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10/3/2017 9:53:00 AM
Points of contention: SAT creates confusion since 2nd overhaul of scoring

Allen Laman, Herald

Nearly two years after an overhaul of the SAT scoring system and test design, a local guidance counselor says some parents and students are still confused as to how scores measure up and what they mean for the teens’ lives after high school.

The SAT is an entrance exam created by the nonprofit College Board and used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. Students typically take the exam during their junior and senior years of high school.

The total number of points obtainable on the test reverted from 2,400 to 1,600 in March 2016. And while most of the kids who took the old, 2,400-point test have since graduated, transition issues still linger.

Jasper High School guidance counselor Sean Jochum said that some colleges have not released the average SAT score of students they have admitted with the new test, making it difficult for counselors to share admission requirements with current high school students who are exploring college options.

“Without having an average test score to compare with their score it is hard to have a conversation with the student about which colleges have an admission criterion that matches their academic performance,” Jochum said in an email Thursday, noting later that he thinks colleges simply haven’t had time to compile some admission data based on the new test

He also said that the criteria for many scholarship applications hasn’t been adjusted since the SAT scoring modifications, which can create more confusion for applicants who don’t know if the applications are referencing new format or old format scores.

“That’s the biggest thing — they still are on the old format and they haven’t updated anything to the new test scores yet,” Jochum said.

On top of that, Jochum said Jasper recently received an annual report from the nonprofit College Board that contains information about how the school’s students performed on the test during the 2015-16 school year.

He said the report compared Jasper students to other test-takers in Indiana and across the country, but said because some students took the old test and some took the new test that year, the data in the report doesn’t give counselors a clear snapshot of how their kids are scoring compared to their peers. He said it’s a valuable benchmark that has been missing since the switch of tests.

Jochum noted that after this year, all students will have only taken part in the new testing format and much of the confusion will be eliminated.

“It has been a little confusing for students and parents but I don’t think this situation has negatively impacted any of our students and that is what we are most concerned with,” Jochum said. “It was much, much more of a problem last year, and it really came down to the two different scores on the transcript. We don’t really have much of an issue with that anymore.”

In addition to dropping the total number of points, the new SAT ditched the infamous guessing penalty — takers would lose one-quarter of a point if they answered a multiple choice question incorrectly — and made the essay portion of the test optional.

According to an Indianapolis Star story from early July, nearly 1,000 public and private accredited institutions across the country have made the SAT and ACT — another entrance exam used by most colleges ­­­— optional for admission consideration or have a flexible test policy.

Some don’t use the scores at all, the Star reported, while others utilize them as a guide for student placement or academic advising. Other colleges may require the scores, but only consider them when an applicant does not meet a minimum GPA or class rank standard.

The test originally shifted from 1,600 points to 2,400 points in 2005.

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