Here’s what we know:
The “score ranges” are relatively futile; the SAT simply takes a 60-point bracket above and below your actual score. For example, a 560 will come with a score range of “530 – 590.” This is supposedly the range that a student will score on her or his next test, however we know that this 60-point bracket is realistically 100 points or more on the plus side. Good coaching and preparation will typically move a student 50 – 100 points higher; Ivy Bound’s average exceeds 80 points or higher on each section.
The score ranges on the five subsections are simply two points above and below your 10 – 40 sub-scores. A student with a 24 in science, a newly added section, will see a range of 22 – 26. If a student who did not study for these types of questions receives a 24, that could very well be 30+ on the next test with the proper amount of preparation.
The sub-scores aren’t very important to colleges. These numbers will not influence admissions decisions, even if college admissions officers take the time to review them. The colleges are concerned with the three-digit numbers. These replicate the old scale of 200 – 800 for the Math and “Verbal” sections (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing).
In the past, a score of 500 represented the median. There were as many scores above the median as there were below. A 600 represented a score one standard deviation better than the median or in the top 16 percent, a 700 represented a score two standard deviations better or in the top 2.5 percent, and an 800 represented a score three standard deviations better or in the top 0.1 percent. Yes, that meant an 800 was not necessarily a “perfect score”, but a score better than 99.9 percent of all test takers.
Until the 1940s, the SAT was a more complex test, but students actually reported scores higher than 800, representing the truly rare group of individuals who scored four or five standard deviations above the median. However, the SAT chose to cut off top scores, and the hubris that might come with it, and let 800 represent the top reported score.
An 800 score in Math has typically been more common than an 800 score in Verbal. From the “benchmark scores” the SAT is now reporting, which look like rounded medians, the new SAT Math scales will yield significantly more 800s than Verbal. The benchmarks from the March SAT are 530 for Math and 480 for Verbal.
If these benchmarks are true medians, it means a 600 Verbal would equate to a 650, 660 or 670 in Math. 700 Verbal scores will be just as rare at 730 or 740 “Critical Reading” scores from the prior SAT.
The nationwide reports that will come for March testers have little meaning. March testers have traditionally been a stronger group, more resourceful and better prepared than others. However, this March, that strength was diluted by first-ever statewide SAT administrations. All public school students were commanded to take the SAT, irrespective of whether they were well-prepped, or bound for four years of college.
Until there is more reporting from the College Board, which administers the SAT, we won’t truly know how a student’s March scores “rate.” Indeed, it will take at least a year of SAT testing to standardize scores with the new test and new scales with the same precision as the old SAT.
For now, students know that their 610 is considered better than their peers who scored in the 500s on the same section. Students who scored at or below the benchmark will not likely be recruited by competitive colleges and students who scored 770+ will impress colleges in some way. Since almost all colleges super-score the SAT, meaning second and third tests never hurt you, all students receiving March scores short of 770 should plan to study more and test again.