Superscoring: How does it actually work in practice?

I hope this is the right place to post this, but I have a question on the mechanics of superscoring. How does it work in practice?

In the “old days” (meaning when I was in high school), I thought the SAT results we had mailed to us (how old-fashioned!) contained all your scores for each test. If I recall correctly, the Ivies took your top math and your top verbal scores, regardless of how many tests you took. I was always a bit dubious about that, as I was able to see all the scores, and there was no way to have just the highest math score and the highest verbal score.

I assumed that the universities to which I applied also could see all my scores. That’s why I’ve been dubious about superscoring to the extent they get your results from all your tests.

Someone on CC mentioned that clerical staff in admissions offices where superscoring is permitted input only the high scores on whatever master form the Admissions Committees look at or that they receive the high scores electronically. Is that right?

That’s my question: how are the universities NOT able to see the scores you don’t want them to see.

Please note that my question is limited to how superscoring is mechanically done by schools, not about the fundamental fairness of superscoring.

I doubt very much that there is a standard practice for this. Each school will do it the way they want to. There are probably schools that do it as you describe. There are probably schools where the evaluator sees all scores.


Depends on the college. But that is one way. That said, even then, if all scores are reported, all scores still are in the packet for the AO to dig through.

In terms of unseeing anything, you basically believe or don’t believe that they focus on the highest scores.

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Thanks, @skieurope and @me29034, for those reality-based responses. That makes sense. I particularly like this point:

DD is shortly going to be taking the standardized tests, and I want her to be realistic. Yes, she can take these tests multiple times, but, the chances are that someone in a decision-making capacity is going to have access to ALL scores, not just the highest.

Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief” only goes so far in college admissions!

My thoughts are they do it because it allows them to report higher scores on the common data set and makes them seem more selective benefiting arbitrary rankings.

In practice does that mean that a student with a superscore of 1500 but with a max individual score of 1450 has an advantage over a student with an individual score of 1470? I have my doubts.

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Fascinating perspective! And I am getting cynical enough to believe it. Plus, the testing companies are happy too, with extra fees for additional tests.

But the reality seems to be that the AOs see it all (and I cannot believe they discount any score in their review).

Well I do believe that they do look at Applications holistically. Students on these boards tend to get hung up with one element. The reality in my example is there are dozens of things they are looking at to compare student A vs student B.

Would love to see some data on the differences between super score and max one time score. If you were running a simulation you should see the difference approach zero the more times you take the test.

Dont they only see submitted scores? My kids never added colleges for free test scores when taking them, and just submitted their highest scores.


Many, probably most, schools don’t require applicants to send official ACT/SAT scores anymore, so check each school’s website and save your money if they allow self-reporting of test scores.

On the common app, the student enters the only highest composite score and highest section scores…they do not enter every test score and every section score from every sitting. So, if official scores aren’t sent, schools have no idea what the unreported scores are. I think Georgetown is the only school left that requires all official scores from all sittings.

Meaning your kids self-reported and SAT or ACT didn’t send the schools the official results? That would be surprising, but D has not yet started applications, so I don’t know how this works anymore. When I was applying decades ago, I’m virtually certain that the score had to be officially sent to the college by SAT or ACT.

Wow…is that right? I didn’t know this. If, as you said, most colleges allow self-reporting with no official scores sent directly by SAT/ACT, that really is different than what I thought.

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Some schools super super score, meaning they’ll look at concordance charts between the ACT and SAT and take the best score for each section out of either test. The opposite end of the spectrum is single sitting. It really depends on the school. Lots of schools won’t be using them though for the foreseeable future including the whole UC/CSU system.

This change has been dramatic in the last 5 years or so, as part of the increased focus on equity in admissions. So before you pay to send official scores to colleges, go directly to their website to see if they allow self-reporting of scores. Someone mentioned above not using the four free score sends, and I agree with that too…there’s little reason to send unknown scores to colleges.

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Ok. The further we get into this, the less I appear to know! I have never heard of “super superscoring”, so I will look that one up. And yes, I’m familiar with the UC system dumping the requirement for standardized tests.

I know this moving away from my OP on the mechanics of superscoring, but are we saying that “test optional” is moving to “test no longer required”? T

The fact that kids can self-report SAT/ACT scores is remarkable to me. It almost suggests it’s meaningless. By contrast, I’m assuming the high school transcripts still have to be certified/official. Am I reading this right?

On edit: I just checked. It appears that if you enroll at these self-reporting schools, you will have to send the official score.

To be clear, any college that allows self-reporting on the application still requires an official score report if accepted and you attend. So it is not totally on blind faith. Like Reagan said, “Trust, but verify,”

Similarly, colleges that don’t want transcripts the the application, like the UCs, will still require official transcripts before enrollment

Yes, and just saw this from CC:

Yes, the scores were officially sent, but instead of listing colleges they planned on applying to at the time of sitting for the tests, they selected and paid to have only their highest scores sent.

But now that I (finally) understand, maybe superscoring does work? There is a very large list of self-reporting colleges, and it appears you send your official score only if you’re going to enroll.

So if that’s true and the school allows self-reporting, and admits you based on that pending receipt of the official scores validating your self-reported scores, it sounds like that’s how superscoring does and can work.

Many schools allow you to self-report scores. All of these schools will require official reports from the agency to confirm them if you are accepted and enroll, AFAIK, as a condition of enrollment.

Pretty much every AO I’ve spoken with at a superscoring school has said they only receive the combined score and certainly don’t have time to dig through individual score reports, in violation of their school’s stated policy. I guess you choose to believe or not believe them. (If not, I guess everything they say about admissions is suspect.)

how are the universities NOT able to see the scores you don’t want them to see.

For superscoring schools, you need to send at most two scores. If you are worried about test dates other than those containing the two sections being superscored, you can use Score Choice and never send the other test dates. They will have no way to access those other test dates.

If you are worried about them seeing the other section scores on the two you send, there is likely no way for you to physically prevent an admissions officer from accessing whatever database the school may have with the raw data. If you absolutely want to avoid any chance of any AO ever seeing individual test scores on the two dates you send, I suggest not sending them.

Fwiw, I’ve never seen a school that says they will superscore between sections of ACT and SAT. If they exist, I suspect they are in the extreme minority.


In the superscoring situation with which I am most familiar, admission officers see only a superscored representation of official scores (or self-reported ones), with entry of information performed at an earlier, clerical, stage.

Btw, to reduce errors, a clerical assistant may enter all scores, with superscoring performed by a programmed operation.

I really don’t think there is such a thing as a combined SAT/ACT super score. Schools may super score either or both tests but not parts of each one