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Does the SAT Curve Really Exist? How the Scoring Actually Works?

Does the SAT Curves Really Exist How the Scoring Actually Works

Table of Contents

The College Board administers the SAT, which is a standardized test that is broadly recognized for admissions in the United States.

It is a three-hour-long multiple-choice test with two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The total score for the SAT is 1600

Maybe you’ve taken the test recently and you want to know whether your SAT score is ‘good’ or not. Or perhaps you’re yet to take the test and want to know what score to aim for. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

How do we determine what a good SAT score is? 

SAT curves do not exist meaning the score you receive will not be adjusted based on how the other students perform in their exam. A lot of students take different versions of the SAT tests hence making it difficult to compare the results and grade the students based on SAT curves.

At the end of the day, scoring based on SAT curves can be unfair sometimes as it limits students from achieving the top scores that they would have earned. Nevertheless, there is an SAT equation system that determines your final SAT score.

The equating system ensures that the score received for a test on one day is equivalent to the score received for the test on a different day which is basically a different version of the SAT test.

To get a better idea of how the SAT equating process works, let us revisit and understand the scoring system. Both Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Mathematics use a scale score of 200-800.

The composite score of both these subjects will be between a scale of 400-1600. Each question does not carry a single mark as there aren’t 1600 questions in the exam paper.

So, the scoring begins with calculating a raw score. This raw score is a sum of how many points you get from answering the questions correctly given that one point is given for every right answer.

For instance, in Mathematics, if you have answered 51 out of 58 questions right for one of the subjects, you would get 51 points as a raw score for the respective subject. The highest raw score that you would be able to achieve for this section is 58.

Therefore, this raw score is then converted to a math section score. On the contrary, for the EBRW section of the SAT, the raw score is calculated like it is done for math and then multiplied by 10 to give a section score. 

As a reminder, please note that the raw scores on one SAT will convert to the same section score on another SAT. The scores will not be similar. This difference is noticed due to the unique individual equating formulas the College Board has, for each SAT.

By doing so, one can never predict how the scaled scores would be from finding their raw SAT scores. Occasionally, one version of the test is said to be easier than another.

Therefore, a final score is calculated and scaled for each test individually based on a chart to avoid unfairness. The equating process is carried out in a way to ensure that all the scores can be fairly compared to the scores of the other versions of the test with no discrepancies. 

As for another example, you took the SAT once in May and once in October, and both times you received a score of 700 in the Mathematics sections.

However, in the first exam, you answered 17 questions wrong but in the second text, you answered 15 questions wrong. From this, the college would basically understand that the test that was taken first would have been a little more challenging than the second test.

Although, naturally you would believe you did better the second time since fewer questions were wrong. This only means that the scale that was used to mark the test was higher for the second SAT than the first one.

Education doesn’t just make us smarter. It makes us whole – Jill Biden

Also Read: What if your SAT score is under review?

Why is equating important?

  • The college board needs to be confident when they compare the SAT scores from an August 2017 exam and an October 2018 exam as it has to be equivalent. 
  • Another reason is that equating scores helps the college admissions board compare the scores of the students who’ve taken the test more than once.
  • They can notice the improvement between the first and second tests and notice the practice and effort that has been put in to take the subsequent tests. This could be a positive for students who have attempted the SAT multiple times.
  • Lastly, if you tend to skip questions in the SAT, you will not receive any negative marking. Therefore, there is nothing to be stressed about when it comes to guessing answers or skipping the questions.

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