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New SAT Scoring Advantage

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Nov 18, 2016 8:00:00 PM

SAT General Info



While the new SAT is out of 1600 and the old SAT is out of 2400, the two aren't directly proportional; you can't just multiply your old SAT score by 2/3 and expect the result to be how you'd do on the new SAT.

The only way to know for sure how you'd do on the new test (besides taking the new SAT exam) is to use the College Board's data to convert your score from old to new SAT. To find out if you’d score higher on the new SAT and why that might be the case, read on!

feature image credit:Aspirational/used under CC BY 2.0/Resized from original.


What’s Changed About SAT Scoring?

College Board premiered the new SAT March 2016, with a new out-of-1600 scoring system that now gives one out-of-800 Math score and out-of-800 Reading score. The increased importance of Math to the overall SAT score isn’t all that’s changed, however; the difficulty of the individual sections appears to have shifted as well.

Based on data released by the College Board, a 700 on the old SAT Math isn’t the same as a 700 on the new SAT Math section, and a 700 on the old SAT Reading and 700 on SAT Writing isn't the same as a 700 on the new SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. Even after adjusting for the 1600/2400 change, it’s easier to get a higher score on the new SAT than it was on the old SAT, especially if you had an average score. The amount by which you’d score higher varies with your scoring range.



Old SAT Math vs. New SAT Math

The comparison for this section is pretty straightforward: based on the concordance tables released this spring by the College Board, there’s an average 29 point increase on the new SAT Math section compared to scores on the old version.

This average does not take into account number of people who score at each score point, however; you can’t expect score 30 points better no matter what your old SAT score was. The graph below sheds a little more light on the matter:


Here's an example of how the score difference between the old and new SAT Math sections works out: If you got a 730/800 on the old SAT Math section (shown as a black vertical bar in the graph above) and took the new SAT with exactly the same preparation and skills, you’d likely score a 760/800. If you scored around the national average of 510 on the old SAT Math section, you'd similarly expect to see a new SAT Math score of 540


Old SAT Reading/Writing vs. New SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Comparing old SAT Reading & Writing and new SAT Reading and Writing is a little trickier because reading and writing have been smushed into one score on the new SAT (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, or EBRW). The College Board has kindly provided concordance charts to help out with this calculation which show that you can still expect to see higher scores on the new SAT EBRW compared to the old SAT Reading and Writing section scores.

If the two tests were exactly equivalent, you’d expect that the combined old Reading and Writing section scores (a range of 400-1600) divided by two would be the same as the concorded new SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score (a range of 200-800), but this is not the case. Instead, students can expect to score between zero and sixty points better on EBRW than they would have on each of the Critical Reading and Writing sections on the old SAT. The graph below gives a more detailed look at how the score increases are distributed across old SAT combined Reading and Writing scores:



To put this graph in context, consider the following example: If you took the old SAT, got Critical Reading 700 and Writing 710 (a combined score of 1410, shown as a black vertical bar in the graph above), and took the new SAT with exactly the same preparation and skills, you could expect to score a 740/800 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. If you got around the national average old SAT scores of 500 on Reading and 480 on Writing, you could expect to score a 550 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing - a huge jump.


How Do the Changes to SAT Scoring Affect You?

The 2016-2017 school year is a unique time for college applications because colleges will be accepting both old and new SAT scores. Theoretically, schools have access to the concordance tools needed to compare old and new SAT scores and admissions officers will do their due diligence to understand that it’s easier to get higher scores on the new SAT. Schools won’t be superscoring between the old and new SAT, so it’s not like you can get a 760 Math on the new SAT and combine that with your Critical Reading and Writing scores from the old SAT for a higher superscore.

In practice, however, a SAT result of 510 Math/ 650 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing makes a better impression than 470 Math/590 Reading/590 Writing (even though according to the College Board’s concordance tables and its conversion tool, these scores are equivalent). Even after the old SAT has been phased out entirely from college applications, it will take admissions officers a little while to adjust and align their unconscious, split-second assessments of student scores with the new reality that more students will be getting higher scores on the SAT, and so a 760 isn't as impressive as it used to be.

Therefore, if you took the old SAT and scored in a range where you can expect to see at least a 20-point increase in nominal score, you should consider taking the new SAT to see if you can get a higher score. Add effective prep to that score increase, and you might very well be able to get a high enough score on the new SAT to step yourself over the threshold for acceptance for colleges previously just out of reach.

 feature_scoringadvantage.jpgReach/used under CC BY-SA 2.0/Resized from original.


What’s Next?

How long will colleges accept old SAT scores for? We go over whether it's better for the classes of 2017-18 to submit new or old SAT scores in this article.

How can you improve your SAT score? We’ve got fifteen great tips for SAT studying and score improvement here.

Want to double-check a specific score for yourself? Use our old to new SAT conversion tool.


Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points


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Laura Staffaroni
About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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