If you have a Junior or Senior in your house who took the June 2018 SAT, you might have had to deal with some tears on the morning of July 11th. If you’ve been investing time and money into test prep, you might have felt a little frustrated by the result.

Thousands of students sat at their laptops hitting refresh that morning waiting for their results. They’d taken the test and felt it was a little bit easier than their practice. They felt like they were fantastically prepared and just knew they were going to get a great score.

And then they didn’t.

So what happened?

By Wednesday afternoon, The Princeton Review had put out a thorough explanation of what happened. The short version is it comes down to equating. Keep in mind that, although the student is paying for the test, the student is not College Board’s customer. Colleges and universities are. Colleges and universities have to find the test useful in their admissions processes for the SAT and ACT to exist. That means scores from the test have to be comparable from test date to test date.

They can’t give the same test all year. We already know what happens for the student who has that U.S. History test in their first class of the day. Everyone who has the test 3rd period finds them during 2nd period and asks what’s on the test. Imagine if that was the SAT or ACT. Almost no one would take the September or October tests, and we’d see thousands of perfect scores on the June tests.

Equating happens before a test is actually given, so College Board knew before this test was given that it would be, by far, the harshest curve from test-to-test.

Take a look at this chart from Princeton Review’s blog post.

Adapted from “Why You Don’t Want an ‘Easy’ SAT” by James Murphy, Princeton Review

Many of the tests have seen a little bit of variance, but the 5-question difference from earlier tests is what caused the shock waves.

The same seems to have been true about the Reading and Writing sections. We’ve talked with several students who got 6 or 8 more questions right on the Reading section and only saw their score improve 10 or 20 points. To make matters worse, College Board deemed 4 questions on the Reading and Writing sections (2 in each section) as “unscoreable”, which gives the remaining questions a little more value.

Inside Higher Ed offered another analysis of the situation. Despite the #rescoretheJuneSAT effort, College Board isn’t going to rescore this test. In addition, college admissions officers are unlikely to take into account the date that a student took the test as a part of their decisions. Equating is supposed to mean they shouldn’t have to. Equating works the way it’s supposed to. When this has happened in the past (Practice test 7 in the blue book, for instance), the variance was balanced out by slightly more difficult Reading and Writing sections. It looks like for this test, ALL of the sections were comparatively easier, so many students saw negligible improvements despite getting many more answers correct.

What do you do now?

The first thing to do is make sure you evaluate how you did on this test compared to others. How many more questions did you answer correctly than you did on the last test you took. If you’re like the students I’ve been talking with the last few days, it’s probably 12-15. On a normal test that would have been a 100-120 point improvement. You’re making gains! Take heart in that.

If you were taking the test to get a better qualifying score for scholarships and you’re starting college next month, there’s little you can do. Be sure you make the best grades possible your Freshman year and find out what scholarship opportunities your school will offer in the future. If you are a rising Senior, get registered for the August SAT. If you did better on the June test or would have done better or a typical test, you probably don’t even need to worry about paying for a tutor. Get on Khan Academy, import your June results, and take advantage of not having classes to practice every day. Create your practice schedule and get after it!

If you haven’t done any prep, you might consider taking a class before the August test. Our Test Prep Boot Camp shows students over 70 concepts and strategies that help them improve their scores.

Contact us if you’d like more help or schedule a free introductory consultation to come up with a plan.