Comparing SAT scores across years

SAT started changing their benchmarks in the mid 90s by adding to peoples’ scores. Are they still doing this? How does a 1400 in 1990 compare to a 1400 in 2021?

Here’s a very comprehensive article about the persistent decline in the mean SAT score that preceded the re-centering of the SAT, and why and how this was done.

And here is a table of old SAT scores vs new SAT scores, from before and after the re-centering.

https://www.greenes.com/html/convert.htm

Basically, an old verbal of 730 or higher would convert to an 800 on the new scoring. and an old math score of 750 or higher would receive an extra ten to to twenty points.

The 2016 change seems to have made a further upward adjustment. Two section scores above 1500 were pretty uncommon prior to 2016, now I seem to see 1500-1600 pretty frequently. @parentologist have you seen any data on that?

When both SAT and ACT are accepted by nearly all colleges, when students have the options to take either one of the tests, whichever test that deems to be easier by more students (or give higher scores to more of them) would take market share away from the other. The race for market share inevitably makes the tests easier and scores higher. That’s not a surprise.

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The Life article linked below shows SAT scores for 50 schools in 1960. As interestingly, it classifies these colleges and universities by their statistical tiers at that time:

645–675

Amherst
Carleton
Columbia
Harvard
Haverford
Princeton
Reed
Rice
Swarthmore
Williams
Yale

615–645

Brandeis
Brown
UChicago
Cornell
Dartmouth
Hamilton
Johns Hopkins
Lehigh
Oberlin
URochester
Stanford

580–615

Antioch
Bowdoin
Duke
Kenyon
UMichigan
Middlebury
Northwestern
UPenn
Iowa
Tufts
Union
UC–Berkeley
Sewanee

550–580

Colgate
Denison
Grinnell
Knox
Lawrence
Muhlenberg
Occidental
UColorado

490–550

Beloit
NYU
UPittsburgh
Southern Methodist
Syracuse
UVirginia
Vanderbilt

Observations

  1. Women’s colleges, technically focused schools and Catholic colleges seem to have been myopically omitted by the editors.

  2. Smaller colleges compose the majority of the first tier; universities compose all but two schools in the second tier.

  3. Carleton was the strongest school in the Midwest; Reed was the strongest in the far West; Sewanee was competitive with Duke in the South.

  4. The members of the Ivy League were scattered across three tiers.

  5. Antioch College enrolled students who were academically competitive on a national level.

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A lot has changed since then. Penn was the ‘gentleman’s C’ school of the Ivies back then. NYU was the school that D minus students from good high schools went to, even up into the early '70’s. College was SO much less competitive to get into in 1960, because consider it, those who were applying had been born in 1942.

As for women’s colleges? No one of any importance (meaning men) even considered women’s colleges. They were completely off everyone’s radar, because WOMEN were completely off everyone’s radar. In 1960, college for women was still considered mostly on the same tier as finishing school - someplace you parked young women while they were waiting to get married, which often happened after only a year or two of college. Of course, if a woman was smart and academically inclined, and the family was willing to pay for it, she often did choose a seven sisters school. But still, many dropped out early to marry, even from seven sisters schools. It was a COMPLETELY different world back then.

My dad used to like to tell us he only applied to one college, Princeton, around 1960. He went to a good boarding school in state, but I but my tongue about telling him I’m sure current students are not applying to just one college assuming admission.

One of my dad’s fraternity brothers at MIT (mid-50s) flunked out. They said they’d let him back in if he went somewhere else and got his GPA back up. He went to Princeton. :joy:

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Iirc, I have stored somewhere the specific score-to-score conversions over the 1995 re-norming, the 2400 rescaling, and the back to-1600 rescaling so scores from at least 1980 can be translated using official CB tables. In the past few years, they seem to have washed these conversion tables from their site.

I know there were re-norms prior to that, but I didn’t care about/research/save date prior to the early ‘80’s.

A few data point I always remember, in comparing scoring scales:

In the early 80’s, there were typically a single digit number of 1600s. Iirc, there were six in 1982 and 9 in 1983. From Harvard’s lawsuit data, and other sources, there are somewhere in the 400-700 range, if not more, today.

Math scores from 770 and up, and Verbal scores from 730 and up, from pre-1995 both translate to 800s today. Iirc, I was told my M800 was one of a few hundred. Today, it’s not even 99+ percentile, meaning at least 1/2%, or 11,000 perfect math scores.