Which SAT exam sets the curve for the year? Someone told me that my daughter should take the December SAT and not take the January SAT because the January SAT is when all the private school kids take it and they have been fully prepared by their schools. Is there a difference?
From the Dean:
I've heard that theory is floating around, and it's absurd. SAT's are not marked on a curve. The scores are based on the total number of correct, incorrect, and omitted responses. So a student's score is never affected by other test-takers.
Those who circulate these rumors are probably focusing not on the scores themselves but on the percentiles, which do compare students with their peers. But, even so ...
Here's how the College Board explains the calculation of percentiles:
"A percentile rank is a number between 1 and 99 that shows how you scored compared to other students. It represents the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below your score. For example, a test-taker in the 57th percentile scored higher than or equal to 57 percent of test-takers. The Nationally Representative Sample percentile compares your score to the scores of typical 11th- and 12th-grade U.S. students. The User Percentile compares your score to the actual scores of recent graduates who took the new SAT during high school."
As you can see, percentiles are not based on results from throughout the previous year ... not from your child's actual test date or from any one specific date.
So that theory about choosing a particular test date to improve SAT scores is pure hogwash. Sign up for whichever date works best for you.
This Ask the Dean was updated in November 2021.
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