Tag Archives: test scores

No matter what how the current SAT or ACT is scored, its score scale is arbitrary. Understanding the difference between a 200-800 SAT score and a 1-36 ACT score can drive a person crazy. That’s why percentiles matter so much. Every SAT and ACT section score is based off a raw score which is then converted to a scaled score based on a larger testing cohort. Any score report will include both scaled scores and percentile ranks. And, really, the only way to understand the value of the former is to consider the latter. For any given score, your percentile or percentile rank describes what percentage of the testing population you scored higher than. For example, a score in the 70th percentile is higher than 70% of all the scores for that population. When it comes to test scores, the higher the percentile, the better you are doing! Students prepping…

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“If you work hard and you do your best, you can do anything.” “If you try to do your best there is no failure.” “You can only do your best. That’s all you can do. And if it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough.”   Parents always exhort their children to do their best, invoking effort as the ultimate signal of commitment. And seeing our kids pour themselves fully into the challenge at hand fills us with pride; no matter the outcome, we say, they did their best… And yet, when dedication diverges from success, praise for “doing your best” can feel like a consolation prize. At the upper levels of achievement, doing your best is simply the price of entry, rather than a guarantee of victory. Seth Godin, as usual, sums up the problem with effort alone quite nicely: “By defining “our best” as the thing we did…

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The term ‘mulligan’ is well-known (and often well-used) by golfers to describe a do-over in response to a particularly atrocious or unlucky stroke. Mulligan has, over time, become a generic term for a second chance to perform an action marred by misfortune or ineptitude. The option of Score Choice for both SAT and ACT, along with the proliferation of superscoring in college admissions offices, has opened the door to millions of mulligans, where students have no reason NOT to take the test again. But rarely do we see a do-over triggered by the test-maker’s failures. Students who sat for the June 6 SAT know all about how a tiny misprint in a test booklet can cause major test day chaos. The College Board has assured us that the scores from that compromised test will be valid, even with the exclusion of sections 8 and 9. But even if they are,…

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Often, we focus so much on high stakes tests that we fail to recognize them merely as intermediate steps to a larger goal. The SAT and ACT, for example, matter quite a lot, but mainly only for students striving for their choice of four-year college. And while we sometimes miss the big picture, the test makers always keep that test-to-college connection firmly in view. This, in a nutshell, explains why ACT, Inc. provides ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The College Readiness Benchmarks are the minimum scores in each section of the ACT associated with a 50% chance of earning a B or better and approximately a 75% chance of earning a C or better in the corresponding college course or courses. ACT English is associated with introductory English Composition classes. The ACT Benchmark for English is a scale score of 18, which is 39th percentile. ACT Math is associated with College…

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Success, both in tests and life, comes one small step at a time. Unfortunately, these increments of achievement can sometimes seem smaller than they really are, which leads us to overlook their impact. Evaluating ACT scores reminds us of how deceiving certain scores can be. Today, the ACT is taken by more students than the SAT. Yet, amazingly, people still don’t quite understand how to interpret ACT scores. The problem lies in that weird constricted range: SAT section scores span a full 600 points from 200-800 while ACT section and composite scores cover 36 meager scaled score points. Consequently, test takers can see hundreds of points of improvement from one SAT to another (with the right preparation, naturally), but ACT test takers must content themselves with 2 or 3-point score increases. Which one sounds more impressive? The SAT/ACT Bell Curve But the ACT scale deceives us, diminishing the accomplishment an…

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