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Articles / Preparing for College / Which SAT Test Date Means Higher Scores?

Which SAT Test Date Means Higher Scores?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 3, 2021

Are Some SAT Dates Better Than Others?

Question:

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 ...

1. Percentiles are not calculated by test date.

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.

2. College admission officials don't care about percentiles or pay attention to them. They focus strictly on the scores themselves.

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.

See what others are saying about SAT scores and more in the CC Community Forums.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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