The SAT Adversity Score

The CollegeBoard is rolling out an ‘Adversity Score,’ which is part of a larger rating system called the Environmental Context Dashboard that the CollegeBoard will include in test results it reports to schools. It has already been piloted by 50 colleges and universities, including Yale. The new score will be rolled out to 150 schools this year and then more widely in 2020. The goal is to contextualize a student’s score based on various environmental factors without looking at race.

How it works: the average score is 50. Higher scores indicate that the student may have encountered more disadvantages based on the quality of the student’s high school, the town’s crime rate, and the poverty level of the nearby area. The Adversity Score is separate from the SAT score.

Some people have concerns that the Adversity Score will diminish students’ chances at acceptance who come from safer neighborhoods and affluent backgrounds. Others take offense to the name “adversity score” as it may artificially label students in a way that might be found offensive.

Our takeaways:

When trying to understand the impact of this score, it’s good to understand why the SAT is offering the adversity score. Some high-profile colleges and universities are currently facing lawsuits that criticize the legality of their acceptance criteria as it relates to diversity. The importance being placed on SAT scores is also under similar scrutiny. The CollegeBoard’s Environmental Context Dashboard shows they are listening to these concerns. It is their way of offering a solution to help colleges while also keeping their tests relevant and an important factor in the admissions process.

“This score will be used to compare students to their peers,” says Curvebreakers Test Prep Owner Nick LaPoma, “making it all the more important that students prepare to be at the high end of scores from their local community.”

The bottom line is this: regardless of standardized test scores and environmental factors, every student has to demonstrate to colleges the same few things:

1) what makes the student unique
2) what makes the student a valuable addition to the school
3) why the student wants to go to that particular school.

Your opportunity to show colleges these things is through your application essays, GPA, extra curricular activities, and leadership roles. Remember, scores are only one aspect of acceptance. To help put it into perspective, you can check out our other blog, “The College Application – It’s not only about GPA & Test Scores.”

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (516) 728-1561 or chat with us online.

SAT Scaling: What to do when your SAT score doesn’t make sense

First, what is scaling? Scaling is a form of grading that is not based strictly on the percentage of correct answers (the way a typical school exam is graded). It is a process in which a raw score, or the number of questions a student answers correctly, is converted into a numerical value, for the SAT a number between 200-800. The SAT also uses a system of “equating” to ensure that scores from exam to exam are as “even” as they can be. That means that for tests they consider to be easier, a more challenging scale will be used and vice versa.

It is generally understood that the scales on the SAT are going to change minimally from exam to exam. This means that with the same number of correct answers, students can see minor fluctuations in each section score and differences in their total score of roughly 30 points. This is fairly normal. What is not normal are major deviations from the typical point benchmarks, which is what students have been experiencing on several of the recent SATs.

Concerned about your or your child’s SAT score? You don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to answer your questions and can recommend a course of action. Reach out to us at (516) 728-1561.

You may remember a public outcry after June 2018 scores were released, when several students ended up with higher raw scores and lower SAT scores! We have noticed a very similar trend with the past two SATs, and most dramatically with the December SAT exam. Students are answering several more questions correctly (upwards of 15 questions) and seeing minimal/no increases in score or even decreases in their score.

So what can we do? It seems that the biggest issues in scaling occur on the exams that do not get officially released by the SAT. Because the SAT repeats questions/passages, they do not release all of their exams. Of the 7-8 SATs administered yearly, 3 are released and offer a QAS (Question and Answer Service) report. For these exams, students can actually receive a copy of their test and review exactly which questions they answered incorrectly. These exams have the most consistent (and arguably the fairest) scales, which means these are the exams to take! They may be slightly more challenging exams, but there will be a significantly lower chance of getting thrown a curveball once scores are released.

The exams that the SAT is planning to release with QAS reports this year are March 9th, 2019 and May 4th, 2019.

If you took the December 2018 SAT exam and are not happy with your score, you can plan to take the March 2019 or May 2019 SAT exam. Not only do we expect to see reasonable scales that don’t deviate so drastically from the norm, but students will also be able to review their specific mistakes with the QAS report (an incredibly useful tool when prepping for a future exam).

For a personalized review of your child’s test score, contact our office at 516-728-1561 to make an appointment.

Related Posts
How Much Does your SAT/ACT Score Matter?
6 Differences Between the ACT and SAT
Why Taking Practice Tests Will Increase Your Score

The College Application – It’s not only about GPA & Test Scores

To help parents understand these changes and how they affect the college application process, Curvebreakers presents this third installment in our 3-part College Application Series:

The College Application – It’s not all about GPA & Test Scores

In Part 1 & 2, we discussed that SAT/ACT scores and GPA together make up approximately 60% of college’s acceptance decisions, which still leaves us with 40% remaining. That’s a huge portion, and it means there are significant parts of the college application that should not be overlooked. We’ll take a look at each section in the chart below and tell you what you need to know.

The Common Application Essay – 15%
This is how you show potential universities what you are all about. Tell schools about your passions, your motivations, your loves, your fears, and your life. This may be the most important part of your application besides the numbers. Many students struggle to hit the right tone here, so the advice of experts in this process can truly increase your chances of admission and help you put your best foot forward. Schools are looking to view a slice of your life from your own perspective. Be honest.

Supplemental Materials – 9%
Believe it or not, some students will have to write 20+ supplemental essays. Even mid-tier colleges ask for supplemental essays, some of which are very difficult. Do not overlook the importance of telling a school “why” you want to go there. With the increasing importance of demonstrated interest, these supplemental essays are another way to prove that you really care.

Demonstrated Interest – 6%
Demonstrated interest is the idea that students must show that they will attend a school if selected for admission. Yield rate, or the percentage of students that attend after acceptance, is one of the factors considered in US News and World Report rankings. Because of this important metric, schools want to be as certain as possible that the students accepted will attend. By demonstrating your interest in a school (calling for information, visiting, following up, reading emails, visiting web pages, and more) you will prove to be a better candidate. Don’t miss out on the intricate details of demonstrating interest in the digital age.

Course Rigor – 6%
Having a high GPA is great, but all colleges know that GPAs are more inflated now than ever before. They also know that many schools have both weighted and unweighted GPAs. Bolster your application by taking the rigorous courses your school provides – but make sure to strike a balance and not tank your GPA.

Recommendations – 2%
This one may be a shocker for parents who last applied for college prior to 2000: Recommendations have lost value to schools, mostly because they are self-serving and usually requested from the teachers that a student knows will write positive comments. Instead, schools have shifted their focus to a student’s demonstrated interest. Because of the sheer volume of recommendations included in the thousands of applications submitted to larger schools, it may not be worth the effort and some schools don’t even consider them. There is one exception, however. Smaller colleges are still likely to weigh their decision more heavily on recommendations.

Intangibles – 2%
Lastly, there may be something that allows you to make a special connection with a school that strikes a chord with an admissions counselor. Whenever possible, try to make personal connections with the school and emphasize the things about you that make you unique.

Is Early Decision a Good Decision for You?

Summer is wrapping up and back-to-school supplies are beginning to crowd store shelves. If you’re a senior stocking up for your last year of high school, though, you’ve got bigger decisions to make than simply which backpack will best withstand the weight of all your textbooks this year. College applications are right around the corner, and if you’ve been toying with applying early decision it’s time to start getting serious.

What Is Early Decision?

Early decision is an application option for students who are ready to commit to attending a specific school. Available at approximately 450 colleges and universities around the country, early decision is a binding agreement – if accepted, the student agrees to attend that school.

What does Early Decision Show the Admissions Department?

It is very simple – Early decision shows interest and commitment. One of the most important buzzwords for college admissions at the moment is what we call “demonstrated interest.” After your GPA, SAT/ACT Scores, college essays, and course rigor, demonstrated interest may be the deciding factor in acceptance or rejection. Basically, demonstrated interest relates to how many “touches” you have with a particular college such as visits, emails to the department, phone calls, follows on social media, and even down to website clicks. You are trying to make the college believe that you are truly interested in attending, and not just applying as a safety or because your friends applied. They want students to attend their school after acceptance. This metric (percentage of students that end up attending who are accepted) is called yield rate and is part of the US News and World Report Rankings system. In sum, applying early decision is one of the best ways to demonstrate the maximum interest in the college since the agreement is binding.

Further Advantages of Early Decision

If you’ve already done your research and are completely confident that a particular school is your number one choice, early decision offers a number of advantages besides demonstrating interest. First, it provides an accelerated schedule for getting through the time-consuming, emotionally-draining experience of applying to college. Early decision applications are usually due much earlier than other applications, generally as soon as November, and you’ll subsequently find out whether you were accepted to your dream school well before those applying on a conventional timeline.

This sped-up timeline results in another perk of early decision. Since you’ll generally be notified about whether or not you were admitted to your top choice while the regular application season is still on-going, if the answer is “yes,” you can dispense with both the cost and stress of completing any additional applications.

Finally, early decision applicants tend to enjoy a higher acceptance rate compared to their traditional timeline counterparts. Many colleges appreciate being able to start locking in qualified students early on and will take advantage of the fact that, unlike traditional applicants, early decision students won’t decline admission in favor of a different school. Statistics from 2015 suggest that Brown accepted roughly 20% of their early decision applicants and only about 7% of their total applicants, while Cornell accepted nearly 40% of their early decision applicants and only about 16% of their total applicants.

Disadvantages of Early Decision

The biggest downside of early decision is the inherent commitment it implies. Virtually the only acceptable reason for turning down an admissions offer from an early decision school is if the financial aid package makes it impossible to attend. Other downsides to early decision include losing the chance to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools and the impact earlier deadlines may have on your opportunities to improve either your GPA or test scores before applying. It is rare (but not impossible) to receive a scholarship offer applying early decision.

Who Should Seriously Consider Early Decision?

Early decision ultimately represents a great option for those who have already weighed their college options and have a clear first choice that is unlikely to change and who also have solid academics and scores that are also unlikely to improve given an additional semester’s worth of grades and test scores.

Unfortunately, students whose GPA/ACT/SAT scores do not meet the stated criteria for a school (meaning you are below the 25th percentile of incoming freshman) should NOT apply early decision, as you will probably be rejected considering the vast number of more qualified applicants coming down the pipeline of the college admissions process. In that instance you will be better served by making use of more traditional application options.

Your final year of high school is filled with difficult decisions. If you already know which college or university will make you the happiest, getting to work on an early decision application is one way to start simplifying the choices you’ll need to make down the road and reducing the stress of an inherently hectic season of life.

Need help with making this difficult decision? We help students every year carefully manage the application process. To find out more about the wide array of services we provide, give us a call at (516)728-1561.


ACT vs. SAT: Six Differences Between the Two Tests

The ACT and SAT are both recognized in the US as standardized tests for college admission. The exam measures the proficiency of high school students in several critical areas. These are Mathematics, Science, English, and Reading Comprehension. They might also include an essay writing section; however, it will not have any merit on your final score.

The scoring system used only considers the number of correct answers and does not penalize you for wrong answers. When applying for universities and colleges in the country, you can choose to take any of the two tests since schools recognize test scores from both tests. At this point, you are probably wondering how the two differ.

Below are six key differences between the ACT and SAT to help you decide which exam to take.

  • 1. The Science Section
  • One notable difference between the two tests is that the SAT has no separate Science Section. However, science questions do appear throughout the test. Your ability to understand scientific data and passages may be tested in the Math, Writing, and Reading sections. As for the ACT, the Science section makes up one-fourth of your overall ACT results. Therefore, if you’re knowledgeable in science, you may opt to take the ACT to increase your score.

  • 2. No Calculators Allowed – Math Subsection
  • The ACT allows you to use a calculator when answering all the Math questions. However, the SAT has a Math subsection that doesn’t allow the use of calculators. It consists of 20 questions and has a time limit of 25 minutes. If you’re not confident about solving Math questions sans calculator, you can choose to take the ACT. It is important to note, however, that all Math questions from the ACT and SAT can technically be solved without a calculator.

  • 3. Given Math Formulas
  • You should also know that the SAT gives some useful diagrams and formulas related to Geometry. This will be useful if you have a tendency to forget formulas necessary for solving the questions. These Math formulas can help increase your chances of getting a higher score.

  • 4. Fill-in Math Questions
  • You might also want to consider the fact that the SAT includes math questions that require you to fill in your own answer. There are 13 grid-in questions in the SAT Math section, which is about 22 percent of the Math section. If you prefer having multiple choices all the way, you can opt to take the ACT instead.

  • 5. Chronological and Evidence-Based Reading Comprehension
  • The SAT Reading section uses a chronological order when it comes to arranging the questions. The questions thus flow smoothly and would be easier to follow. However, do take note that most questions require you to cite specific paragraphs or lines you encountered in the passage.

  • 6. Essay Topic
  • Although the essay part is optional in both the SAT and ACT, the topic will usually be different for the two tests. For the ACT, the writing section will require you to read a short passage regarding a certain issue. You must analyze the various perspectives given on the issue and state your opinions accordingly. For the SAT, you are also given a short passage to analyze, but you cannot freely give your own opinion. The SAT requires you to have excellent reading comprehension skills for you to be able to examine what the author intended.

As aforementioned, the results from either test will be accepted by most admission boards. It would be a good idea to take both, but not everyone can afford to do so. If you find yourself in such a situation, the best thing to do would be the weigh which test is better suited for you.