New SAT – How Hard is It?

blogging in hawaii
Yup, I wrote this blog while vacationing in Hawai’i

Earlier this August, the College Board released raw score to scaled score conversion charts for the redesigned SAT, giving the world the final piece of the puzzle to the structure, format, and scoring of this, the newest version of the SAT. With this last nugget of information, we in the test prep world can begin to comprehensively understand how (whether) the redesign will impact student performance. If you, like me, have been following the trail of breadcrumbs released by the College Board since the March 5th of 2014 announcement, finally having a conversion chart is like opening your last gift on Christmas morning (and yeah I mean both that feeling of disappointment when you get a sweater or socks and that feeling of excitement when you get your brand new Atari).

So with the release of the conversion chart (ostensibly after exhaustive beta testing, research, calibrating, and equating by the College Board), we finally have official word on how raw scores will be converted to scaled scores and how many questions you’ll need to answer correctly in order to get the score you want. Let’s look at what we know so far and how the new SAT and old SAT compare. Specifically, let’s investigate how “difficult” it is to get a 500 math score on either test. Why 500? Because 500 is the approximate median score on the current SAT and very likely the median score on the redesigned SAT. Additionally 500 is the much ballyhooed college readiness benchmark which College Board seems hell bent on trying to convince us there is causation with success in college. Anyway let’s dive right in.



To get a 500 on the redesigned SAT a test-taker will have to achieve a raw score of 24 out of a maximum possible 58 raw score points. Since the new SAT uses a simple scoring system awarding 1 raw point for each question correctly answer and with no wrong answer penalty, getting a raw score of 24 simply means answering 24 questions correctly (or answering fewer than 24 and guessing the remaining questions correctly, but in this comparison we won’t factor in random guessing and luck). So on the redesigned test to get a 500, the likely median score, a test-taker will have to answer correctly approximately 41% of the questions.

Current SAT

Conversely on the currently, to get a 500 a test-taker has to achieve a raw score of 25 (out of the maximum possible raw score of 54). This means that a test-taker will have to a get between 46% and 57% of the questions correct. Because the current SAT takes off a quarter point for each incorrect response the scoring is more complex and there are 23 different ways a test-taker could get a 25.

All 23 ways to get a 500 on the current SAT

The verdict is…

When you take into account the greater accuracy level required and the complexity of the scoring system, getting an average score on the current form of the SAT seems to be harder than it will be on the redesigned SAT. So when we look at the scoring system one has to say that the new SAT is going to make it easier for a student to get a score that indicates “college readiness.” Now, if only the content is easier on the redesigned test as well… but that’s another vacation’s writing entirely.