# SAT: Use the scoring tables to figure out how many questions you need to get correct

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I was talking to a parent earlier today and realized that most parents aren't using the SAT scoring tables to strategically figure out how many questions their kids need to get right on the SAT. Most kids are relieved when they figure out they don't need to worry about getting ALL THE QUESTIONS correct.   How many questions do I need to get right to get a â€œgoodâ€ SAT score?

I was talking to a parent today and realized, again, that there are a lot of misconceptions about what a good score is on the SAT.

â€œGoodâ€ is relative

For starters, a good score is whatever scores the colleges you are interested in are looking for. So, obviously, a â€œgoodâ€ score at the local community college is not going to be Harvardâ€™s idea of a â€œgoodâ€ score.

So the first step is to investigate the colleges that you are interested in and find out what sort of scores will put you in a competitive position.

But you donâ€™t need to be perfect

Both parents and students are surprised that you donâ€™t need to get 90% right on the SAT to get a good score.

Hereâ€™s an example from our local university.

Seattle University: Average SAT math score is 600,and  the 75th percentile score is 660. This means that 50% of their students have an SAT math score of 600, and 50% of their students have a math score above 600. The 75th percentile score means that the top 25% of students have a 660 or higher on the SAT Math.

To get a score of 600 in Math, you need to get 38 questions right out of a total of 58 questions. ) Thatâ€™s only 65% correct. You can skip or miss 20 questions and still get a 600 which is the SATâ€™s 73rd percentile. In other words, skipping or missing as much as 35% of the questions, still puts you in the top 27% of all college-bound kids taking the SAT

(Note: this number varies a little by test. Iâ€™m using the Scoring Tables from the College Boardâ€™s Official SAT Practice Test 1  for this example and I excerpted one of the tables pictured at the top of this post.)

If you answer just approximately three more questions correctly, youâ€™d jump to a 630 which is the SATâ€™s 80th percentile.

(Note: the College Boardâ€™s SAT percentile number tables can be found here. I did the math to figure out the percentage of correct answers.)

To get a 660 in Math, youâ€™d need to answer 45 questions correctly out of 58. So you could still miss or skip 7 questions and still be in the SATâ€™s 87th percentile.

Take the pressure off students

So grab a scoring table and show students they can do a â€œCâ€ job on the test by only getting 70% correct, but that can translate into an â€œAâ€ or â€œBâ€ score (depending on the school.)

Edited by showelott
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Do you know if the ACT has a similar scoring table?

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@Vida Winter

I found this scoring table on the ACT website   It shows how the ACT scaled score translates into a national percentile score. Magoosh has a spreadsheet converting raw scores to scaled scores here but I couldn't find anything like that on the official ACT pages (at a quick glance). (Sorry - not an ACT expert)

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The sat subject test ones are not online. It might be in their SAT subject tests book.

Do you know if the ACT has a similar scoring table?

Page 60 of link http://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Preparing-for-the-ACT.pdf

Quick accurate for both my kids when we use the 2015/16 copy to prep before they took in October and June.

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Thanks! Dd is taking a sample SAT and ACT this weekend to figure out which one to concentrate on. It's exhausting.

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Thanks! Dd is taking a sample SAT and ACT this weekend to figure out which one to concentrate on. It's exhausting.

Just to ease your pain a little, the recent (March 2016) changes made by the College Board to the SAT have made the two tests more similar to each other than they have ever been in history; they used to be quite different tests in some regards, but now the primary differences are timing and scoring. \$.02

ACT has a science section, which is really just a measure of how quickly kids can read complex charts and graphs; if you substituted the science terminology for business terminology, it would be a "business test."

So, for the vast majority of kids (excepting the very top-scoring students), prep for 1 of the tests will almost certainly improve scoring on the other as well. Most kids follow a strong correlation between the 2 tests.

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And to add to @LucytheValiant's point, there so many basic test-taking skills that also transfer between the two tests:

-Show your work. DO NOT do stuff in your head

-Read the question thoroughly to understand what they are asking for

-Learn the balance between working quickly but not rushing and making sloppy mistakes

-Endurance - Learn how to keep going even when your brain is tired and you don't want to

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Thanks! Dd is taking a sample SAT and ACT this weekend to figure out which one to concentrate on. It's exhausting.

If she might aim for NM or NHRP, she'll want to practice the SAT anyway for the PSAT; AFAIK, the main difference between SAT and PSAT is length.  And if she makes NMSF, she'll have to take the SAT to get NM.

I expect my child to do better on the SAT as speed is not her thing; ACT is known for being easier but faster.  She is taking both so it'll be interesting to see how it works out - she had the Pre-ACT at school recently and thought it was easier than the PSAT.  Her school requires these tests and it might be that she's gradually getting faster...

Edited by wapiti
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About the conversion table from raw to scaled score, isn't the table going to be slightly different for each administration of the SAT?

â€œGoodâ€ is relative

For starters, a good score is whatever scores the colleges you are interested in are looking for. So, obviously, a â€œgoodâ€ score at the local community college is not going to be Harvardâ€™s idea of a â€œgoodâ€ score.
So the first step is to investigate the colleges that you are interested in and find out what sort of scores will put you in a competitive position.
But you donâ€™t need to be perfect
Both parents and students are surprised that you donâ€™t need to get 90% right on the SAT to get a good score.

I don't disagree but FWIW I think this is a bit of a contradiction.  Because good is relative, 90% correct may or may not be good enough for the programs the student is interested in.  That is, even if 90% is 730, a 730 may or may not be sufficient; it depends.  It's sufficient for most programs but not all, and even within less-competitive admissions situations, more points may make a difference for scholarship contention.  In other words, rather than looking at this as "how many can I get right/wrong" I look at this as "more = better," so "get as many right as possible."

FWIW, I also noticed that some automatic scholarships on our state flagship's website have a higher scoring range required for the new SAT than the old one, combined total 40 to 70 points higher (presumably based on the concordance tables but that's a whole other thread).  Points = money.
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In other words, rather than looking at this as "how many can I get right/wrong" I look at this as "more = better," so "get as many right as possible."

I agree with you, but not all kids on this board are as high achieving / high testing as it sometimes seems. My eldest, for example, was thrilled when she was doing some practice ACT sections and I pointed out that even if she missed everything on the last reading section, she'd have a [number that was higher than the last time she took the exam].

Also, for some who have huge test anxiety, knowing they don't have to get even 75% correct is a big plus to their mental state. This is also true for those who don't know all the math that the ACT tests who tend to just give up if they encounter material they don't know. If you explain that they haven't been taught Alg 2 or Trig material and it makes up 20-30% of the test, but that if they do well on the stuff they do know, they'll still get a decent (not high achieving, but mid-20s, perhaps) score.

I'm not sure the OP was gearing this post toward the 30+ types on the ACT (well, whatever the equivalent number is on the SAT). I certainly tried to get all the questions right when I took the ACT/SAT/PSAT and I'm sure there are plenty of those kids out there. Some of us have kids who really appreciate the idea behind the OP's post since it is reassuring that if they need a [insert score] to get the half-tuition scholarship, they can still miss 15% (or whatever #) of the questions on the test. It makes skipping a question (or four) that stumps them not so much of a freak-out.

Edited by RootAnn
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About the conversion table from raw to scaled score, isn't the table going to be slightly different for each administration of the SAT?

It is different for each administration of the SAT. Which is why I can't compare my kids scores that easily since they took the test 5 months apart. My older boy's SAT and ACT scores are already in the range for automatic scholarships so we are keeping an eye on getting a seat for PSAT for him when the time comes.

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@Wapti

Yes, each test has it's own scoring table to convert raw scores to scaled scores and they vary a little - I used the scoring chart from Practice Test 1 as an example.

I completely agree that you need to investigate the colleges and scholarships you are interested in to find out what scores they want.

I've found that to help kids as many right as possible, it can help to show them that they don't have to be perfect. Most kids aren't shooting for an 800.

My niece is a perfect example. She's frantically racing through all the questions, determined to finish the section and not leave any blank. So she's rushing and missing all sorts of questions that normally she could have gotten right. On her last practice test she missed 10 of the last 11 questions. If she had just focused on 5 of them and gotten 2-3 right she would have scored more points.

So I see it has more correct answers = better.

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It is different for each administration of the SAT. Which is why I can't compare my kids scores that easily since they took the test 5 months apart. My older boy's SAT and ACT scores are already in the range for automatic scholarships so we are keeping an eye on getting a seat for PSAT for him when the time comes.

The raw scores won't be comparable from test to test. But that's why they convert them to scaled scores. The scaled scores are comparable from one SAT test administration to another.

Answering 45 questions right in Math on the October test might have translated into a 660 scaled score. Maybe the January test was a little easier so 45 right on that test translates into a 640 scaled score.

The 640 vs the 660 scaled scores are comparable.

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