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Articles / Preparing for College / Concordance Abhorrence

Concordance Abhorrence

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | June 12, 2016

What is a concordance? "A state in which things agree and do not conflict with each other" or "an alphabetical list of all of the words in a book or in a set of works written by an author."

In the case of the latest College Board/ETS SAT concordance table, it could mean "Your new SAT score is not as strong as you think it is."

NOTE: What I say here is just one man's opinion ... my opinion. Take it for what it's worth. If you're on the other side of this issue from me, great! Feel free to comment.

It's not hard for my readers to discern my disdain for the College Board and ETS (Educational Testing Service). I've cast a cynical eye upon them for decades as I've watched numerous high schoolers suffer miseries and disappointments because of the debatable value of the SAT. Oh, yeah, proponents of standardized testing loudly proclaim that we need some yardstick by which to measure students' "ability to deal with college-level work." I proclaim, "Bunk!"

They also trot out some variation of the tired old argument that the SAT levels the playing field among high schools of various quality. In other words, if you go to a not-so-hot school, chances are, generally speaking, that you won't do as well in college as students from stronger schools. Your 4.0 GPA from your "lesser" school won't stand comparison with the 3.75 of a student from a "more rigorous" school.

The hand-wringers who defend the SAT emerge from the woodwork every time someone attacks the value of this flawed instrument. The designers of the test have plenty of negative press to counterpoint. If you would like to peruse the tip of the bad-SAT-news iceberg, check out 10 Myths about the SAT. FairTest.org deserves much credit for presenting an ongoing objective look at the deficiencies of this deceptive international "institution."

But I digress.

The purpose of my post today is to alert those of you who may not already be aware of the so-called new-SAT Concordance Table. If you want a quick overview of the confusion and consternation it has caused, scan this thread on the College Confidential discussion forum.

In a nutshell, the concordance table shows students and parents how scores from the latest "new" SAT compares with score from the "old" (previous) SAT. The Washington Post article to which I link in my second paragraph above, says it pretty well:

It turns out the new test comes with a degree of score inflation. Simply put: a 1300 on the SAT is not worth as much as it used to be.

The new SAT represents more mindless marketing shell games from CB/ETS. If you are really cynical, you would say that the new SAT is easier than the old one -- on purpose -- so that more students will use it instead of the ACT, which is pulling astride, if not "outselling" the SAT. As an old friend of mine always said about eyebrow-raising situations, "Follow the money."

Anyway, back to our regularly schedule rant. The SAT Concordance Table: what is it and what does it mean?

First, for a refresher on what's inside the new SAT, here's an overview from PrepScholar:

The College Board has redesigned the SAT. Beginning in March 2016, the new SAT will be on a 1600-point scale rather than a 2400-point scale, and it will emphasize skills learned in high school rather than abstract reasoning skills. The scores for the Reading and Writing sections have been combined into a single section with a maximum score of 800. The Math section will still be scored out of 800, but new material has been added. The SAT essay has been completely redesigned and is now optional. The essay will be scored on a new scale (from 2-8), and the score you receive on it will be separate from your 1600-point scale score.

PrepScholar continues with an explanation of how to compare new SAT scores with your old scores through a conversion chart a.k.a. concordance table:

For a more detailed look at all the new changes to the SAT, check out this article here. Below, we'll go over rough estimate of score conversions. If you took the 2400-point version of the SAT and are looking to take the 1600-point version, then what does that mean? What scores should you target? Our chart will help you answer these questions.

Note: in addition to the chart below, you can use our quick, easy, and more accurate formula and calculator here!

To use this chart, find your old scores from the 2400-point SAT. These may be from an official SAT you already took, or from practice SATs that still used the 2400-point scoring scale. Locate your score on the chart, under the "Old Score" column. Then, look at the number immediately to the right of that score (under the "New Score Conversion" column). That is roughly the score you'd receive on the new SAT with its 1600-point scale.

[But] ... This conversion is imperfect because we don't have any data on how students are doing on the new SAT yet ...
Old Score New Score Conversion Old Score New Score Conversion Old Score New Score Conversion
2400 1600 1920 1280 1420 950
2380 1590 1900 1270 1400 930
2360 1570 1880 1250 1380 920
2340 1560 1860 1240 1360 910
2320 1550 1840 1230 1340 890
2300 1530 1820 1210 1320 880
2280 1520 1800 1200 1300 870
2260 1510 1780 1190 1280 850
2240 1490 1760 1170 1260 840
2220 1480 1740 1160 1240 830
2200 1470 1720 1150 1220 810
2180 1450 1700 1130 1200 800
2160 1440 1680 1120 1180 790
2140 1430 1660 1110 1160 770
2120 1410 1640 1090 1140 760
2100 1400 1620 1080 1120 750
2080 1390 1600 1070 1100 730
2060 1370 1580 1050 1080 720
2040 1360 1560 1040 1060 710
2020 1350 1540 1030 1040 690
2000 1330 1520 1010 1020 680
1980 1320 1500 1000 1000 670
1960 1310 1480 990 980 650
1940 1290 1460 970 960 640
1920 1280 1440 960 940 630

The CB's concordance table has inspired some interesting observations by veteran College Confidential forum posters. Here's a sampling from the thread I referenced above:

- Here's a shocking idea: Why not simply get rid of these arbitrary scales and simply report percentiles? Or will transparency damage the self-esteem of students?

- Any scaling scheme that:

- has arbitrary numbers at the endpoints (i.e. 400-1600)

- grants 400 points for just showing up and having a pulse

- requires you to look up your score on a table to figure out percentile ranking

is not transparent.

- I just downloaded this app and put in my S's old SAT score. It showed the exact same score that he made on his PSAT. That is crazy!!

[Information about the official College Board concordance table app mentioned in this comment is available here and here.]

- How can we cut our nation's kids free from the control of the College Board?

- [Why put the new SAT in such a favorable light?] To make the students taking the New SAT feel smarter. And suckered into taking more SATs.

- I don't understand this ridiculous scaled scoring. Is the college board attempting to make students believe they're scoring higher in hindsight than they actually are? ...

- What is most bizarre and RIDICULOUS is that a perfect 800 on CR/writing on the new SAT = a 34 English Writing score on the ACT. That is unreal.

- It's certainly making my head spin. What is the benefit of inflating the score? ...

- Here is a link to score converters: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/scores/understanding-scores/sat-score-converter

Confusing, eh? I sure wish I'd saved my old Dick Tracy Decoder Ring!

- ... students are accused of being soulless, grade-grubbing, academic robots, and schoolsl pass them up for students who "pursued their passion." This whole selective school admissions process is BS.


Getting the picture? CB/ETS continues to maneuver their products for obfuscated reasons, although the cynical among us who choose to "follow the money" surmise that the main reason is profit. That's ironic for such a longtime nonprofit.

Again, as I note above, this is merely my opinionated rant. It's entirely possible that the ACT marketing team is meeting even as I write this and are concocting their own insidious plan to foist upon unsuspecting high schoolers across the land. I have no idea.

The problem is that we have allowed, for whatever reason, a tiny number of more or less self-appointed mavens of adjudication to position themselves in seemingly unremovable power. They wield tremendous influence that directly affects the lives of countless young people who must submit to their oppression of their implied rules.

Here's to an ever-growing list of test-optional colleges and universities that are willing to evaluate applicants on criteria that do not include the sliding scales of changing measurement tools. Yes, CB/ETS, I'm talking about your SAT and its trail of tears over the years. I may also be talking about the ACT, but at least they have not (yet) shown themselves to be the arbitrary marketers that CB/ETS have become.

To paraphrase a late tennis buddy of mine, what good is a conundrum unless you can profit from it?


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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