ACT vs. SAT Smackdown
ACT and the College Board have started an unusually public fight about how scores on the new SAT compare with scores on the ACT.
The College Board published a concordance that maps from the new SAT scores to old SAT scores. Students have been getting higher scores on the new SAT than on the old SAT, as illustrated by this chart of the differences in scores (low end of each range). The new SAT scores are averaging about 70 points higher than the old SAT scores.
But the ACT complained because the College Board also included a mapping from the new SAT to the ACT. ACT criticized this concordance because it was produced without ACT’s involvement or the involvement of independent groups, as occurred in the development of the 2006 concordances. ACT also argued that a full year of test-taker data is needed to produce an accurate concordance, not just spring test results. Finally, ACT said that the College Board did not directly compare new SAT scores to ACT scores, but instead used “chained concordances” that mapped from the new SAT to the old SAT and from the old SAT to the ACT.
This chart shows the bottom of the ranges for old and new SAT scores versus the ACT, based on the College Board’s concordances.
The College Board says that it uses the equipercentile concordance method (how’s that for an SAT word!), which aligns percentile distributions of test scores, so that a student ranking at a particular percentile on the old test would rank at the same percentile on the new test. But, this method isn’t necessarily accurate if the student’s test-taking abilities improve from one test to the next or if the new test measures a different set of skills, as opposed to just being an easier test.
The College Board also doesn’t use the equipercentile concordance method for aligning SAT scores between different test administrations. Instead, a subset of questions are the same on successive SAT test administrations, to allow a direct comparison of performance between the two tests.
The College Board’s concordance between the ACT and the new and old SAT is illustrated by this table.
|ACT Composite Score||Old SAT Composite Score (Math and Critical Reading)||New SAT Composite Score|
This fight is really about market share. The ACT overtook the SAT in 2012 for the first time, becoming the more popular test. In 2014, 1.8 million students took the ACT, compared to 1.5 million taking the SAT. The SAT revamp moved the new SAT closer to the ACT than the old SAT.
The discordance matters for test-takers because which test they take can affect their chances of admission. Some colleges require a SAT score that is higher than the equivalent ACT score, and some require a lower SAT score.