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.
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.