College applications consist of several different elements that counselors consider in order to better evaluate a college candidate. Each component has a unique own role in the decision process and adds detail to the overall picture of the student. Many college hopefuls know that the college essay is an essential opportunity to share your personal voice. Today, we’ll discuss the purpose of the SAT and ACT scores and how they may also play into final admissions decisions.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about how important standardized test scores are for college applications and how much weight admissions officers ought to give them. First, we’ll go through some of the key things you should know about their SAT score and ACT score for college applications. Then, we’ll look at how they fit into the college admissions process.
Understanding the role of test scores in college applications
Remember, test scores are not the sole factor when evaluating applications. Admissions officers consider several components all together, such as grades, college essays, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation. Like the rest of your application materials, test scores are yet another way for college admissions counselors to build a picture of the applicant and assess you as a person and student. This integrated process is known as “holistic” college admissions.
If you’re unsure where your overall application stands against other students at the same college, the Empowerly Score® might offer the data you’re seeking. This innovative system incorporates both qualitative and quantitative data, as well as past student data, to algorithmically recommend the most strategic improvements. For a preview of how this works, you can test out the Empowerly Quiz. This abbreviated version also looks at academics and extracurriculars to determine a holistic score, while also indicating whether you can make your college applications stronger.
How important are SAT/ACT test scores on a college application?
The SAT and ACT have been around for years, and are seen by some as a rite of passage to higher education. But are they really necessary? The actual answer to this will vary depending on the school’s admissions policy. In other words, your test scores are as important as the school deems them. Some schools do publish average test scores to help students benchmark themselves and build a realistic college list. Some colleges have removed standardized testing altogether, while others have a flexible policy on whether test scores are needed.
Nonetheless, it’s important that if you must submit scores (or choose to, voluntarily), they should reflect well on your academic performance. Not everyone is a test-taking whiz. If you aren’t happy with your scores, consider re-taking one or both until you are satisfied. After all, a great score will never hurt your application. A poor score, on the other hand, could raise questions.
That’s why having a tailored college admissions approach is crucial.Still, we know it can be challenging trying to keep track of applications. Empowerly offers college admissions counseling, including expert advice and Best Match College Counseling®, to simplify the college applications process.
Know your scoring scales
Depending on the test you take, you’ll receive a numerical score of the total points you earned. However, the SAT and ACT scores have different scales. Understanding how to read them correctly based on the scale ensures that you know what your score means for college applications—and its potential impact, depending on the schools you’re applying to.
How to read your ACT score
The ACT has four sections:
- English (75 questions)
- Math (60 questions)
- Reading (40 questions)
- Science (40 questions)
Students get 1 point per correct answer in each section. Incorrect answers are not penalized and are scored as a 0.
However, this is where it gets a bit confusing for many. First, raw ACT scores are converted into scaled scores, but the table changes every ACT date. This standardizes the score but also means depending on the test date, you may perform better or worse. Finally, the average from the scaled score in each section is combined to provide a composite ACT score, which is also on a scale from 1 to 36.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know the scaled scores used on the test date, but you can find sample tables online to help with score predictions.
Note that an optional writing section is scored between 2 to 12 points, but it is not included in the composite ACT score.
How to read your SAT score
The SAT is similar to the ACT in many ways. Like the ACT, the SAT has several sections with a maximum number of raw points. Each correct answer gets 1 point, and incorrect answers are not penalized.
Essays are graded separately between 2 to 8 points but are not included in the composite SAT score.
Raw SAT scores are converted into a scale score, but the table will vary depending on the SAT date, like the ACT. There’s a 200 to 800 scale for each section determined by a table, but there is no way of knowing what the table will be in advance.
Calculating SAT scores are more challenging in some ways compared to the SAT score. The Math section is relatively straightforward, and scores can be converted from raw to section scores using sample tables the College Board provides to understand performance. Calculating the Reading and Writing section requires combining the scores from both sections, scaling them using the table, and adding together and multiplying by 10.
The scaled scores are added together to get the composite SAT score.
Finally, you can weigh the difference between a “super score” and “score choice,” depending on how your colleges read the scores from multiple testing sessions.
That’s a lot to remember!
Standardized test score calculation can be tricky, but it’s important to remember that these are ultimately just predictive scores. A holistic college application needs to give equal importance to each section based on what the school requires to succeed. For tips on how to jumpstart your standardized test preparation, check out this article for more.
Empowerly offers a wide range of services, including college admissions counseling, partnerships with the local community, and other helpful resources to make the college applications process more accessible to students and parents. To learn more about Empowerly and how we can help, book a free consultation today with our Enrollment Specialists.