When the College Board returned to the old 1600 SAT scale, many felt as if order was restored to the universe. But the revised SAT introduced more than just the familiar scale. The current test provides more score information than ever before, including subscores and cross-test scores.
Why the SAT added all these extra performance measurements may not, at first or even second glance, be clear. Sure, the ACT includes subscores and something like cross-test scores, but the extra data doesn’t seem to influence admissions decisions. Much of the time, schools can’t even be bothered to look at essay scores, so why would subscores matter?
Consider today’s SAT a multipurpose tool. Of course, the test remains an influential college admissions test. But the College Board has charted a course towards the lucrative state testing market as well. When the organization redesigned the SAT, they had K–12 educators and counselors firmly in mind. The new test, in the test maker’s own words, “offers clearer connections to classroom instruction, its questions and tasks more closely resembling the best of classroom teaching and better measuring the powerful knowledge, skills, and understandings needed in postsecondary education, work, and life.” The College Board delivers granular data concerning these connections through the new scores.
An interesting, if somewhat contrived, addition to SAT score reports is the inclusion of two cross-test scores.
- Analysis in History/Social Studies
- Analysis in Science
Cross-test scores show how well students apply reading, writing, language, and math skills to analyze texts and solve problems in these respective subject areas. These scores, reported on a scale from 10-40, are derived from questions on every section of the SAT. The bulk of the questions (21) for each cross-test score appear on the Reading Test, but 6 Writing questions and 8 Math questions also contribute to each score.
The SAT now reports multiple subscores on a 1-15 scale for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Two of these are calculated from both verbal sections, while five others are section-specific.
Words in Context
10 Reading questions, 8 Writing questions
Vocabulary may be less important than ever on the SAT, but that doesn’t mean words don’t matter. The new SAT words are neither highly obscure nor specific to any one domain, but instead words and phrases whose specific meaning and rhetorical purpose are derived in large part through the context in which they are used.
Command of Evidence
10 Reading questions, 8 Writing questions
The new name for the verbal portion of the overall SAT score–Evidence-based Reading and Writing or EBRW–may be a mouthful but fairly represents the renewed dedication to understanding the explicit and implicit information in a passage. SAT Reading requires students to both interpret text and back up their interpretation by citing the most relevant textual support. SAT Writing asks them to revise a text to improve its development of information and ideas, based entirely on a solid grasp of the content of the passage.
Expression of Ideas
24 Writing questions
What the ACT has traditionally called Rhetorical Skills play a much stronger role in the revised SAT Writing section. Questions in this domain focus on revision of text for topic development, accuracy, logic, cohesion, and rhetorically effective use of language.
Standard English Conventions
20 Writing questions
The SAT continues to emphasize sound grammar mechanics, testing students’ mastery of the conventions of standard written English in terms of sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.
Heart of Algebra
19 Math questions
SAT Math now emphasized algebra, particularly the aspects that are most essential for success in college and careers, such as analyzing, solving, and graphing linear equations, systems of equations, and inequalities.
Problem Solving and Data Analysis
The SAT has always prioritized problem solving over mere calculation ability. This subscore is concerned with the ability to create a representation of a problem, consider the units involved, attend to the meaning of quantities, proportional relationships, and percentages, and know and use different properties of operations and objects.
Passport to Advanced Math
Problems in this domain assess topics that have great relevance and utility for college and career work, such as the ability to analyze, manipulate, and rewrite algebraic, quadratic, and other nonlinear expressions.