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Is the harsh SAT curve here to stay?

homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
I just skimmed through the SAT threads from the last four test dates. Seems like all of them had harsher curves than the tests given prior to June 2018. Is this a thing now? How can one prepare for a harsh curve?

I just got our D21's PSAT 10 scores and, on the reading section, she got four more correct than our S19 did on that test and scored lower. She only got three more wrong than he did on the math section and her math score was 100 points lower.

What's going on? And is there a strategy out there for these new harsher curves? I don't think there are any new practice tests available since S19 studied for the SAT two summers ago.

Thoughts?
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Replies to: Is the harsh SAT curve here to stay?

  • Darcy123Darcy123 195 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 201 Junior Member
    I've noticed the same thing. I am rethinking whether my S21 should switch to the ACT. He didn't care for the time pressure, but noticed his PSAT score stayed the same versus last year despite answering more correctly. He's scheduled to take the June SAT and I'm rethinking.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    I just don't know how to decide. The only practice tests (and their curves) don't match up to the last four tests so I don''t know how to help D21 decide. I didn't like her PSAT10 score either but our S19 improved his SAT by 200 points over his PSAT10 by studying so I know it can be done.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    And I wonder at what point they need to release new practice tests if this is going to continue. We've had a year now of kids using CB practice tests, getting consistent scores, and then not being happy with their real sittings.
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  • damon30damon30 1147 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,152 Senior Member
    Take the ACT. See which score you like better.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    @damon30 Yeah. I guess I'll have to back up and have her take a practice ACT and SAT but, again, those practice SATs are not the same as the ones actually given.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    I just found the last few tests on r/SAT. Maybe that will be helpful for us (and for anyone reading this thread). I'm going to print those and see how D21 does on them.
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3377 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,400 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    @homerdog

    My impression is that the SAT curve (or scaling as the CB calls it) fluctuates from test to test so there is an element of luck WRT testing date. My D21 took the PSAT last fall and I remember that there was much discussion here about whether the second fall test date had a much harsher curve than the first. For the second test, some reported that a single wrong answer on the math section brought the score down by 40 points or so. In comparison, my kid (first testing date) missed two on the math and was docked only 20 points.

    The ACT seems like a more stable test. However, there is a very long thread on CC about test scores that were invalidated by the ACT many months after the testing date because the test taker improved too much from one test to the next. You can imagine the stress for students with college acceptances and/or scholarships in hand being asked to file an appeal or to retake a test to validate the first score long after the fact. Should my D21 take the ACT, she will do timed practice tests beforehand and then one and done.

    FWIW, my older kid preferred the ACT and my younger favors the SAT, so you might want to have your D21 take a practice ACT under timed conditions to see how she compares and then make a decision about which would be better. I believe that either the ACT or SAT now can be used for a confirming score for National Merit.

    edited May 23
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1396 replies30 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    It's been a thing all this school year. Every single new test form this past school year was first given in June 2018 to small portions of students (with the exception of test dates that were major reuses from prior to that, such as Aug 2018).

    I'm interested to see what types of scales College Board cooks up for June 2019, anticipating that the scales over the coming school year will likewise be similar. We will know more in mid-July when the June test scores are released. However, I'm also aware that a number of uncommon test forms from June 2018 still have not seen a major administration and accordingly could pop up for any future test date.
    edited May 23
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    @evergreen5 I'm not sure I understand. What do you mean that "every single new test form this past school year was first given in June 2018 to small portions of students" and "a number of uncommon test forms from June 2018 still hav not seen a major administration"?

    edited May 23
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1396 replies30 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    When I said "a number of uncommon test forms from June 2018 still have not seen a major administration," I meant that College Board has a cache of test forms first tried out last June that have not yet been given to nearly all test takers on a given test date. I will try to explain - I do not have the proper, technical terms. This is all information I have read about elsewhere, just by paying attention, with a little putting together of puzzle pieces. (To be clear for others, I am just a parent.)

    Back in June 2018, there were a large number (>20?) of different sets of questions, or test forms, given in addition to the main, most common one that had the famously harsh scale. This is evident from red dit chatter; entirely different sets of reading passage subjects are the big clue.

    These many different test forms were given to small portions of test takers. For example, uncommon test forms W, X, Y, Z (making up these labels) may be given to only a handful of kids in a room while everyone else receives test form A, the most common one. This is College Board trying out full test forms, a sort of final level of experimentation.

    Each test form gets its own scoring scale unique to it. The scale is based on difficulty level, of course, such that tests of similar difficulty end up with similar scales. College Board chooses the difficulty level intentionally. (NB the difficulty can be tracked, as each question gets a hard, medium, or easy difficulty designation which is reported in the SAS and QAS. Numbers of hard, medium, and easy can be added by section and compared to other test forms. Example: Nov 2017 had 28 hard math questions while Oct 2018 had only 15.)

    College Board then takes the June uncommon test form results to help finalize its scoring scales for each those forms, so that they are ready for a later major administration; thus it takes six weeks to get scores for June rather than the normal two weeks (personally I don't buy the excuse of AP causing the delay). Once the scale is set, it should remain the same for each future use of that test form, unless College Board decides to replace a few unscorable questions with new ones (that appears to happen from time to time). My rough understanding is that College Board is not supposed to switch out, say, an entire math section, as that may render the entire test's scale inaccurate, but that is an interesting question for the psychometric experts if any are around here.

    Later, College Board might use our hypothetical test form X, uncommon from June, for the October US administration, given to almost everyone for the Oct date. It is a "new" test form because it will be the first time test form X has ever been given to almost all testers for a particular test date and there would be virtually zero prior internet discussion of the test form beyond one or two random forum posts asking hey, did anyone else have the test form with the elephants and the daisies (I am making up those reading subjects). (As a separate matter, other groups/times of testers, such as Sunday administration, accommodation classrooms, etc. might be getting test form Z for our hypothetical Oct test date. College Board might also throw in a separate test form for a couple of people per room, though the extent of that is unclear. And as always, international testers get a different test form than US.)

    Uncommon test forms from June 2018 (per red dit discussion at the time) appeared for US Oct, Nov, Dec, both March 2019, one of the April school day (if I recall correctly, while the other was a major reuse from a couple of years ago), and both May 2019 tests. I have not paid much attention to the discussion of test forms given internationally over the past school year, except that international takers in May were surprised by the harshness of the scale that is similar to June 2018 US. (Those who pay attention to this kind of thing were not surprised at all and very glad that College Board finally stopped its prior pattern of reusing the April school day for May international.)
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1396 replies30 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    As for your d's PSAT10 results, the PSAT scores during this past school year have had similar difficulty/scales as the SAT. Last fall, one of my kids had the infamous Oct 24 PSAT/NMSQT where he had -2 math = -90 points.

    College Board needs for the PSAT group of test products to align in difficulty with SAT because their system allows the PSAT result to indicate what the person would have scored on the SAT if the person took the SAT that same day. And growth in score number is to be expected over time, between the time the PSAT is taken, fall of jr yr, and the time the SAT is ordinarily taken, end of jr yr or early sr yr.

    Practice tests: there are links to more recent QAS, easier with harsher scales, available on the internet. All I can come up with for strategy is perfection, avoidance of careless mistakes.

    Significant, intentional changes in difficulty between school years I believe leads to standardization questions, as that impacts the quality of their equating process.
    edited May 23
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4618 replies84 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,702 Senior Member
    @evergreen5 thanks! Do you think the scoring scales are available for PSATs?
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1396 replies30 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,426 Senior Member
    edited May 23
    @homerdog Yes, see page 10 here https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/psat-10-understanding-scores.pdf. The important caveat is if the test form were somehow different, this scale wouldn't apply. For example, the scales from last fall's psats are in the back of the document here, pp 12-13 https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/psat-nmsqt-understanding-scores.pdf, but there was a third Oct test date and its scale is not included - I can't speculate on why.

    It's possible College Board will decide to alter the difficulty again going forward. It's hard to predict.
    edited May 23
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 485 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 492 Member
    A “harsher scale means the test questions are easier and more test takers are getting more questions correct. So a given number of problems wrong drops you further relative to the population, so a lower score. Assuming not the math is done correctly, a student will get the same score on any test, regardless of the number of questions missed (of course there are always test-to test variations)

    I don’t think there are any “new” practice tests - I actually th8nk that would be a bad thing. My D was much better prepared taking the difficult Barron’s Math 2 practice tests than the easier official tests.

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  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3352 replies33 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,385 Senior Member
    My daughter took 2017 PSAT, 2018 PSAT and 2019 Mar SAT and her scores were very consistent with no prep for any of them.

    Math- 760/750/800
    RW- 700/710/720

    So at least at the higher end I haven't seen that much of a harsher curve. Within RW her subscores were also extremely consistent.
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