SAT and ACT Release 2018 Concordance Charts
Without much fanfare, the College Board and ACT have released their long-awaited SAT/ACT concordance charts. Read on to learn what this means and how it affects students in the future.
Standardized tests provide admissions committees with a quantitative, fine-grained way to compare students against one another. This is all well and good if all applicants take the same test, but that’s not the reality of college admissions. All US schools that accept the ACT for admissions purposes also accept the SAT. Given that they’re very different tests, how do admissions offices compare the ACT’s compact 1-36 scale with the SAT’s broader 400-1600 scale?
Enter the SAT-ACT Concordance 2018
We’ve created a visual concordance table that is available for download here:
Concordance tables bridge the gap between the scales, providing a guide to link equivalent scores. They’re not only essential for admissions staff, but also for students and families to help decide which test is the best choice. The newest concordance tables were released in 2018, replacing the highly contested tables that were posted by the College Board, without input from ACT, in 2016.
The range of possible SAT scores that a student can achieve is much wider than the range of possible ACT scores. There are only 36 distinct score possibilities on the ACT, whereas there are 120 possibilities for the SAT, a test which increments its scores by 10 points between 400 and 1600.
This means that the concordance table needs to assign a range of SAT scores that match a given ACT score.
How Different are the 2016 vs. 2018 Concordance Tables?
Considering how ACT protested against the College Board’s 2016 tables, most of us in the testing industry were anticipating a more extreme difference. The truth is, when comparing the 2016 and 2018 concordances, the adjustments are not very dramatic. We’ve included a comparison chart below, which is available for download here. Next, we will discuss some of the most important differences.
- For the highest scores on the scale, we see that the top SAT scores have become more valuable in comparison to ACT scores. For instance, a 1540 on the SAT is now considered equal to a 35 on the ACT. Previously, concordance charts had linked the SAT’s 1540 with a 34 on the ACT.
- For the lowest scores on the scale, the bottom SAT scale scores have become less valuable in comparison to ACT scores. A clear example of this is at the SAT score of 590. While this was previously equated to an 11 on the ACT, this score is now linked to a 9, dropping its value by two points.
- Near the middle of the score ranges (21-24 for ACT, 1060-1190 for SAT) the concordances did not change at all.
The College Board and ACT broadcasted a webinar on Tuesday, June 19th to explain the concordance charts to the public. If you missed the memo, there’s an online sign-up for future talks available here.
What Does This Mean for Students?
The truth is, the new concordances do not change much for students when it comes to college admission. Most schools use test scores as a small part of their overall admittance process, so this minor adjustment will not make waves.
However, the new concordance information does have the potential to affect minimum scores for merit scholarships or programs that require clear-cut SAT or ACT score ranges. It is likely that the response will be mixed: some institutions will adjust their required ranges, while others will just stick with their established status quo.
Our advice for students starting test prep does not change: if you are deciding between the ACT and SAT, it is still important to take a full-length practice test for each. When you have completed both tests, compare your scores against the 2018 concordance chart. If your SAT and ACT scores are comparable, you should choose whichever test you preferred. If one score is significantly higher, opt for that test, instead.
The new concordance tables do not change the process of selecting a test. However, they do help to standardize how students, guidance counselors, and admissions committees compare test scores.
How were SAT-ACT Concordance Tables Created?
The College Board and ACT are fairly (well… extremely) secretive about their test data. In order to create accurate concordances, the rival companies had to work together in a rare showing of collaboration. The last time that they released a joint concordance chart was in 2009, a time when the SAT had a vastly different scoring structure out of 2400 total points as opposed to today’s 1600. The testing giants finally released an updated concordance chart in June 2018.
Here’s how the 2018 ACT / SAT concordance study worked:
- The testing companies compiled a group of 589,753 students who took both the ACT and SAT tests between February 2016 and June 2017. All of these students would be graduating seniors in 2017.
- Scores from these students were adjusted statistically (aka “weighted”) to account for certain variables. The purpose of this was to make sure that the pool of student data would reflect the group of students who would actually take one, or both, exams in the real world.
- After adjusting the data, concordance tables were created by assigning equivalent scaled scores based on percentile rank. For instance, achieving the 70th percentile on a test means that you scored better than, or equal to, 70% of the total test-takers you are being compared against. The higher your percentile, the more competitive your score. Students who achieved a certain percentile rank for one test were matched with those who received the same percentile rank on the other test, so this ensures that the charts give a more dependable comparison between the SAT and ACT.
The concordance charts help to standardize the process of deciding between the SAT and ACT by ensuring a single source of truth. To be sure which test shows you in the most competitive light, take both exams and compare the scores using this new chart.
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