do the section scores matter when taking major into account, like if I want go to major in a social science and go to law school should I submit the test with the better english and writing scores or does it not really matter since they are all kind of close to each other? Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You are in great shape either way you decide to go. In general, there is not a benefit to showing ACT/SAT consistency. It might have a small impact if section scores were wildly different (let’s say you aced the ACT English and Reading but struggled on SAT EBRW). Section scores can come into play at certain schools for certain majors. Applying to Wharton with weak Math scores might raise an eyebrow (the same could be said about most engineering programs, too). Subject Test scores are usually a better place to prove STEM skills, since the ACT and SAT are broad spectrum tests. Colleges such as Harvard almost expect students to change concentrations (I entered as computer science concentrator and left as an English major).

      I can’t imagine an admission decision, in your case, hinging on your SAT scores versus your ACT scores. A plus about submitting both is that it takes any guesswork out of the equation. Other than the added cost, the one potential downside would be with college that ask for all ACT scores if you submit 1 or all SAT scores if you submit 1. If you got your scores after a try or two, that’s not a concern. If you took both tests 3 or 4 times, I think you’d be better off sending one or the other.

  • Kaylie Turner says:

    Hi I was wondering if you could help because I have an almost 4.8 GPA and am first in my class. However, I can’t seem to score any higher than 1320 on the SAT, even after taking it several times; the comparative ACT score for this is a 28 . But last month I took the ACT and got a 33. Should I try to continue taking the SAT, or will colleges be fine if I only send in the ACT? And should I be worried about this large discrepancy in scores?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Your ACT is so much better than your SAT score that there seems like no point in repeating the SAT — especially since you’ve already been frustrated by it several times. Colleges are absolutely fine with just an ACT score. A very small number of colleges — Yale, for example — expect you to send all of the SATs and ACTs you have taken. Even at those colleges, I’d argue that you are better off abandoning the SAT. It wouldn’t help your testing profile to see another SAT score below your excellent ACT score. Sounds like you can take a break from testing.

  • Ron says:

    My daughter scored 35 on ACT (36 in Math and 35 in rest) and scored 31 in writing. In new SAT she scored 1580 (780 EBRW and 800 in Math) and 6/6/8 in essay. She has taken subject tests Math2: 800, Chem: 770 and Physics: 740. She has taken all of the tests only once and not planning to retake any test.

    Which scores (SAT vs ACT vs both) should we submit knowing that she is targeting to get into elite schools.
    Can she not submit SAT Physics?
    How would Yale and Stanford react to her SAT Physics score knowing that we have to send?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Most students would do anything to have your daughter’s dilemmas. Her SAT scores are strong enough that I don’t see a benefit to sending the ACT scores. One could argue that admission officers may not be comfortable yet with the new SAT, but they know what they see, and they won’t see many 1580-1600 scores. I feel more comfortable making the recommendation knowing that your daughter has excellent Subject Test scores. If she were applying to colleges that allowed the ACT to serve “in lieu of” Subject Tests, then weak scores might have been an argument for the ACT. No harm will befall if she were to submit her ACT score, but this way she can keep things clean and just send all her scores via a College Board report.

      She can choose not to submit Physics. I don’t think she should make that choice. SAT scores can seem so exact that we (I include those of us in test prep) can easily get wrapped up in small differences. If an admission officer went to the committee to argue that Student A should be accepted over your daughter because A had scores of 800 / 770 / 780, they would give him the admission officer equivalent of a toddler’s time out. Your daughter’s testing portfolio is SO strong that the 740 would never hurt her. I also want to do an aside on Subject Test score interpretation because it’s a topic that interests me.
      1) It’s her third Subject Test. She is allowed to have a lowest score.
      2) You may be concerned that a 740 Physics score is 68th percentile. Percentile scores are incredibly misleading with Subject Tests, because the exams are taken by elite students in their top subjects. Your daughter’s ACT score of 35 is 99th percentile. Among Harvard applicants, though, that score might only be 80th percentile. Context is key.
      3) Last, but not least, a 770 and 740 are very similar. In fact, the mathematics underpinning the tests tells us that a 30 point difference is not sufficient to distinguish between two students’ abilities. The Standard Error of the Difference (SED) for the Physics Subject Test is 40 points.

      So Yale and Stanford will be perfectly fine with her Physics test. An aside about the “send us all scores” policies. These are not always as they seem. Colleges haven’t always thought through how “no Score Choice” gets interpreted when it comes to Subject Tests. They often don’t intend for it to apply to Subject Tests. Stanford requires that students submit all SAT and ACT scores. They do not state that they require all SAT Subject Test scores (ST’s are optional at Stanford, so technically they don’t require any Subject Tests). Yale, fortunately, explicitly addresses the topic: “Yale does participate in Score Choice for the reporting of SAT Subject Tests. You may wait to receive your score results before deciding which scores, if any, you would like to send to Yale.”

      Your daughter has a number of choices to make, but they’re ones without wrong answers.

      • Ron says:

        Thank you and really appreciate you taking time to answer my questions.
        1. Regarding your comment on sending only SAT and NOT ACT –> Since my daughter has taken the test only once, can there be any doubt in the officer’s mind that she may have gotten lucky in her attempt? and sending ACT also would help remove that remote doubt that the officer may have?
        2. Regarding your comment “She can choose not to submit Physics. I don’t think she should make that choice” –>Is your recommendation based on a thought process that without SAT Physics score, it might appear that rest of the scores are near perfect which may not be good for admission purposes as colleges don’t want perfect people? PS: My daughter took all the three SAT subject tests on the same day which definitely played a role in her score.
        3. This is a technical question regarding collegeboard. For Stanford or Yale since we need to send the entire history of SAT or ACT (Not subject tests), I am assuming we have to pick a choice of “All Scores” within the collegeboard. But if I do that it is including SAT subject scores as well. Since Stanford or Yale does not ask us to SAT Subject scores, how to tell them that I have submitted entire history of SAT and send only specific SAT subject?
        4. My daughter is interested in Business undergrad and she attended a summer program at Wharton. We have narrowed down to the below options and I would appreciate if you can share your thoughts and suggestions as we are totally unclear as to how to proceed.
        A. Apply ED to Wharton. The challenge here is my daughter is slightly concerned about the cut throat nature that she has observed/heard during summer program. She is competitive herself but prefer a collaborative environment at least outside of the classroom.
        B. Apply Restrictive EA to Harvard. The challenges here are that the bachelors she has to do is in Economics which she is not sure how she would like and also she will lose the benefit of her summer program that she did at Wharton if she does not apply to ED at Wharton. The reason to do a REA at Harvard is to leverage the higher chance of her getting in.
        C. Leave EA, REA and ED and just apply regular for all colleges.

        Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.


        • Art Sawyer says:

          1) It’s too easy to start overthinking score interpretation. You could easily argue that an admission officer would interpret this as an excellent student getting an excellent score and moving along from testing. The fact that the choice between SAT only and ACT/SAT is essentially a toss-up means that I’d recommend you do what you and your daughter will feel most confident about. In this case, I don’t think there is a wrong answer.
          2) My thinking is that as a third Subject Test in Physics that the score does not hurt, and may help, your daughter’s application. This is another close call. The fact that she took all tests on the same day does not factor in.
          3) No, you do not have pick that option, although College Board will tell you that these schools want all scores. Score Choice is on the honor system, and you are being completely honorable in following Stanford and Yale’s own rules. Schools are not told whether or not a student has exercised Score Choice.
          4. This strays away from my testing expertise into college advising. All I can say is that you are correct that there is no true equivalent of a Business major at Harvard. If that is what she wants to do, increasing her odds at Harvard (and there is debate as to whether REA does that) would seem somewhat irrelevant. I can’t speak to Wharton’s cut throat nature. I can say that I’ve never observed that at Harvard.

  • Hamza says:

    Thank you for such an insightful article!!
    I was hoping you guys could help me out with an issue I have…..

    I am an international student studying in the UK, currently in Year 13 (Grade 12) looking to apply to universities both at home and in the US this year. I took the New SAT in May this year and received a score of 1520 (760 + 760 + 21 on essay). Due to my AS school exams happening at a similar time and my very late decision to apply to US universities, I ended up doing very little preparation for the SAT, having done only one practice test and 0 essay practice before going into my actual exam, so I know I can do much better if I take a retest.

    My problem comes when taking into account the fact that I’d like to apply early to Stanford, meaning that the only available date I could resit the SAT would be this October. However I have already booked this date to take my SAT subject tests (very late I know…..) in Maths-II and Bio.

    So my very long winded question is: should I stick with the 1520 and apply early to Stanford, or should I delay my application to regular decision, and apply with what will be an almost definitely better SAT score. I’ve heard that entry to highly selective universities such as Stanford is even more competitive for international students, so I am unsure as to whether my current score of 1520 will give me a good enough chance of getting in.

    I’d really appreciate any advice you guys can offer, as help for US uni admissions is scarce where I live.
    Thanks in advance!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I don’t have any easy answers for you. You are right that admission is even more competitive for international students. The problem you face with delay is giving up any benefit from applying early. The size of this benefit is a hotly debated topic. Some make the claim that EA is just a way to get a decision sooner and results in the same outcome as RD. Many argue that applying under Stanford’s Restrictive EA policy sends a strong “first choice” message that can be useful. They’ll point out the higher acceptance rate for early applicants. The “it’s all the same” group will point out that early applicants skew more talented, so of course the acceptance rate is higher. I’m not going to try to settle that argument here. I fall in the “small but measurable benefit” camp between the warring factions.

      Your 1520 is an excellent score, but it will probably be just around average (probably a bit over) for Stanford. But how much more impressive will it be if you apply with a 1570? Will that prove the tipping point? That’s unlikely. Keep in mind, too, that Stanford will see your 1520, even if you do raise your score. I would stick to your desire to apply early. Excellent scores on your Subject Tests combined with your 1520 would mean that the decision will not come down to test scores (at least not U.S. standardized test scores).

  • Suzie says:

    Apologies if you’ve addressed this elsewhere on the site. Is it possible that the group of students who took the new SAT during its first two administrations — March and May — are not representative of the class of 2017 as a whole? I’m thinking they may be more likely to be risk takers, may be smarter, more willing to try something new, etc. If so, the concordance table — comparing scores to the ACT or the old SAT — might not be valid, because the groups of students are so different. Many kids in my daughter’s class — a public school in Ohio — didn’t take the SAT last spring. I just think the pool of test takers thus far may not be representative. Eventually it will be, but not yet. Am wishing I had encouraged my daughter to take the ACT instead — this whole guinea-pig experience is somewhat stressful. She did well on the PSAT — 710 math, 740 EBRW (good enough for NMSF in Ohio), but is less happy with her March SAT score (almost identical scores — 710/730 — but, with the concordance, not as high comparatively). She’s taking it again Oct. 1. Thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The concordance has been a bone of contention between College Board and ACT, although after their respective leaders gave addresses at the National Association of College Admission Counselors last week, the struck a more conciliatory tone. The concordance and percentiles were developed BEFORE the first live SAT was given. They were developed using a study group. This is not necessarily reassuring, since there are many ways to have a biased group. But I think it is broadly accurate.

      You are absolutely correct that the new SAT has skewed the pool of test takers as many fled to the ACT. And the March and May tests are not representative. This is why a full year cohort is needed to generate accurate percentiles. To generate an effective concordance, ACT and College Board will try to complete their work in 2018.

      It may be a little late for her to switch to ACT. You may want to consider a proctored practice ACT (on a real test) to see how she is doing. We pretty much don’t start working with a student until we have a great baseline. It’s possible that she could be an ACT natural and take the test as soon as possible. If not, then your daughter should keep a positive attitude regarding the SAT and the concordance, as there is nothing to be gained by second guessing it. Ultimately, I have faith in admission officers to get it right.

      • Suzie says:

        Thanks for your response. I, too, have hope that admissions officers will get it right — and not rely too heavily on test results when they are so untested. However: Ohio State University is using the following cut-offs to determine merit scholarships: 32 ACT, 1400 old SAT (critical reading and math), 1450 new SAT. Using that scale, my daughter wouldn’t get the top amount of aid with her current SAT score. So, very real consequences. She did take a “practice” ACT last fall, with absolutely no prep, and got a 31. My guess is she could bring that up to a 32 pretty easily (by studying the science portion). Question: Is the December administration too late? (She’s not applying early anywhere.) Oct. 22 is coming pretty quickly.
        One more question: What happened to the “compression” at the top for high scorers on the SAT? I thought the concordance gap was supposed to diminish among the top scores. It seemed to do that for the PSAT — does it for the SAT? Thanks again.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Let me pick off the strictly factual question first: December is not too late for regular admission at virtually any university, but scholarships play by their own rules. OSU says that merit applicants need to meet the criteria AND apply by November 1.

          I’m glad you brought up score “compression” because the PSAT results provide the only visible supporting evidence of the new concordance (College Board has not published the results of the trial studies used to generate the concordance.). Compression does exist on the SAT — just as it did on the PSAT. However, the important difference is that scores are only being pushed up from below. Both new tests have a degree of “wind assist” when it comes to scores. Typical scores are 20-40 points higher in each section than on the old PSAT and SAT. What made things so problematic with the PSAT/NMSQT is that the new 160-760 score range capped the Selection Index for extremely high scorers. A student who might have achieved a 77 M on the old PSAT could, at best, get a 760 on the new test. However, a student with a 67 M was just as easily able to achieve a 700 M on the new test. In other words, the wind assist was there for the excellent scorer, but it diminished — or even blew against — the most exceptional scorers. This is why we saw the Commended level move from 202 to 209, while the top state cutoffs moved down slightly. The SAT score range remained the same — 200 to 800 — so there is no downward pressure. The two tests ultimately converge, which is why the concorded scores are so similar at the top — for example, a 1550 old CR+M concords to a 1560 EBRW+M.

          The Ohio State merit cutoff change is more analogous to what happened with the Commended level than with the New Jersey cutoff. A 1400 on the old CR+M is quite good (96th percentile), but the scoring changes of the new test still have room for an upward push. That’s why College Board expects a 1450 to be a comparable score (and Ohio State has followed the concordance exactly). This 50 point change is right in line with the 7 point movement in Commended scores, since the Selection Index doubles the weight of EBRW. Do we know with certainty that the appropriate score is not 1440 or 1460? No. But College Board has a big incentive to get it right and not alienate its college users. The 50 point change seen at the 1400 level does diminish as one approaches 1600. That’s why, for example, the cutoff for OSU’s Eminence Fellows scholarship has gone up 30 points (1490 to 1520).

          Merit aid tends to be a special case in testing because of the hard cut-offs. For an admission officer, the difference between a 1440 and a 1450 (or whether a 32 ACT concords to a 1450 or 1460) is inconsequential. For students looking at merit aid at OSU, it’s very consequential. Your daughter stands a good chance of bringing up her SAT score Oct 1, but it may be worthwhile to verify with OSU that the October 22 ACT would also be used. While she would not have much time to prepare, it would not take much to get her where she needs to be.

          • michael says:

            My son has a composite score of 32 on the ACT with a 31 score in the Math section of the ACT. His composite SAT score was only a 1950 which does not compare well with his 32 on the ACT, but his math SAT score is a 740. Should he submit both his ACT and SAT scores? It appears that a 740 on the math SAT is superior to a 31 math score on the ACT. Appreciate your advice.

          • Art Sawyer says:

            Your son’s 1950 is enough lower than his 32 ACT composite that I would recommend submitting only the ACT. Most schools will concentrate on the composite. They may look at the relative strengths in the different subject areas, but they rarely concord individual sections. The potential negatives of showing an SAT score that is comparable to a 29 ACT composite is not outweighed by the potential positive of the college seeing a stronger math score. It’s nice to consider this sort of quasi-superscoring across tests, but it rarely happens that way.

  • Suzie says:

    Thanks much for your very understandable response. One final comment: Last fall, my daughter’s guidance counselor suggested we pick the test (SAT or ACT) that we thought she would do best on, and go for it. That’s what we did. Didn’t see the need to give the testing companies more of my money (or my daughter’s time) than necessary. Now, of course, I’m second-guessing that strategy. Second-guessing is what we parents do best!
    Thanks again.

  • Barbara says:

    Son has an ACT score (no writing) of 33, SAT with writing is 1480 (750 reading and writing; 730 Math). Unfortunately, his essay scores are quite low and surprised us – 4/4/5. Very concerned about whether to bother taking either exam again. He has only taken each exam once. Also, we are questioning which score to submit to Universities. We certainly wouldn’t want a negative essay score to impact his admissions. Thanks in advance for your opinion.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      In part, the answer depends on where your son is applying. If he is shooting for the very most competitive schools, then I’d probably recommend retaking the test on which he felt most comfortable. If he is a junior, he certainly has plenty of time. If he is a senior, time is of the essence, and you should verify with the colleges their testing cutoffs (generally, December is fine).

      The ACT is the slightly stronger of the two, but it would not be of use at any of the colleges requiring the essay. There is an outside chance that College Board will discuss essay score distribution at its annual Forum happening right now (several of my colleagues are there). What we have seen is that even high scorers are often in the teens (similar to how we often saw high ACT scorers in the low 20s for Writing). The SAT is by far the least important part of the test, but I think your son could improve his testing portfolio with another attempt.

  • Barbara says:

    Thank you – he is a junior and has many more opportunities to improve. We will revisit the exams in the spring/summer.

  • Madelyn says:

    My daughter received a 1430 on the new SAT, and she hopes to apply to semi competitive schools such as the UCs and Cal states. However, her essay score was unexpectedly low: 5|4|5. We are worried that the essay score will negatively impact admissions. Is it worth it to take the test again in the spring? She is a junior. Thank you very much for your advice.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Unless and until we learn more about colleges’ use of essay scores, my advice to students with 4s and 5s would be to let the overall test score dictate any decisions. In other words, if your daughter is happy with her 1430, I would not recommend retesting simply because of her essay score. When you are evaluating her scores, keep in mind that the new SAT scores are about 30 points higher per section than the old SAT scores. Historical numbers for admitted UC students still use old SAT scores. The Eligibility Index, on the other hand, has been updated for the new SAT. It can be confusing when trying to figure out a competitive score.

  • Gwendolyn says:

    Hi- I scored a 1980 on the old SAT – 690 R, 620 M, 670 W. I took the ACT in October 2016 and got a 31. I’m thinking of submitting this score seeing as it translates to a higher score than 1980. However, my breakdown was 36 English, 27 Math, 36 Reading, and 24 Science. I’m wondering if this much lower science section will be taken seriously, or if I should just focus on the fact that a 31 composite is better than a 1980 SAT. Thanks so much.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I think you are better off focusing on the 31 composite. Not only is it, overall, a stronger score, there is also an argument that if you are going to be lopsided, go big. In other words, your CR and W scores on the old SAT are good and are better than your M score, but they don’t come close to your ACT English and Reading scores.

  • Sue says:

    Thank you for all of your thorough responses. What a complicated business!

    I have a question regarding the Compass SAT/ACT concordance vs. the Compass PSAT/ACT concordance. Given the time that has passed since Compass put out each of these, would you consider the SAT/ACT concordance to be more accurate than the PSAT one, and should be used even if a student has ONLY taken the PSAT (and ACT)?

    Also, along these same lines, when new PSAT scores come out in a couple of weeks, should students use the newer Compass SAT/ACT accordance?

    Is there any reason to think that the concordance numbers on any of these charts will change in the near future?

    Thank you so much. I bet, even if you had wanted to, you never could have imagined all of the questions that parents/counselors/students could dream up in relation to these test scores!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Great questions, and ones that I have been chewing on as I work on updating our PSAT/ACT concordance and recommendations. The plan is to have a revised version of that post available almost immediately after counselors receive PSAT scores on 12/5/2016. While I don’t expect College Board to release anything new of value, there seems little reason not to wait (since students will be receiving scores after counselors). This reply will cover some of the points that I’ll expand upon. [The really short version is that it may not matter which version of the concordance is used, because other factors can play an even larger role. I’m never satisfied with really short versions.]

      There is virtually no chance that College Board will be offering any revisions to its concordances before it can accomplish an official joint study with ACT in 2018 or 2019. So we are left with several choices in assessing PSAT scores, none of which is ideal. Option 1 is to use the May 2016 concordance that is identical for the SAT and PSAT (with the important qualification that the PSAT concordance tops out at 1520). College Board considers this the “final” version. Option 2 would be to stick with the “preliminary” concordance that College Board released in January 2016 that was used to develop the current (as of 11/28/16) version of Compass’ PSAT to ACT concordance. Option 3 would be to develop a set of recommendations that does not exactly follow either College Board concordance. [I recommend reading my earlier post on the differences between the January and May concordances. While the post looked at things through a National Merit lens, much of the discussion and most of the tables and charts are quite relevant.]

      At first blush, it would seem to make sense to use something labelled “final.” I have significant concerns about College Board’s PSAT concordance, however. A concordance depends on the underlying tests being concorded and on the tested population (specifically, the population in the concorded sample). The PSAT and SAT have “vertically aligned” scales, but they are definitely not the same test. The populations taking the two exams are also quite different. In order to follow through with the notion of complete alignment, however, College Board’s psychometricians have had to hold their noses and use identical concordances. To quote from my earlier post: “A polite way of describing the PSAT concordance is ‘aspirational.’ It conforms with the most desirable outcome, not necessarily the most accurate one.” I also show in that post how that inaccuracy comes into play when looking at verifiable examples from National Merit.

      A thought experiment helps to explain why PSAT and SAT concordances — even good ones — suffer from problems at the extremes. Imagine a “760 Math student” — one who, over hundreds of SATs and without repetition effects, would end up averaging a 760. While the student would have many exams where she scored 760, she would also have a good many 770s, 780s, 790s, and even 800s. She won’t have performed as well on some forms and likely ended up with some 740s, 720s, and even 700s. Now plop several hundred PSATs in front of this student. Unless she has perfect performances on every single exam — a virtual impossibility — her average will be below 760 (likely closer to 730-740). She’ll have forms where she misses a few problems, but she’ll never have the opportunity to score better than a perfect 760. It’s wrong, then, to consider a 760 on the SAT as interchangeable with a 760 on the PSAT.

      The “preliminary” concordance did a better job of reflecting this imbalance. If you look at the chart of the two concordances and how they match up with National Merit (that post was before we knew all 50 states, but it maintains its rough accuracy), you will see that the January concordance did a better job than the May concordance. My opinion is that this was because January was presented as a true new PSAT to old PSAT concordance, whereas the May concordance was forced to into alignment with the SAT to old SAT concordance. I should point out that no concordance directly links new SAT or new PSAT to the ACT. Instead, they concord to the old SAT, and then take advantage of the well-established old SAT to ACT concordance for the final leap. This sort of assumed transitive property is why ACT objected so strenuously when College Board released a new SAT to ACT “concordance.” It’s both useful and misleading at the same time.

      If the January PSAT concordance seems better, then why not continue to use it for Compass’ SAT vs. ACT recommendations? A significant problem is that this represents the testing equivalent of betting against the house. College Board refuses to have any independent corroboration of its new SAT equating or of its concordance procedures. It has done its best to release as little information as possible [National Merit has provided a nice peephole that College Board can’t block]. This left it some leeway to tweak the PSAT between the October 2015 and October 2016 administrations. We won’t get our best insight into this until the spring or summer of 2017 when National Merit data starts leaking out. Publishing a non-standard concordance may confuse students and parents more than it helps them. I’m trying to work through the best way of dealing with this conundrum. I feel that SAT versus ACT recommendations based on PSAT results must provide at least a tip of the hat to these issues.

      Ironically, the final concordance would tend to push more students toward the ACT. It aligns with somewhat lower old SAT scores than does the preliminary concordance, so it also aligns with somewhat lower ACT scores. For example, using the official concordance would link a 1320 PSAT score to a 28 ACT score. Using the preliminary concordance would link a 1320 to a 29 ACT score. The difference can grow as wide as 2 points.

      Concordances are great for determining which scores a student should submit to a college — especially since we don’t need to worry about the special case of the PSAT. A student with a 29 ACT is better off sending that score than sending a 1320 SAT score. Concordances are not so good, though, at predicting future performance. This is why we have emphasized score ranges in our guidance. Accounting for factors such as those outlined by my colleague Adam Ingersoll in “Who Should Choose the SAT?” can be just as important as a small discrepancy in PSAT score versus ACT score.

      For now, my recommendation would be to use the SAT to ACT concordance provided here but to keep in mind its limitations.

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