A Test That Is Too Easy Results in Hard Feelings

A not so funny thing happened on the June 2018 SAT test – many students were surprised by their low marks. In fact, the entire testing community appears to have been taken aback, and not in a good way.

Here is an article that explains all of this in detail:  https://www.compassprep.com/when-up-is-down-june-2018-sat/. Other test-prep companies have also discussed this issue. See https://www.applerouth.com/blog/2018/07/12/june-sat-scores-much-lower-than-expected/.

The takeaway for students and parents is that the June 2018 SAT test was too easy. As a result, the College Board psychometricians (a vocabulary word that will probably never appear on the SAT – it refers to experts on testing) used a very steep curve to avoid giving the same scores to everyone. This curve punished mistakes harshly. As the Compass article linked above points out:

Compare this to how the June SAT 2018 Math fits in among its fellow new SATs. A 650 could be achieved with 50 correct answers. That’s the lowest scaled score the new SAT has ever produced for 50 correct answers. The highest score it has produced for 50 correct answers on an actual, released exam is 740 points — a 90-point swing! So in its first two years, the new SAT has approximately doubled the extremes seen on the old SAT over 10 years and 4 times as many exams.

What will happen to those scores?  The College Board remains committed to the results of the test, going so far as to insist that the results were not “curved,” but “equated.”  Technically this may be correct, but the impact for many is that their scores on that test do not reflect their ability to score well on the “typical” SAT.

However, the furor surrounding this exam changes the usual calculation concerning when students should re-take a standardized test. Normally, students with two or more SAT (or ACT) results should not retake the exam except under two circumstances: 1) students are very confident that they will be able to improve their scores because they have now received extra time for a learning disability, were ill previously, or have put in more time in studying for the test (perhaps with help from a test-prep company); or 2) students absolutely need a higher score to stand a chance of being admitted to their “reach” schools.

The risk of taking the exam repeatedly is that some colleges require students to send all test results. For those colleges, there are several risks. First, the student may get unlucky and receive lower scores on the retake. Second, some of those colleges (e.g., Ivy League) frown on students taking the SAT or ACT multiple times. Finally, colleges tend to discount later scores as being due to the “practice effect”, i.e., students who are more familiar with the test typically post higher scores.

Some of these risks may be reduced for students who scored below their expectations on the June 2018 exam. Although colleges will probably not discard the June 2018 scores, the furor over the test means that they will consider those scores with an asterisk – they are more likely to accept later scores favorably.

If you are dissatisfied with your score on the June 2018 SAT, you should seriously consider retaking the test.

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