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This article is about the college admission test in the

United States. For the exams in England colloquially
known as SATs, see National Curriculum assessment.
For other uses, see SAT (disambiguation).

school grades alone, as measured by college freshman

GPA. Various studies conducted over the lifetime of the
SAT show a statistically signicant increase in correlation
of high school grades and college freshman grades when
the SAT is factored in.[10] A large independent validity
study on the SATs ability to predict college freshman
GPA was performed by the University of California. The
results of this study found how well various predictor variables could explain the variance in college freshman GPA.
It found that independently high school GPA could explain 15.4% of the variance in college freshman GPA,
SAT I (the SAT Math and Verbal sections) could explain 13.3% of the variance in college freshman GPA,
and SAT II (also known as the SAT subject tests; in the
UCs case specically Writing, Mathematics IC or IIC,
plus a third subject test of the students choice) could
explain 16% of the variance in college freshman GPA.
When high school GPA and the SAT I were combined,
they explained 20.8% of the variance in college freshman
GPA. When high school GPA and the SAT II were combined, they explained 22.2% of the variance in college
freshman GPA. When SAT I was added to the combination of high school GPA and SAT II, it added a .1%
increase in explaining the variance in college freshman
GPA for a total of 22.3%.[11]

The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college

admissions in the United States. It was rst introduced
in 1926, and its name and scoring have changed several times, being originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, then
the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning
Test, and now simply the SAT.
The SAT is owned and published by the College Board,
a private, nonprot organization in the United States. It
is developed and administered on behalf of the College
Board by the Educational Testing Service.[3] The test is
intended to assess a students readiness for college. It is
designed to not be aligned to high school curriculum.[4]

The current SAT, introduced in 2016, takes 3 hours to

nish plus 50 minutes for the SAT with essay, and as
of 2014 costs US$52.50 (up to US$101.5 outside of the
United States), excluding late fees.[5] Possible scores on
the SAT range from 400 to 1600, combining test results
from two 800-point sections: Mathematics and Critical
reading and Writing. Taking the SAT or its competitor, There are substantial dierences in funding, curricula,
the ACT, is required for freshman entry to many, but not grading, and diculty among U.S. secondary schools due
all, universities in the United States.[6]
to U.S. federalism, local control, and the prevalence of
On March 5, 2014, the College Board announced that a private, distance, and home schooled students. SAT (and
redesigned version of the SAT would be administered for ACT) scores are intended to supplement the secondary
the rst time in 2016. The exam reverted to the 1600- school record and help admission ocers put local data
point scale, the essay was made optional, and students such as course work, grades, and class rankin a na[12]
now have 3 hours to take the exam plus 50 additional min- tional perspective. However, independent research has
shown that high school GPA is better than the SAT at preutes to complete the essay.[7]
dicting college grades regardless of high school type or


Historically, the SAT was more widely used by students

living in coastal states and the ACT was more widely used
by students in the Midwest and South; in recent years,
however, an increasing number of students on the East
and West coasts have been taking the ACT.[14][15] Since
2007, all four-year colleges and universities in the United
States that require a test as part of an application for admission will accept either the SAT or ACT, and hundreds
of colleges and universities do not require any standardized test scores at all for admission.[16][17]

The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and

seniors.[8] The College Board states that the SAT measures literacy and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college. They state that the SAT assesses
how well the test takers analyze and solve problems
skills they learned in school that they will need in college.
However, the test is administered under a tight time limit
(speeded) to help produce a range of scores.[9]
The College Board also states that use of the SAT in combination with high school grade point average (GPA) provides a better indicator of success in college than high


Senior Class of 2006

SAT vs. ACT Preference Map

19 sentence-completions in the reading sections.

2.1 Critical Reading

test takers
more ACT takers

More senior ACT test takers

This map of the United States shows the states in which (blue
color) more seniors in the class of 2006 took the SAT than the
ACT, and the states in which (red color) more seniors took the
ACT than the SAT.
Senior Class of 2015
SAT vs. ACT Preference Map

test takers
more ACT takers

More senior ACT test takers

This map of the United States shows the states in which (blue
color) more seniors in the class of 2015 took the SAT than the
ACT, and the states in which (red color) more seniors took the
ACT than the SAT.

The Critical Reading section of the SAT is made up of

three scored sections: two 25-minute sections and one
20-minute section, with varying types of questions, including sentence completions and questions about short
and long reading passages. Critical Reading sections normally begin with 5 to 8 sentence completion questions;
the remainder of the questions are focused on the reading passages. Sentence completions generally test the students vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure and organization by requiring the student to select
one or two words that best complete a given sentence.
The bulk of the Critical Reading section is made up of
questions regarding reading passages, in which students
read short excerpts on social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, or personal narratives and answer questions
based on the passage. Certain sections contain passages
asking the student to compare two related passages; generally, these consist of shorter reading passages. The
number of questions about each passage is proportional
to the length of the passage. Unlike in the Mathematics section, where questions go in the order of diculty,
questions in the Critical Reading section go in the order
of the passage. Overall, question sets near the beginning
of the section are easier, and question sets near the end
of the section are harder.

2.2 Mathematics


SAT consists of three major sections: Critical Reading,

Mathematics, and Writing. Each section receives a score
on the scale of 200800. All scores are multiples of 10.
Total scores are calculated by adding up scores of the
three sections. Each major section is divided into three
parts. There are 10 sub-sections, including an additional
25-minute experimental or equating section that may
be in any of the three major sections. The experimental section is used to normalize questions for future administrations of the SAT and does not count toward the
nal score. The test contains 3 hours and 45 minutes of
actual timed sections;[18] most administrations (after accounting for orientation, distribution of materials, completion of biographical sections, and fteen minutes of
timed breaks) run for about four and a half hours. The
questions range from easy, medium, and hard depending on the scoring from the experimental sections. Easier questions typically appear closer to the beginning of
the section while harder questions are toward the end in
certain sections. This is not true for every section (the
Critical Reading section is in chronological order) but it
is the rule of thumb mainly for math, grammar, and the

x +2y =17
2x + 3y = 29


If (x, y) is the solution

to the system above,
what is the value of 1
x + y?




An example of an SAT grid-in math question and the correctly

gridded answer.

The Mathematics section of the SAT is widely known

as the Quantitative Section or Calculation Section. The
mathematics section consists of three scored sections.



There are two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute sec- 2.3
tion, as follows:
One of the 25-minute sections is entirely multiple


The writing portion of the SAT, based on but not directly comparable to the old SAT II subject test in writing
(which in turn was developed from the old Test of Standard Written English (TSWE)), includes multiple choice
questions and a brief essay. The essay subscore contributes about 28% to the total writing score, with the
multiple choice questions contributing 70%. This section
was implemented in March 2005 following complaints
from colleges about the lack of uniform examples of a
students writing ability and critical thinking.

The other 25-minute section contains 8 multiple

choice questions and 10 grid-in questions. For gridin questions, test-takers write the answer inside a
grid on the answer sheet. Unlike multiple choice
questions, there is no penalty for incorrect answers
on grid-in questions because the test-taker is not limThe multiple choice questions include error-identication
ited to a few possible choices.
questions, sentence-improvement questions, and
paragraph-improvement questions. Error-identication
The 20-minute section is all multiple choice, with and sentence-improvement questions test the students
16 questions.
knowledge of grammar, presenting an awkward or grammatically incorrect sentence; in the error identication
section, the student must locate the word producing the
The SAT has done away with quantitative comparison source of the error or indicate that the sentence has no
questions on the math section, leaving only questions with error, while the sentence improvement section requires
symbolic or numerical answers.
the student to select an acceptable x to the awkward
sentence. The paragraph improvement questions test the
students understanding of logical organization of ideas,
New topics include Algebra II and scatter plots.
presenting a poorly written student essay and asking a
These recent changes have resulted in a shorter,
series of questions as to what changes might be made to
more quantitative exam requiring higher level mathbest improve it.
ematics courses relative to the previous exam.
The essay section, which is always administered as the
rst section of the test, is 25 minutes long. All essays
must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts
2.2.1 Calculator use
are broad and often philosophical and are designed to
be accessible to students regardless of their educational
Four-function, scientic, graphing and Computer Alge- and social backgrounds. For instance, test takers may
bra System (CAS) calculators are permitted on the SAT be asked to expand on such ideas as their opinion on
math section; however, calculators are not permitted on the value of work in human life or whether technological
either of the other sections. Calculators with QWERTY change also carries negative consequences to those who
keyboards, cell phone calculators, portable computers,
benet from it. No particular essay structure is required,
and personal organizers are not permitted.[19]
and the College Board accepts examples taken from [the
With the recent changes to the content of the SAT math students] reading, studies, experience, or observations.
section, the need to save time while maintaining accu- Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1
racy of calculations has led some to use calculator pro- and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are
grams during the test. These programs allow students to blank, o-topic, non-English, not written with a Number
complete problems faster than would normally be possi- 2 pencil, or considered illegible after several attempts at
reading. The scores are summed to produce a nal score
ble when making calculations manually.
The use of a Computer Algebra System calculator is from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers scores dier by
sometimes preferred, especially for geometry problems more than one point, then a senior third reader decides.
spends on each esand exercises involving multiple calculations. According The average time each reader/grader
to research conducted by the CollegeBoard, performance
on the math sections of the exam is associated with the
extent of calculator use, with those using calculators on
about a third to a half of the items averaging higher scores
than those using calculators less frequently.[20] The use
of a CAS calculator in mathematics courses, and also becoming familiar with the calculator outside of the classroom, is known to have a positive eect on the performance of students using a graphing calculator during the

In March 2005, Les Perelman analyzed 15 scored sample essays contained in the College Boards ScoreWrite
book along with 30 other training samples and found that
in over 90% of cases, the essays score could be predicted from simply counting the number of words in the
essay.[21] Two years later, Perelman trained high school
seniors to write essays that made little sense but contained infrequently used words such as plethora and
myriad. All of the students received scores of 10 or


better, which placed the essays in the 92nd percentile or Candidates whose religious beliefs prevent them from
taking the test on a Saturday may request to take the test
on the following day, except for the October test date in
which the Sunday test date is eight days after the main
test oering. Such requests must be made at the time of
2.4 Style of questions
registration and are subject to denial.
Most of the questions on the SAT, except for the essay Students with veriable disabilities, including physical
and the grid-in math responses, are multiple choice; all and learning disabilities, are eligible to take the SAT with
multiple-choice questions have ve answer choices, one accommodations. The standard time increase for stuof which is correct. The questions of each section of the dents requiring additional time due to learning disabilities
same type are generally ordered by diculty. However, is time + 50%; time + 100% is also oered.
an important exception exists: Questions that follow the
long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by diculty. Ten of the questions in one
of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. They
instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a
four-column grid.
The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added. For each incorrect answer
one quarter of a point is deducted.[23] No points are deducted for incorrect math grid-in questions. This ensures
that a students mathematically expected gain from guessing is zero. The nal score is derived from the raw score;
the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.
The SAT therefore recommends only making educated
guesses, that is, when the test taker can eliminate at least
one answer he or she thinks is wrong. Without eliminating any answers ones probability of answering correctly is
20%. Eliminating one wrong answer increases this probability to 25% (and the expected gain to 1/16 of a point);
two, a 33.3% probability (1/6 of a point); and three, a
50% probability (3/8 of a point).


4 Raw scores, scaled scores, and


Students receive their online score reports approximately

three weeks after test administration (six weeks for
mailed, paper scores), with each section graded on a scale
of 200800 and two sub scores for the writing section: the
essay score and the multiple choice sub score. In addition
to their score, students receive their percentile (the percentage of other test takers with lower scores). The raw
score, or the number of points gained from correct answers and lost from incorrect answers is also included.[24]
Students may also receive, for an additional fee, the Question and Answer Service, which provides the students answer, the correct answer to each question, and online resources explaining each question.
The corresponding percentile of each scaled score varies
from test to testfor example, in 2003, a scaled score
of 800 in both sections of the SAT Reasoning Test corresponded to a percentile of 99.9, while a scaled score
of 800 in the SAT Physics Test corresponded to the 94th
percentile. The dierences in what scores mean with regard to percentiles are due to the content of the exam
and the caliber of students choosing to take each exam.
Subject Tests are subject to intensive study (often in the
form of an AP, which is relatively more dicult), and
only those who know they will perform well tend to take
these tests, creating a skewed distribution of scores.

The SAT is oered seven times a year in the United

States; in October, November, December, January,
March (or April, alternating), May, and June. The test is
typically oered on the rst Saturday of the month for the
November, December, May, and June administrations.
In other countries, the SAT is oered on the same dates
as in the United States except for the rst spring test date
(i.e., March or April), which is not oered. The test was
taken by 1,698,521 high school graduates in the class of The percentiles that various SAT scores for college2015.[1]
bound seniors correspond to are summarized in the fol[25][26]
Candidates wishing to take the test may register online at lowing chart:
the College Boards website, by mail, or by telephone, at The older SAT (before 1995) had a very high ceiling.
In any given year, only seven of the million test-takers
least three weeks before the test date.
above 1580 was equivalent
The SAT costs $54.50 (plus additional fees if testing out- scored above 1580. A score
side the United States). The College Board makes fee
waivers available for low income students. Additional
fees apply for late registration, standby testing, registration changes, scores by telephone, and extra score reports
(beyond the four provided for free).

In 2015 the average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490
out of a maximum 2400. That was down 7 points from
the previous classs mark and was the lowest composite
score of the past decade.[28]


1926 test

SAT-ACT score comparisons

6.2 1926 test

The College Board and ACT, Inc. conducted a joint study

of students who took both the SAT and the ACT between
2004 and 2006 and released a pair of concordance tables
in 2009 that concord composite and writing scores separately. ACT, Inc. has also created its own Estimated
Relationship between ACT Composite Score and SAT
CR+M+W Score chart.


The rst administration of the SAT occurred on June

23, 1926, when it was known as the Scholastic Aptitude
Test.[31][32] This test, prepared by a committee headed
by Princeton psychologist Carl Campbell Brigham, had
sections of denitions, arithmetic, classication, articial
language, antonyms, number series, analogies, logical inference, and paragraph reading. It was administered to
over 8,000 students at over 300 test centers. Men composed 60% of the test-takers. Slightly over a quarter of
males and females applied to Yale University and Smith
College.[32] The test was paced rather quickly, test-takers
being given only a little over 90 minutes to answer 315

Average SAT Scores of College-Bound Seniors


Verbal / Critical Reading

Verbal (Old Scale)
Math (Old Scale)


6.3 1928 and 1929 tests


In 1928 the number of verbal sections was reduced to

7, and the time limit was increased to slightly under two
hours. In 1929 the number of sections was again reduced,
this time to 6. These changes in part loosened time constraints on test-takers. Math was eliminated entirely for
these tests, instead focusing only on verbal ability.[31]


Average SAT Score


Note: Data prior to 1967 include all test takers

Note: Data for 1967 to 1971 are estimates based on all test takers






Sources: College Board; National Center for Education Statistics








Senior Class Year

Historical average SAT test scores of college-bound seniors.

The SAT was a replacement for the individual tests that

were used for each university. It was introduced during the Progressive Era and helped to give more students
a chance to attend universities. Originally used mainly
by colleges and universities in the northeastern United
States, and developed by Carl Brigham, one of the psychologists who worked on the Army Alpha and Beta tests,
the SAT was originally developed as a way to eliminate
test bias between people from dierent socio-economic


1901 essay exams

On June 17, 1901, the rst exams of the College Board

were administered to 973 students across 67 locations in
the United States, and two in Europe. Although those
taking the test came from a variety of backgrounds, approximately one third were from New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. The majority of those taking the
test were from private schools, academies, or endowed
schools. About 60% of those taking the test applied
to Columbia University. The test contained sections on
English, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The test was not multiple choice, but instead was evaluated based on essay
responses as excellent, good, doubtful, poor or
very poor.[30]

6.4 1930 test and 1936 changes

In 1930 the SAT was rst split into the verbal and math
sections, a structure that would continue through 2004.
The verbal section of the 1930 test covered a more narrow range of content than its predecessors, examining
only antonyms, double denitions (somewhat similar to
sentence completions), and paragraph reading. In 1936,
analogies were re-added. Between 1936 and 1946, students had between 80 and 115 minutes to answer 250 verbal questions (over a third of which were on antonyms).
The mathematics test introduced in 1930 contained 100
free response questions to be answered in 80 minutes, and
focused primarily on speed. From 1936 to 1941, like the
1928 and 1929 tests, the mathematics section was eliminated entirely. When the mathematics portion of the
test was re-added in 1942, it consisted of multiple choice

6.5 1941 and 1942 score scales

Until 1941, the scores on all SAT tests had been scaled to
a mean of 500 with a standard deviation of 100. Although
one test-taker could be compared to another for a given
test date, comparisons from one year to another could not
be made. For example, a score of 500 achieved on an
SAT taken in one year could reect a dierent ability level
than a score of 500 achieved in another year. By 1940, it
had become clear that setting the mean SAT score to 500
every year was unfair to those students who happened to
take the SAT with a group of higher average ability.[33]

In order to make cross-year score comparisons possible,

in April 1941 the SAT verbal section was scaled to a
mean of 500, and a standard deviation of 100, and the
June 1941 SAT verbal section was equated (linked) to
the April 1941 test. All SAT verbal sections after 1941
were equated to previous tests so that the same scores
on dierent SAT tests would be comparable. Similarly,
in June 1942 the SAT math section was equated to the
April 1942 math section, which itself was linked to the
1942 SAT verbal section, and all SAT math sections after
1942 would be equated to previous tests. From this point
forward, SAT mean scores could change over time, depending on the average ability of the group taking the test
compared to the roughly 10,600 students taking the SAT
in April 1941. The 1941 and 1942 score scales would
remain in use until 1995. [33] [34]


1946 test and associated changes

Paragraph reading was eliminated from the verbal portion

of the SAT in 1946, and replaced with reading comprehension, and double denition questions were replaced
with sentence completions. Between 1946 and 1957 students were given 90 to 100 minutes to complete 107 to
170 verbal questions. Starting in 1958 time limits became more stable, and for 17 years, until 1975, students
had 75 minutes to answer 90 questions. In 1959 questions on data suciency were introduced to the mathematics section, and then replaced with quantitative comparisons in 1974. In 1974 both verbal and math sections were reduced from 75 minutes to 60 minutes each,
with changes in test composition compensating for the
decreased time.[31]


could similarly be explained.[35] Later analyses suggested

that up to 40 percent of the 1970s decline in scores could
be explained by demographic changes, leaving unknown
at least some of the reasons for the decline.[36]

6.8 1994 changes

In early 1994, substantial changes were made to the
SAT.[37] Antonyms were removed from the verbal section in order to make rote memorization of vocabulary
less useful. Also, the fraction of verbal questions devoted
to passage-based reading material was increased from
about 30% to about 50%, and the passages were chosen to
be more like typical college-level reading material, compared to previous SAT reading passages. The changes
for increased emphasis on analytical reading were made
in response to a 1990 report issued by a commission established by the College Board. The commission recommended that the SAT should, among other things, approximate more closely the skills used in college and high
school work.[31] A mandatory essay had been considered
as well for the new version of the SAT; however, criticism
from minority groups as well as a concomitant increase
in the cost of the test necessary to grade the essay led the
College Board to drop it from the planned changes.[38]

Major changes were also made to the SAT mathematics

section at this time, due in part to the inuence of suggestions made by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Test-takers were now permitted to use calculators on the math sections of the SAT. Also, for the rst
time since 1935, the SAT would now include some math
questions that were not multiple choice, instead requiring students to supply the answers. Additionally, some of
these student-produced response questions could have
more than one correct answer. The tested mathematics
6.7 1960s and 1970s score declines
content on the SAT was expanded to include concepts of
From 1926 to 1941, scores on the SAT were scaled to slope of a line, probability, elementary statistics including
make 500 the mean score on each section. In 1941 and median and mode, and counting problems.
1942, SAT scores were standardized via test equating,
and as a consequence, average verbal and math scores
could vary from that time forward.[33] In 1952, mean ver- 6.9 1995 recentering (raising mean score
back to 500)
bal and math scores were 476 and 494, respectively, and
scores were generally stable in the 1950s and early 1960s.
However, starting in the mid-1960s and continuing until By the early 1990s, average total SAT scores were around
the early 1980s, SAT scores declined: the average verbal 900 (typically, 425 on the verbal and 475 on the math).
score dropped by about 50 points, and the average math The average scores on the 1994 modication of the SAT
score fell by about 30 points. By the late 1970s, only the I were similar: 428 on the verbal and 482 on the math.[39]
upper third of test takers were doing as well as the upper SAT scores for admitted applicants to highly selective
half of those taking the SAT in 1963. From 1961 to 1977, colleges in the United States were typically much higher.
the number of SAT tests taken per year doubled, suggest- For example, the score ranges of the middle 50% of ading that the decline could be explained by demographic mitted applicants to Princeton University in 1985 were
changes in the group of students taking the SAT. Com- 600 to 720 (verbal) and 660 to 750 (math).[40] Similarly,
missioned by the College Board, an independent study of median scores on the modied 1994 SAT for freshmen
the decline found that most (up to about 75%) of the test entering Yale University in the fall of 1995 were 670 (verdecline in the 1960s could be explained by compositional bal) and 720 (math).[41] For the majority of SAT test takchanges in the group of students taking the test; however, ers, however, verbal and math scores were below 500: In
only about 25 percent of the 1970s decrease in test scores 1992, half of the college-bound seniors taking the SAT


2002 changes Score Choice

were scoring between 340 and 500 on the verbal section 6.11 2002 changes Score Choice
and between 380 and 560 on the math section, with corresponding median scores of 420 and 470, respectively.[42] In October 2002, the College Board dropped the Score
The drop in SAT verbal scores, in particular, meant that Choice Option for SAT-II exams. Under this option,
until the student saw
the usefulness of the SAT score scale (200 to 800) had scores were not released to colleges
College Board has
become degraded. At the top end of the verbal scale,
in the spring
signicant gaps were occurring between raw scores and
not clear if
uncorrected scaled scores: a perfect raw score no longer
corresponded to an 800, and a single omission out of 85
colquestions could lead to a drop of 30 or 40 points in the
scaled score. Corrections to scores above 700 had been
renecessary to reduce the size of the gaps and to make a
perfect raw score result in an 800. At the other end of the quire applicants to submit all scores. Stanford, however,
scale, about 1.5 percent of test takers would have scored only prohibits Score Choice for the traditional SAT.
below 200 on the verbal section if that had not been the Others, such as MIT and Harvard, have fully embraced
reported minimum score. Although the math score av- Score Choice.
erages were closer to the center of the scale (500) than
the verbal scores, the distribution of math scores was no
longer well approximated by a normal distribution. These 6.12 2005 changes
problems, among others, suggested that the original score
scale and its reference group of about 10,000 students In 2005, the test was changed again, largely in response
to criticism by the University of California system.[48]
taking the SAT in 1941 needed to be replaced.[33]
Because of issues concerning ambiguous questions, esBeginning with the test administered in April 1995, the pecially analogies, certain types of questions were elimSAT score scale was recentered to return the average inated (the analogies from the verbal and quantitative
math and verbal scores close to 500. Although only 25 comparisons from the Math section). The test was made
students had received perfect scores of 1600 in all of marginally harder, as a corrective to the rising number
1994, 137 students taking the April test scored a 1600.[43] of perfect scores. A new writing section, with an essay,
The new scale used a reference group of about one million based on the former SAT II Writing Subject Test, was
seniors in the class of 1990: the scale was designed so that added,[49] in part to increase the chances of closing the
the SAT scores of this cohort would have a mean of 500 opening gap between the highest and midrange scores.
and a standard deviation of 110. Because the new scale Other factors included the desire to test the writing abilwould not be directly comparable to the old scale, scores ity of each student; hence the essay. The New SAT was
awarded on April 1995 and later were ocially reported rst oered on March 12, 2005, after the last administrawith an R (for example, 560R) to reect the change in tion of the old SAT in January 2005. The Mathematics
scale, a practice that was continued until 2001.[33] Scores section was expanded to cover three years of high school
awarded before April 1995 may be compared to the those mathematics. The Verbal sections name was changed to
on the recentered scale by using ocial College Board the Critical Reading section.
tables. For example, verbal and math scores of 500 received before 1995 correspond to scores of 580 and 520,
respectively, on the 1995 scale.[44]

6.13 Scoring problems of October 2005


6.10 1995 re-centering controversy

Certain educational organizations viewed the SAT recentering initiative as an attempt to stave o international
embarrassment in regard to continuously declining test
scores, even among top students. As evidence, it was presented that the number of pupils who scored above 600
on the verbal portion of the test had fallen from a peak
of 112,530 in 1972 to 73,080 in 1993, a 36% backslide,
despite the fact that the total number of test-takers had
risen over 500,000.[45]

In March 2006, it was announced that a small percentage of the SATs taken in October 2005 had been scored
incorrectly due to the test papers being moist and not
scanning properly, and that some students had received
erroneous scores.[50] The College Board announced they
would change the scores for the students who were given
a lower score than they earned, but at this point many
of those students had already applied to colleges using
their original scores. The College Board decided not to
change the scores for the students who were given a higher
score than they earned. A lawsuit was led in 2006 on
behalf of the 4,411 students who received an incorrect
score on the SAT.[51] The class-action suit was settled in
August 2007 when the College Board and Pearson Educational Measurement, the company that scored the SAT

tests, announced they would pay $2.85 million into a settlement fund. Under the agreement each student could
either elect to receive $275 or submit a claim for more
money if he or she felt the damage was greater.[52] A
similar scoring error occurred on a secondary school admission test in 2010-2011 when the ERB (Educational
Records Bureau) announced after the admission process
was over that an error had been made in the scoring of
the tests of 2010 (17%) of the students who had taken the
Independent School Entrance Examination for admission
to private secondary schools for 2011. Commenting on
the eect of the error on students school applications in
the New York Times, David Clune, President of the ERB
stated It is a lesson we all learn at some point that life
isnt fair.[53]


access to a students photo is rst required to certify that
they are all admitted students.[57]

6.16 2016 changes

On March 5, 2014, the College Board announced its

plan to redesign the SAT in order to link the exam more
closely to the work high school students encounter in the
classroom.[7] The new exam was administered for the rst
time in spring 2016. Some of the major changes are:
an emphasis on the use of evidence to support answers,
a shift away from obscure vocabulary to words that students are more likely to encounter in college and career, a
math section that is focused on fewer areas, a return to the
1600-point score scale, an optional essay, and the removal
of penalty for wrong answers (rights-only scoring).[58] To
6.14 2008 changes
combat the perceived advantage of costly test preparation
courses, the College Board announced a new partnership
In late 2008, a new variable came into play. Previously, with Khan Academy to oer free online practice probapplicants to most colleges were required to submit all lems and instructional videos.[7]
scores, with some colleges that embraced Score Choice
retaining the option of allowing their applicants not to
have to submit all scores. However, in 2008, an initiative to make Score Choice universal had begun, with 7 Name changes
some opposition from colleges desiring to maintain score
report practices. While students theoretically now have The SAT was originally known as the Scholastic Aptithe choice to submit their best score (in theory one could tude Test.[18][31] In 1990, a commission set up by the
send any score one wishes to send) to the college of their College Board to review proposed changes to the SAT
choice, some colleges and universities, such as Cornell, program recommended that the meaning of the initialism
ask that students send all test scores.[54] This had led the SAT be changed to Scholastic Assessment Test beCollege Board to display on their web site which col- cause a test that integrates measures of achievement as
leges agree with or dislike Score Choice, with continued well as developed ability can no longer be accurately declaims that students will still never have scores submit- scribed as a test of aptitude.[59][60] In 1993, the College
ted against their will.[55] Regardless of whether a given Board changed the name of the test to SAT I: Reasoncollege permits applicants to exercise Score Choice op- ing Test; at the same time, the name of the Achievement
tions, most colleges do not penalize students who report Tests was changed to SAT II: Subject Tests.[18] The Reapoor scores along with high ones; many universities, such soning Test and Subject Tests were to be collectively
as Columbia and Cornell, expressly promise to overlook known as the Scholastic Assessment Tests. According
those scores that may be undesirable to the student and/or to the president of the College Board at the time, the
to focus more on those scores that are most representa- name change was meant to correct the impression among
tive of the students achievement and academic potential. some people that the SAT measures something that is
College Board maintains a list of colleges and their re- innate and impervious to change regardless of eort or
spective score choice policies that is recent as of Novem- instruction.[61] The new SAT debuted in March 1994,
ber 2011.[56]
and was referred to as the Scholastic Assessment Test
by major news organizations.[37][62] However, in 1997,
the College Board announced that the SAT could not
6.15 2012 changes
properly be called the Scholastic Assessment Test, and
that the letters SAT did not stand for anything.[63] In
Beginning in 2012, test takers are required to submit a 2004, the Roman numeral in SAT I: Reasoning Test was
current, recognizable photo during registration. Students dropped, making SAT Reasoning Test the new name of
are required to present their photo admission ticket or the SAT.[18]
another acceptable form of photo ID for admittance
to their designated test center. Student scores and registration information, including the photo provided, are
made available to the students high school. In the event 8 Mathverbal achievement gap
of an investigation involving the validity of a students test
scores, their photo may be made available to institutions Main article: Mathverbal achievement gap
to which they have sent scores. Any college that is granted


Association with gender

In 2002, Richard Rothstein (education scholar and

columnist) wrote in The New York Times that the U.S.
math averages on the SAT and ACT continued its decadelong rise over national verbal averages on the tests.[64]

with the students study habits and motivation to succeed.
As with racial bias, this correlation with income could
also be due to the social class of the makers of the test,
although empirical research suggests that poorer students
actually perform worse on 'neutral' than such 'privileged'

Reuse of old SAT exams

10.3 Association with gender

The College Board has been accused of completely

reusing old SAT papers previously given in the United The largest association with gender on the SAT is found
in the math section where male students, on average,
score higher than female students by approximately 30


Association with culture

For decades many critics have accused designers of the

verbal SAT of cultural bias as an explanation for the
disparity in scores between poorer and wealthier testtakers.[66] A famous (and long past) example of this bias
in the SAT I was the oarsmanregatta analogy question. The object of the question was to nd the pair of
terms that had the relationship most similar to the relationship between runner and marathon. The correct answer was oarsman and regatta. The choice of
the correct answer was thought to have presupposed students familiarity with rowing, a sport popular with the
wealthy. However, according to Murray and Herrnstein,
the black-white gap is smaller in culture-loaded questions
like this one than in questions that appear to be culturally
neutral.[67] Analogy questions have since been replaced
by short reading passages.


Association with family income

The third and nal major discrepancy is family income.

Parents with a higher income can aord to spend money
on their childs education if they are not satised with
it, while families with a lower income cannot. Families that have a higher family income can purchase multiple prep books, more specically the College Board one.
They can also pay for tutors, prep classes, and other resources such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan. These
resources not only prepare the students for the knowledge required in the test, but also provide practice tests
and sample problems that can be studied and possibly be
seen on the real exam. Another source of this dierence
comes from the quality of schooling as family income increases. Those with higher income families, tend to have
better teachers, more resource-rich educational environments, more educated parents who can help them with
school and, sometimes, expensive SAT tutoring.[68] The
quality of education the student receives greatly aect the
success during the test because the school not only relates
to the students knowledge but also many times correlates

10.4 Association with race and ethnicity

African American, Hispanic, and Native American students, on average, perform an order of one standard
deviation lower on the SAT than white and Asian
Researchers believe that the dierence in scores is closely
related to the overall achievement gap in American society between students of dierent racial groups. This gap
may be explainable in part by the fact that students of disadvantaged racial groups tend to go to schools that provide lower educational quality. This view is supported
by evidence that the black-white gap is higher in cities
and neighborhoods that are more racially segregated.[75]
Some researchers have also argued that since SAT scores
correlate highly with IQ scores, which in turn they consider to be partially determined by innate biology, the
SAT discrepancy can be explainable in part by biological
dierences between races.[76] It has also been suggested
that stereotype threat has a signicant eect on lowering
achievement of minority students. For example, African
Americans perform worse on a test when they are told that
the test measures verbal reasoning ability, than when
no mention of the test subject is made.[76] Other research
cites poorer minority prociency in key coursework relevant to the SAT (English and math), as well as peer pressure against students who try to focus on their schoolwork ("acting white").[77] Cultural issues are also evident among black students in wealthier households, with
high achieving parents. John Ogbu, a Nigerian-American
professor of anthropology, found that instead of looking
to their parents as role models, black youth chose other
models like rappers and did not put forth the eort to be
a good student.[78]
One set of studies has reported dierential item functioning - namely, some test questions function dierently
based on the racial group of the test taker, reecting some
kind of systematic dierence in a groups ability to understand certain test questions or to acquire the knowledge
required to answer them. In 2003 Freedle published data
showing that Black students have had a slight advantage
on the verbal questions that are labeled as dicult on the



SAT, whereas white and Asian students tended to have a California, urged dropping the SAT as a college admisslight advantage on questions labeled as easy. Freedle ar- sions requirement:
gued that these ndings suggest that easy test items use
vocabulary that is easier to understand for white middle
Anyone involved in education should be
class students than for minorities, who often use a dierconcerned about how overemphasis on the
ent language in the home environment, whereas the difSAT is distorting educational priorities and
cult items use complex language learned only through
practices, how the test is perceived by many
lectures and textbooks, giving both student groups equal
as unfair, and how it can have a devastating
opportunities to acquiring it.[79][80] [81] The study was
impact on the self-esteem and aspirations of
severely criticized by the ETS board, but the ndings were
young students. There is widespread agreereplicated in a subsequent study by Santelices and Wilson
ment that overemphasis on the SAT harms
in 2010.[82][83]
American education.[86]
There is no evidence that SAT scores systematically
underestimate future performance of minority students. In response to threats by the University of California to
However, the predictive validity of the SAT has been drop the SAT as an admission requirement, the College
shown to depend on the dominant ethnic and racial com- Entrance Examination Board announced the restructurposition of the college.[84] Some studies have also shown ing of the SAT, to take eect in March 2005, as detailed
that African American students under-perform in col- above.
lege relative to their white peers with the same SAT test
In the 1960s and 1970s there was a movement to drop
scores; researchers have argued that this is likely because
achievement scores. After a period of time, the counwhite students tend to benet from social advantages outtries, states and provinces that reintroduced them agreed
side of the educational environment (for example, high
that academic standards had dropped, students had studparental involvement in their education, inclusion in camied less, and had taken their studying less seriously. They
pus academic activities, positive bias from same-race
reintroduced the tests after studies and research con[76]
teachers and peers) which result in better grades.
cluded that the high-stakes tests produced benets that
Christopher Jencks concludes that as a group African outweighed the costs.[87]
Americans have been harmed by the introduction of standardized entrance exams such as the SAT. This, according to him, is not because the tests themselves are 10.6 IQ studies
awed, but because of labeling bias and selection bias;
the tests measure the skills that African Americans are Frey and Detterman (2003) investigated associations of
less likely to develop in their socialization, rather than SAT scores with intelligence test scores. Using an estithe skills they are more likely to develop. Furthermore, mate of general mental ability, or g, based on the ASVAB
standardized entrance exams are commonly perceived as test battery, which can be best thought of as representtests of general ability, rather than of certain aspects of ing crystallized intelligence (learned abilities), they found
ability. Thus, a situation is produced in which African SAT scores to be highly correlated with g (r=.82 in their
American ability is consistently underestimated within sample, .857 when adjusted for non-linearity) in their
the education and workplace environments, contributing sample taken from a 1979 national probability survey.
in turn to selection bias against them which exacerbates Additionally, they investigated the correlation between
SAT results, using the revised and recentered form of
the test, and scores on the Ravens Advanced Progressive
Matrices, a test of uid intelligence (reasoning), this time
10.5 Dropping SAT
using a non-random sample. They found that the correlation of SAT results with scores on the Ravens AdA growing number of colleges have joined the SAT op- vanced Progressive Matrices was .483. They estimated
tional movement. These colleges do not require the SAT that this latter correlation would have been about 0.72
for admission.
were it not for the restriction of ability range in the samOne example of a college that did this is Drew Univer- ple. They also noted that there appeared to be a ceiling
scores which may have suppressed
sity in New Jersey. After they adopted an optional SAT eect on the Ravens
and colleagues (2006) have
policy, they had a 20% increase in applications. Dean
those reached by Frey and
of Admissions Mary Beth Carey says that Our own re[89]
search showed us that high school grade point average is
by far the most important predictor of success in college.
The college reported that they accepted their most diverse
class ever as a result of the policy.[85]


In a 2001 speech to the American Council on Education, SAT preparation is a highly lucrative eld[90] and many
Richard C. Atkinson, the president of the University of companies and organizations oer test preparation in

the form of books, classes, online courses, and tutoring. The test preparation industry began almost simultaneously with the introduction of university entrance exams in the U.S. and ourished from the start.[91]

determined correctly over 90% of the time. He also discovered that several of these essays were full of factual
errors; the College Board does not claim to grade for factual accuracy.

The College Board maintains that the SAT is essentially

uncoachable and research by the College Board and the
National Association of College Admission Counseling
suggests that tutoring courses result in an average increase
of about 20 points on the math section and 10 points on
the verbal section.[92] Other studies have shown signicantly dierent results. A longitudinal study from Ohio
State showed that taking private SAT prep classes correlated with scores higher by ~60 points.[93] A study from
Oxford showed that coaching courses boosted scores by
an average of 56 points.[91] The founder of Ivy Bound
Test Prep claimed in an interview that diligent students
of their courses will see at least a 150-point increase.[94]

Perelman, along with the National Council of Teachers

of English also criticized the 25-minute writing section of
the test for damaging standards of writing teaching in the
classroom. They say that writing teachers training their
students for the SAT will not focus on revision, depth,
accuracy, but will instead produce long, formulaic, and
wordy pieces.[96] You're getting teachers to train students
to be bad writers, concluded Perelman.[97]

Montgomery and Lilly (2012) performed a systematic literature review of all published SAT coaching research
in search of high quality studies (dened as those with
randomized controlled trials). They found that the randomized treatments resulted in V/M gains of +23/32
points for a total of +56; the high quality study that
showed the highest score increase was Johnson (1984;
San Francisco) which was based on a 30-hour prep course
that showed an average increase of 178 points. The Johnson San Francisco study was also the only high quality
study found on a prep course of 30 hours or more in
length, although validity of this outlier study is uncertain
due to the attrition of half the participants.[91]


Use by high-IQ societies

Certain high IQ societies, like Mensa, the Prometheus Society and the Triple Nine Society, use scores from certain
years as one of their admission tests. For instance, the
Triple Nine Society accepts scores of 1450 on tests taken
before April 1995, and scores of at least 1520 on tests
taken between April 1995 and February 2005.[95]
The SAT is sometimes given to students younger than
13 by organizations such as the Study of Mathematically
Precocious Youth, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented
Youth, Duke TIP, and other organizations who use the
results to select, study and mentor students of exceptional


Writing section

In 2005, MIT Writing Director Les Perelman plotted essay length versus essay score on the new SAT from released essays and found a high correlation between them.
After studying over 50 graded essays, he found that longer
essays consistently produced higher scores. In fact, he argues that by simply gauging the length of an essay without reading it, the given score of an essay could likely be

11 See also
ACT (test), a college entrance exam, competitor to
the SAT
College admissions in the United States
List of admissions tests
SAT Subject Tests

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Testing, testing.

13 Further reading
Balf, Todd (March 6, 2014). The Story Behind the
SAT Overhaul. The New York Times Magazine.
Lewin, Tamar (March 5, 2014). A New SAT Aims
to Realign With Schoolwork. The New York Times.
Key shifts of the SAT redesign. The Washington
Post. March 5, 2014.
Coyle, T. R. & Pillow, D. R. (2008). SAT
and ACT predict college GPA after removing g".
Intelligence 36 (6): 719729.
Coyle, T.; Snyder, A.; Pillow, D.; Kochunov,
P. (2011).
SAT predicts GPA better for
high ability subjects: Implications for Spearmans Law of Diminishing Returns. Personality and Individual Dierences 50 (4): 470
474. doi:10.1016/Olpaid.2010.11.009. PMID
Frey, M. C.; Detterman, D. K. (2003). Scholastic
Assessment or g? The Relationship Between the
Scholastic Assessment Test and General Cognitive
Ability (PDF). Psychological Science 15 (6): 373
PMID 15147489.
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External links

Ocial website
College Board research website





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