All students have their PSAT scores back now and have likely figured out the new format and scoring system. Now that the dust has settled, some students are preparing for the first administration of the new SAT in March. The test has definite benefits for certain students, including those who a) struggle with the fast pace of the ACT, b) struggle with Geometry, or c) have taken a formal Statistics course.
Tutors have quickly realized, however, that PSAT scores appear to be significantly inflated from years past. The percentiles in particular have been very high, so much so that I have only seen one student who scored below the 50th percentile on any test section. While the following is just a conjecture, many in the tutoring community believe that PSAT scores came back artificially high to encourage test-takers to take the new SAT when it rolls out; these test-takers will feel like they are “doing better” on the new SAT.
The College Board has not yet released concordance tables between the old and new PSAT/SAT yet, so we don’t know how new scores line up with old ones. I am still encouraging some students to try the new SAT, but higher percentiles on the PSAT are not a reason to do so. Pick the test you are more comfortable with, and do not assume you know how a score on one test, particularly a real ACT, will convert to a score on the new SAT.
Although they have received much less fanfare, the ACT has also introduced some changes over the past couple years, most notably in the essay, a new version of which was introduced in September. Unfortunately, the introduction of the new essay has come with some inconsistencies in the scoring system as well; these have only recently been getting publicity.
Without going into the technical details, ACT essay scores were much lower than expected in the essay’s first few administrations – many students who were good writers with high English scores received very low essay scores. Recently, news has come out that some students appealed their essay scores and received score bumps of as many as twelve points (on a 36-point scale). Such changes were very surprising because they indicate just how far off the ACT essay graders might have been in the first rounds of scoring the new essay.
Please be aware that you can have your essay rescored for $50, and if ACT does change the essay score, then you get your $50 back. If you think you may have received an incorrect score on your ACT essay, consider this option.