My New SAT Score — Better than the Old?

Student filling out answers to a test with a pencil.

Making sense of new SAT scoring

You just received your new SAT scores and you also have old SAT scores from last Fall. Now what? How do you know which scores are better? Good news! The College Board has an online score conversion tool that makes it easy to compare the scores. The tool is available online and there is a mobile app as well.

You can convert your new SAT scores to old SAT scores or your old SAT scores to new SAT scores.  This helps determine which set of scores is actually higher. Remember, the old SAT was out of 2400 points, and the new SAT is out of 1600. The new SAT covers all SATs administered in March 2016 or later.

Let’s see an example of how we can use the converter.

What’s my old SAT score worth now?

Sarah has two sets of SAT scores, one set from the Fall of 2015 and one set from the recent May 2016 exam. The breakdown of her scores is as follows:

Critical Reading Writing Math Evidence Based Reading/Writing Total Score
Old SAT – Fall 2015 620 700 650 1970
New SAT – Spring 2016 660 670 1330

To compare her scores, Sarah uses the College Board’s SAT score conversion app to convert her old scores into new SAT scores. She enters her section scores from the old SAT exam as shown below.

IMG_4923 IMG_4924

Whoa! Her converted total score from the old SAT is 1390. That’s higher than her total score for the new SAT, which is 1330. What does this mean? If Sarah is applying to colleges that use Score Choice, and she only needs to send her single best test score, she should send her old SAT score. But be careful! Some colleges require students to submit all of their test scores so it is important to check each college’s website to determine their individual policy on score reporting.

You may have noticed that her converted section scores add up to 1370, not to her converted total score of 1390. No worries! This happens frequently with the score converter and has to do with the process the College Board uses to convert the scores. The two tests are different so it isn’t possible to compare the tests perfectly — apples and oranges, anyone? And, remember this tool gives you a reasonable estimate of comparable scores on the two tests. It isn’t perfect. In this case, Sarah can know that colleges will see her old SAT score as somewhere between 1370-1390 in new SAT terms.

How does my new SAT score stack up?

You may notice that the College Board online and mobile converters also allow you to convert your new SAT scores to old SAT scores. You might wonder, why would I want to do that? Great question! Suppose you are interested in a particular college. Are your SAT scores high enough to give you a good chance of being admitted to that school?

Most schools report on their website what’s called the middle 50% of SAT/ACT scores of their first-year students. Right now, the middle 50% is a statistic that is based on old SAT scores since the class of 2019 took the old SAT. If you want to know if your new SAT score is competitive with a certain college’s SAT profile, it would be useful to find your comparable old SAT score to see where you fall in the range of that college’s most recently enrolled students. Make sense? Let’s look at an example.

Suppose a certain college publishes middle 50% SAT test scores of 1950 to 2150. This means 50%, or half, of all first-year students had SAT scores between 1950 and 2150. Then, 25% scored below 1950 and another 25% scored above 2150.

Jackie’s new SAT total score is 1310 — 620 on the evidence based reading/writing section and 690 on the math section. She wants to know how this compares to students accepted by this college. She uses the SAT conversion tool and enters her new SAT scores. To convert her new SAT scores to old SAT scores, she will need her individual test scores for the three components: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. These three test scores are between 10 and 40. She enters her new SAT test scores (32, 30 and 34.5) into the converter. Here are her results:IMG_4925

Her total converted score is 1840, which is lower than the middle 50% for this college. Perhaps this is a reach school for Jackie. When she applies, she’ll want to emphasize the strength of her grades and rigor of the courses she chose in order to show admissions that she’s ready for the academics. It is always important to keep in mind that standardized test scores are just one part of the whole picture. Be careful not to base your entire college application strategy on just standardized tests.

The score converter also allows you to convert your SAT scores to ACT scores. This can be particularly useful. Be warned — for the English/Writing score, the converter is only accurate for ACT exams taken prior to September 2015. If you are graduating in 2017, you likely did not take the ACT exam that early! The score converter is still a good comparison between your overall SAT score and the composite ACT score.

Most colleges will accept scores from both the old SAT and the new SAT. The College Board has provided what are called concordance tables to colleges. These tables allow colleges to compare old SAT scores to new SAT scores. The colleges will use these tables to help make admissions decisions. The score converter tool we’ve been showing you is built using these tables.

Remember, if you took both the old SAT and the new SAT, once you have compared the scores so you know which scores are better, confirm that the college(s) you are interested in uses Score Choice. If not, you may need to submit both sets of scores.

What are all these other scores?

Some final words on the SAT scores. You may have noticed that there is no shortage of information on the score report you received from the new SAT. Almost as dense as War and Peace, right? What do all these scores mean? Don’t fret. The main thing to keep in mind is that your total score, your evidence-based reading/writing score, and your math score are the three most important scores. Everything else is just gravy.

SAT overall scores

(Note: above and following images taken from the College Board’s “Understanding Your Score” video on youtube.com.)

Here is a brief summary of the other components of your score report.

The RedYellowGreen coding on score reports:

SAT test scores

The SAT uses the color coding to give students and educators a quick visual of whether the student is reaching benchmarks the College Board has deemed appropriate for each grade level. In the above example, the student falls into the yellow range for each of the three test scores. The yellow range indicates the student is approaching the benchmark for his grade but hasn’t reached it yet. In other words, there is some work to be done! As you may have guessed, the green range indicates a student has met or exceeded the benchmark and the red range indicates the student needs to strengthen his skills.

Cross-test scores

Cross-test scores SAT

If you have taken the new SAT already, you probably noticed that several of the questions in all sections were history/social studies based or science based. There is a reason for that! The new SAT takes those specific questions and calculates two subject scores based on your command of these topics. This is essentially a clever way that the SAT can test and score other subjects as well, without having to add entire sections to the test.

Subscores

Just in case you still don’t have enough detail, the SAT also provides a rather large set of subscores, as shown below. These subscores further break down particular skills. While this may seem like way too much information, knowing your strengths and weaknesses is enormously helpful if you intend to take the test again and want to increase your score.

subscores SAT

For example, certain questions in the math test are “Heart of Algebra” questions. These questions are scored separately to show your command of algebra. In the above example, the student received a subscore of 10 in the Heart of Algebra section. This falls in the yellow range which means the student could definitely fine tune his algebra skills.

In the above example, most of the scores fall within the yellow or yellow/red range, indicating that the student doesn’t have any obvious strengths or weaknesses. On the other hand, if a student’s subscores fall within the green range for all but one or two categories, this information can be very useful in targeting weaknesses so students can better prepare.

Percentiles

Your score report also includes percentile rankings. These are particularly useful statistics in giving you an idea of how you scored when compared with your peers. For example if your math score was at the 95th percentile, this means you scored better than 95% of the test-takers! That’s pretty good, right?

Percentiles give you a way to better understand your test scores. For example, say you got 620 in Math and 600 in Writing. The Math score looks higher, but actually your Writing score of 600 is the 82nd percentile (meaning you scored better than 82% of your peers), whereas your 620 in Math is the 80th percentile. Your 600 Writing score is actually more rare, within your peer group, than your 620 Math score!

Optional essay

The essay on the SAT is scored on a scale of 2-8 in reading, analysis, and writing. The essay score is NOT included in the overall test scores. It is reported separately.

Now you know more about what all the SAT scores mean! Our free app, Prep4SAT, can help you target the sections and subsections you need to strengthen on the new SAT!

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