College Board corrects College Confidential (FAQ on an old argument)

<p>There have been discussions for years on CC as to whether universities claiming to "consider an applicant's highest SAT (I) scores" for admission also might (potentially, for any given application) also consider the non-highest scores. Common sense said this should be the case at most selective schools but hard evidence was lacking.</p>

<p>Before the recent introduction of Score Choice, this was a somewhat obscure point.</p>

<p>After the new Score Choice policy, some clarity began to develop. Some schools demanded all scores and, when interviewed, chiefs of admissions at Yale and Stanford commented on reasons for this, such as wanting to analyze the pattern of scores, or having a "particular interest" in seeing how many tests it took to reach whatever the highest scores were. </p>

<p>Now the College Board has closed the issue. Their survey of SAT policies at hundreds of colleges shows that only a minority of schools --- even in the age of Score Choice --- practice an "anything goes" highest score policy, where ONLY the highest are considered and the others might as well not exist. The survey specifically distinguished between
Version 1 (highest scores are considered) and Version 2 (only highest scores are considered). Excerpt from the survey:</p>

<p>Requiring all scores:
-- Barnard, Carnegie Mellon, Colgate, Columbia, Cooper Union, Cornell, CUNY, Georgetown, Harvey Mudd, Johns Hopkins, Pomona, Rice, Skidmore, Stanford, Syracuse, Temple, Tufts, Texas A&M, UNC, <strong>all UC's</strong>, UPenn, Yale</p>

<p>Version 1 (consider highest scores but potentially other scores as well):
-- Harvard, Williams, Amherst, Chicago</p>

<p>Version 2 (consider ONLY highest scores)
-- Dartmouth, Duke, MIT, Princeton, Wellesley, Swarthmore, Haverford</p>

<p>Full list and more detail on "Version 1" vs "Version 2" at:</p>

<p><a href="http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/sat-score-use-practices-list.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/sat-score-use-practices-list.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>(posted in the Parents Forum as most of the commenters in the earlier discussions primarily participate in this group.)</p>

<p>MIT should be on the Version-1 list... as could be (and was) inferred from one of their admissions officer's postings in CC.</p>

<p>Another thing the ETS / College Board survey clarifies is that it isn't universal for colleges with a highest-score policy to use the highest section by section score.<br>
Quite a few schools use the highest (in total score) single sitting SAT score.</p>

<p>Thanks for the link. I'm tucking it away into my favorites to consider in a couple of years when child 2 goes through this process.</p>

<p>What's the effect size here? (For that matter, what's the direction of the effect in the typical case?)</p>

<p>I just posted about this on another thread, but you should know Vassar really truly does superscore (V2). They accepted someone with a CR of 200 from one of their sittings! In the same room were Rochester U., Barnard and Vanderbilt who all claimed that they look only at highest scores, whatever College Board says. (Just checked they said the same thing to CB.)</p>

<p>Mathmom,
not arguing with the fact that Vassar superscores, but I'd see a 200 score on a repeated test as much less problematic then, say, 550. Obviously, the student just did not bother taking that part of the test.</p>

<p>To rephrase (I think) what tokenadult asked, there's a big difference between what a school "considers" and what makes a difference at the margin. For example, it really might not make any difference at all if a kid took the SAT three times rather than one, and that his scores increased. On the other hand, it might hurt a kid to take the SAT ten times, or if there were huge unexplained anomalies in the scores.
By analogy, schools "consider" ECs, but how much difference does it make whether an applicant was the treasurer or vice president of the Key Club?</p>

<p>
[quote]
By analogy, schools "consider" ECs, but how much difference does it make whether an applicant was the treasurer or vice president of the Key Club?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>That's an interesting analogy. </p>

<p>For discussion among the learned participants in this thread, I'll post here the current version of my FAQ on test retakes, which doesn't always exactly fit the questions that people ask in specific cases, but is designed to point to a lot of reference information on the subject. What modifications of wording would anyone suggest? </p>

<p>ONE-TIME TEST-TAKING </p>

<p>Colleges have given up trying to distinguish one-time test-takers from two-time or three-time or even four-time test-takers, because that wasn't useful information to the colleges. There are a number of reasons for that. </p>

<p>1) The colleges have utterly no way of knowing who spends all his free time practicing taking standardized tests and who takes them "cold." </p>

<p>2) The colleges are well aware that students who have actually taken the tests sometimes cancel scores, so they have little incentive to give students bonus consideration if the students submit only one test score. </p>

<p>3) The colleges are aware that students who take the admission tests at middle-school age, who are numerous, do not have their earlier test scores submitted by default. </p>

<p>SAT</a> Younger than 13 </p>

<p>Hoagies</a>' Gifted: Talent Search Programs </p>

<p>Duke</a> TIP - Interpreting SAT and ACT Scores for 7th Grade Students </p>

<p>4) Colleges are aware that the majority of students who take the SAT at all take it more than once. </p>

<p><a href="http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/Avg_Scores_of_Repeat_Test_Takers.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/Avg_Scores_of_Repeat_Test_Takers.pdf&lt;/a> </p>

<p>5) Colleges are in the business of helping students learn, and they don't mind students taking efforts to improve their scores. They know that students prepare for tests. </p>

<p>From the New York Times: "Although coaching would no doubt continue if subject tests replaced the SAT, at least students would be focused on content as much as test-taking strategies, Mr. Murray said. There would also be pressure to improve local high school curriculums so that students were prepared, he wrote.</p>

<p>"These arguments make sense to Mr. Fitzsimmons [dean of admission at Harvard], who said, 'People are going to prepare anyway, so they might as well study chemistry or biology.' He added that 'the idea of putting more emphasis on the subject tests is of great interest' to his group." </p>

<p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/education/19sat.html?pagewanted=print%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/education/19sat.html?pagewanted=print&lt;/a> </p>

<p>6) And now the College Board is back in the business of letting students choose which test scores to send into colleges, </p>

<p>Score</a> Choice - New SAT Score-Reporting Policy </p>

<p>so now there is less reason than ever to suppose that colleges care how many times you take the test, because the colleges have no way to know how many times you took the test officially. </p>

<p>Colleges treat applicants uniformly now by considering their highest scores, period. </p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/349391-retake-how-many-times-take-sat-act.html#post4198038%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/349391-retake-how-many-times-take-sat-act.html#post4198038&lt;/a> </p>

<p><a href="http://www.admissions.college.harvard.edu/utilities/electronic_resources/viewbook/Rollo0809_GuideApplying.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.admissions.college.harvard.edu/utilities/electronic_resources/viewbook/Rollo0809_GuideApplying.pdf&lt;/a> </p>

<p>From the Harvard admission office: "If you submit more than one set of scores for any of the required tests, the Admissions Committee considers only your best scores—even if your strongest SAT Subject Tests or portions of the SAT Reasoning Test were taken on different dates." </p>

<p>See also a Newsweek article about the renewed score choice policy adopted by College Board. </p>

<p>Reactions</a> to College Board's SAT Score Choice | Newsweek Education | Newsweek.com </p>

<p>Some colleges want to see all scores a student has ever obtained, period, but as one admission officer asks, if "a student submits a single best sitting of 2320," does anyone really care "how low were her other score sets?" </p>

<p>A January 2009 email from Dartmouth's assistant director of admissions clarifies the issue: "At Dartmouth we consider a student's highest SAT I score in each category (or their highest composite ACT score) and their two highest SAT II Subject Test scores, regardless of how many times they have taken the tests. We never discount a student's highest score, even if they have taken the SAT multiple times. I do hope that students will not feel the pressure to take the SAT tests four or five times (the data suggests that scores typically do not improve after the second try), but we will always consider the student's highest scores."</p>

<p>


</p>

<p>This is the season of the year when many colleges are on road trips recruiting students </p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/650085-spring-2009-college-fairs-info-sessions.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/650085-spring-2009-college-fairs-info-sessions.html&lt;/a> </p>

<p>and it would be a help to informed discussion here on CC if each of you who are willing would raise this question with admission officers as they travel to your town. I'd be delighted to hear what the latest word is from each college. (This may also be a reasonably convenient time of year to ask this question of admission offices by email, now that admission committees are not convening to select students but rather in the somewhat more pleasant phase of convincing admitted students to enroll.) College Board gave colleges something of a forced-choice list of questions, but what is the implication of each answer in actual practice? What do admission officers say either in live, on-the-spot conversation or in thoughtful, nuanced email correspondence about what matters to them about a student's record of test-taking?</p>

<p>
[quote]
College Board corrects College Confidential (FAQ on an old argument) </p>

<p>Before the recent introduction of Score Choice, this was a somewhat obscure point.</p>

<p>Now the College Board has closed the issue. Their survey of SAT policies at hundreds of colleges shows that only a minority of schools --- even in the age of Score Choice --- practice an "anything goes" highest score policy, where ONLY the highest are considered and the others might as well not exist.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>It takes a huge leap of faith --or wishful thinking-- to draw the above conclusions from the ... survey. At it stands, the survey does not disclose a thing about how the schools VIEW the scores. It only discusses what is required. </p>

<p>Nothing in that College Board contradicts what has been discussed on College Confidential. Have the schools that require full disclosure added more adcoms to analyze the trends in the SAT/ACT scores? How many people do the interpretation of minute differences in scores at say Yale and Stanford? How long do you think it would take to analyze 26,000 or 30,500 applications and correctly measure trends? </p>

<p>The bottom line has NOT changed. Students should take the SAT and ACT as many times as they want (not really addressed here) and submit ALL scores to the schools. The fact that one believes adcoms "studies" the trends or simply reads a "scorecard" filled by an obscure technician with ONLY the highest scores does NOT really matter. Schools are interested in the highest scores for their own benefits. It only happens that this also helps the students. </p>

<p>Score choice is a canard; and so is reaching silly conclusions based on this survey!</p>

<p>
[quote]
What do admission officers say either in live, on-the-spot conversation or in thoughtful, nuanced email correspondence about what matters to them about a student's record of test-taking?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Unfortunately, what is shared in public by the "travel" group is not necessarily accurate nor timely. There have been many reports of misleading or incomplete statements made by the most juniors of adcoms.</p>

<p>As an example, read what Mathmom has posted about Yale's answer on the advantage of applying SCEA, and then check the numbers. Yale's RD admission is simply the lowest admission rate in all the UG education rate (exclusing some specialty schools.) It's lower than Harvard and Princeton. Can the same be said about its SCEA rate?</p>

<p>IMHO, the "we want to see all scores but will consider your highest score" stuff is utter B.S.</p>

<p>Colleges will always reserve the right to consider everything you send them (and for that matter, anything they can dig up about you that you didn't send them). You can never predict how an individual admissions officer or other committee members will use the information in front of them. They do not have to defend their votes on your application. Everything is subjective. </p>

<p>Someone here (I think it might have been Hunt) had aptly compared the situation to the time when the judge instructs the jury to disregard something they have just heard. You cannot un-hear something.</p>

<p>So what do colleges mean when they say that they consider your highest scores? It means that when it comes time to report the data to USNWR and other ratings agencies they will only report the highest subscores, so as to maximize their apparent selectivity. That's what it really means. They want 'score choice' when they report the scores of their freshman class, and they've always had it.</p>

<p>Having said that, at least at the most selective colleges, I don't think the SAT scores are all that important. If only people paid one-tenth as much attention to their essays as they do to their SAT scores they would reap greater rewards.</p>

<p>xiggi, Yale never got around to answering the question about their early admissions acceptance rate. There was no lying on their part. Now the ad com may have deliberately avoided the question, but I think they just forgot to give her a turn. VP, at some schools some clerk enters the highest scores on a card and the application readers don't see the report from the College Board, at others they may just circle or highlight the high scores in each section. I really truly don't think anyone gets dinged if their 800 on one sitting falls to a 750 on another. If there's a greater swing - perhaps, or perhaps not.</p>

<p>
[quote]
If only people paid one-tenth as much attention to their essays as they do to their SAT scores they would reap greater rewards.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>That's an interesting statement. It does appear that we lack the means to test some of the statements here about what matters most to admission committees, but certainly in my reading of CC I see much more obsession about SAT scores (pro or con retaking them) than I see attention to producing thoughtful, well crafted application essays.</p>

<p>Just want to point out a few things to keep in mind:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>The list does not indicate any of the 800+ colleges where submitting test scores is optional. If you only rely on this list, you'd think that ALL colleges REQUIRE SAT scores. The College Board has a vested interest in making counselors and students "forget" that many colleges are now test-optional. (For a list of test optional schools, go to The</a> National Center for Fair & Open Testing | FairTest)</p></li>
<li><p>This survey does not necessarily reflect the past practices of colleges. It was done in response to the varied reactions of colleges to the College Board's new Score Choice policy. Therefore, I would be cautious about drawing too many conclusions from this data alone. In conversations with a number of admissions people since Score Choice has been introduced, I've been told that many colleges are not yet exactly sure if or how they will take Score Choice into consideration when looking at test scores. It's sort of like their reaction after the writing section was added - most schools took a "wait and see" approach before codifying whether they would or would not take the writing section into account. So, again, be cautious about drawing too many conclusions based on this survey.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>Again, keep in mind that the College Board has a vested interest in encouraging students (and parents) to worry over how their SAT scores will be used or viewed by colleges. The College Board WANTS you to take their exams as many times as you can, because they make money off of each sitting. Score Choice is also going to be a revenue maker for the College Board. Again, it is to the College Board's advantage to make you <em>think</em> that you need to "hide" scores or take the test multiple times. It is not necessarily to every student's advantage to do so, however.</p>

<p>As always, when you have narrowed down your college list, confirm testing requirements directly with each college. If you are worried about "junior" admissions people giving you the wrong answer, call and ask to speak to the director of admissions.</p>

<p>mathmom, when I had checked Yale's website some time ago it said something like "only your highest subscores will be reported to the full committee but anyone from the committee can get ask for and get all your scores". No mention of whether the primary readers see everything. </p>

<p>One way I see someone get dinged is if they took the SAT four times over the course of 18 months and got scores of 2200, 2300, 2280, 2350. Of course, those are all great scores, but that pattern might ring some alarm bells in a reader who might wonder whether the student has the right priorities. And then if the rest of the file shows no evidence that the student has much of a 'life', it would not look good.</p>

<p>
[quote]
xiggi, Yale never got around to answering the question about their early admissions acceptance rate. There was no lying on their part. Now the ad com may have deliberately avoided the question, but I think they just forgot to give her a turn.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Thanks for clarifying. When I first read your post, I registered it as Yale's saying there was no advantage. I now realize you wrote they did not say there was an advantage. I did not mean to misrepresent what you wrote ... just got confused by the placement of the negative.</p>

<p>
[quote]
One way I see someone get dinged is if they took the SAT four times over the course of 18 months and got scores of 2200, 2300, 2280, 2350. Of course, those are all great scores, but that pattern might ring some alarm bells in a reader who might wonder whether the student has the right priorities. And then if the rest of the file shows no evidence that the student has much of a 'life', it would not look good.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>While common sense dictates that nobody wants to be considered an obsessive SAT/ACT/AP test taker, there is little evidence that schools really ding anyone for submitting all scores ... honestly. In fact, in one of the VERY few reports based on real data (no simulations,) Tom Fishgrund shared how well students did when scoring a perfect 1600 after FIVE trials. As I wrote many times, if there are a few cases when a school might penalize an obsessive test taker by discounting his or her scores. there are NO cases when a school will place MORE value on a lower score obtained in one sitting. In so many words, in your example, there is no way that a sole 2200 would be better than a 2350 obtained at the fourth sitting. Especially at a time when students are encouraged to start taking the SAT as early as in the 6th or 7th grade, and repeat it several times after that for various reasons, including scholarships.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Of course, those are all great scores, but that pattern might ring some alarm bells in a reader who might wonder whether the student has the right priorities.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>The one way I could be persuaded that that might hurt some students, absent a specific statement directly to the point by an admission officer or independent researcher on college admission, is that I might believe that a college BELOW the desirability of a very most desired college might conclude the applicant doesn't really want to attend [insert name of second-tier college here]. But it's my opinion that the top-tier colleges want strong applicants, and while they</a> sometimes pass over applicants with peak scores for students who are strong in other aspects of their applications, usually having a high score somewhere along the way is part of the definition of "strong applicant." </p>

<p>After edit: Seeing what xiggi simultaneously posted, I think that is the take-home point. A student who has a score with serious room to improve might as well do a retake and get the improved score. Sitting tight on a low score shows misplaced priorities.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Again, keep in mind that the College Board has a vested interest in encouraging students (and parents) to worry over how their SAT scores will be used or viewed by colleges. The College Board WANTS you to take their exams as many times as you can, because they make money off of each sitting. Score Choice is also going to be a revenue maker for the College Board. Again, it is to the College Board's advantage to make you <em>think</em> that you need to "hide" scores or take the test multiple times. It is not necessarily to every student's advantage to do so, however.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Carolyn, while none of the above is untrue, we should also remember that the College Board is a membership organization that works for the its ... members. Inasmuch as the College Board wants to sell more of its "money" products, they also need to remain responsive to their *real *clients; and the students are not their customers. </p>

<p>The reality remains that, if they so desired, the schools could reduce the importance of the SAT, and especially the multiple sittings. It would be a cinch for them to establish simple discounting rules on repeated tests, be it averaging of scores, or numerical penalties for the third, fourth, and subsequent tests. Yet, what do they *really *do? Encourage multiple sittings by advertising superscoring. </p>

<p>Simply stated, the true culprits remain the same: the colleges themselves!</p>

<p>In the example I cited, (i.e, 4 scores within 18 months of 2200, 2300, 2280, 2350), if it were ME on the admissions committee, <em>I</em> would wonder what made this student take it the third and fourth times. And <em>I</em> might look at the rest of the file with that bias, and I would look for evidence that the kid has some genuine extracurricular interests. Moreover, this student's file might not impress me as much as another student with a 'one and done' single-sitting score of 2350, (or for that matter, even 2300). Would this be against the stated policy of "we only consider your highest scores?", yes. But I am human, and I have my biases. And there is no reason to think that in all the admissions offices of all the selective colleges, there is nobody who would react the way I would.</p>

<p>I believe it is in one of the links previously provided by tokenadult where an admissions officer was asked about this issue and he/she said "take it as many times as you want, but be aware that taking the SAT is not an extracurricular activity". I can't recall the exact words, but there may have been something else about "better ways to spend a Saturday morning". In another article, a Pomona admissions officer had actually compared the SAT transcript to a high school academic transcript or a motor vehicle record, when explaining why he wanted to see all the scores, all but giving away his bias that past low scores would continue to hurt you despite subsequent high scores. </p>

<p>Maybe I recall incorrectly and I am willing to be corrected.</p>