Understanding The New SAT Concordance Tables

When the College Board’s concordance tables were released last week for the SAT, many breathed a sigh of relief.

Finally, the act to sat score conversion wouldn’t be so opaque. Then again, many were disappointed when the conversion tables seemed to make matters byzantine. And that’s no surprise: there are so many moving parts going on that really understanding how old scores convert with new scores is anything but easy.

To understand exactly what is going on, it’s good to start by understanding how the new SAT is scored.

SAT Reading + Writing

Unlike, the old SAT exam, in which reading and writing were counted as separate sections, the new test lumps the two scores together and gives them a total score of 800. (That’s why the test is now out of 1600 points.) Does the College Board take an average of the two scores? That’s the prevailing wisdom, but since the reading section has slightly more questions, this might not necessarily be the case.

What makes things even more confusing is when the two scores are lumped together (both are on a raw scale of 0-40), they don’t always add up to the same score on the 200-800 range. However, the concordance tables only give us the “lumped score” without giving us the exact score break down on the 10-40 scale.

SAT Math Scoring

Math on the new SAT, like the old test, is out of 800. Things, thankfully, aren’t nearly as confusing here. To get the total score for the new SAT, add up the 800 from the math and the 800 from the combined writing and reading, giving us 1600. Things do became a little inexact, though, when the composite score (adding reading/writing to math) is compared to the old test, as I’ll talk about next.

The Concordance Tables

The table that most people are looking at is the composite concordance table. That takes your score from the old SAT and tells you what it corresponds to on the new test, and vice versa. Seems straightforward. However, not all composite scores are created equal, giving us a range of possible scores when we convert from old to new, or from new to old.

For instance, let’s say a student got a 1200 on the new SAT. According to the composite table, this corresponds to a 1670. However, the exact breakdown between math and the two verbal sections can change that score significantly. A 500 math and a a 700 verbal corresponds to a 1770 on the old SAT, whereas a 700 math and a 500 verbal corresponds to a 1660 on the old SAT. Those are, of course, very different scores.

Now what?

Nobody knows exactly how a certain college admissions board will interpret this discrepancy, or whether the trend will be to favor the specific section score or to simply take the composite score.  

The intention of all this score complexity wasn’t to sow confusion. Rather, the College Board wanted to give colleges and universities as much information as possible. For instance, if you want to major in literature a school might actually look at your specific score on the reading section.

When determining your answer to “what’s a good SAT score?” — you’ll want to keep all these moving parts in mind, and consider your own special circumstances. That said, things will only get more complex when you try to convert new SAT scores to the ACT, because the scoring range is so different. But we’ll leave that for another post!

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