SAT

Should I Take Math Level I or Math Level II?

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Deciding which SAT Subject Tests to take can be tricky, especially when it comes to choosing between Math Level I or Math Level II. Generally speaking, if you have completed an Algebra II/Trigonometry course, then you are prepared to take the Math Level I SAT Subject Test. When you have completed a course in Pre-Calculus, you will likely be ready to take on the Math Level II. However, each math student is different and going by this simple guideline can often be the wrong choice.

The subtle reality is that these tests are not very different in terms of overall content. The Math Level I test will cover most materials learned in grade school, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. The Math Level II test covers all these materials as well as some of the more advanced topics learned in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus (e.g. logarithms, parametrics, trigonometric/piecewise/recursive functions, summations, and three-dimensional geometry to name a few). While this may seem like a significant difference, the truth is that the vast majority of questions on both tests consist of predominantly algebra and geometry topics. Most of the trickiest topics on the Math Level II are rare and, to be honest, a savvy Algebra II/Trig student can often score better on the level two test than on the level one.

While the Math Level I is easier in terms of overall content, the scaled score that one receives is actually harsher. As an example, if a student takes the level one test and gets five questions wrong, that student would receive an approximate score of 750 (95th percentile). If a student takes the level two test and gets five questions wrong, that student may receive a perfect score of 800. However, believe it or not, this perfect score on the Math Level II test only corresponds to the 79th percentile! For an unknown reason, the scaling on this test is skewed down nationwide. Personally, I would like them to scale the test in order to discern more accuracy in the upper range but this is not the case and can make interpretation of the results a little tricky.

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In my opinion, all colleges view the Math Level II test as the real indicator of whether or not a student is proficient in mathematics. This is a major reason to try the harder test. If you want to apply to an upper echelon school with a technical major in the maths or sciences, then this is the test that you should prepare for. I believe that the score that you want to send with your applications and transcripts should be at or above the 700 mark. In order to break 700 on the Math Level II, you will need to answer at least 33 questions correctly while omitting the remaining 17. It is a little known fact that this marks merely the 45th percentile! In order to break 700 on the Math Level I, you will need 38 correct answers and omit the remaining 12 (74th percentile). To clarify, you’ll need fewer questions correct on the harder test yet many of the same algebra and geometry topics are covered on both.

There is no doubt that an 800 on either test is a feather in the cap of the applicant but if you are a strong math student, it is honestly easier to achieve this perfect or ‘near’ perfect score on the level two test. Regardless of what percentile the score represents or which test you ultimately decide to take, colleges like to see scores in the 700 to 800 range. In order to make an informed decision for yourself, you should try one of each and score them accordingly. If you get a score approaching the 700 mark on either the Math Level I or Math Level II, then you should strongly consider taking the Math Level II. A 700 on the Math Level II looks better than a 700 on the Math Level I. If you score in the 500s or low 600s on the Math Level I, then perhaps this is the right test for you. Based on the number of right answers and the scaled score, you can determine which test holds a better chance at a 700 for you and if you are unsure, you can always prepare for both!

The Do’s and Don’ts of the SAT Essay

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Now that we’re a few years into the “new” SAT (which was completely overhauled in 2016), I’ve started to see more of my students opting to take it over the ACT. One major difference between the tests that often gets overlooked, however, is the essay. If you’re considering both tests, I’d recommend practicing each test with the essay — which you can (and should!) do during the diagnostic process here at LP. And to get you started with thinking about the SAT essay, here’s a couple of quick tips based on the SAT essays that I’ve seen.

First, let’s take a look at an SAT essay prompt. Before the passage, you’ll see this box:

And after the passage, you’ll see this box (just replace “Jimmy Carter” and “the Arctic…” with whatever your passage is about):

Notice how, unlike the ACT, the SAT does not ask you to argue your opinion on a topic; instead, you are asked to analyze how effectively someone else makes their points.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when writing the SAT essay:

DO paraphrase or quote from the most important parts of the passage to demonstrate your reading comprehension. A full third of your score is “reading,” and your grader can only evaluate how well you’ve read from your writing.

DO try to fill close to two handwritten pages, and try to leave yourself a couple of minutes to revise your work for spelling and grammar mistakes. Now, according to the rubric, your ideas should matter much more than length and spelling. But think about your grader, who’s probably going through hundreds of essays very quickly. These types of things can end up mattering more than they probably should.

DO consider a “three-prong” thesis statement to clearly lay out your essay’s structure — something like “Through his X, Y and Z, Jimmy Carter makes a persuasive case that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should not be developed for industry.” Sure, it’s not the most “sophisticated” thesis statement. But you have 50 minutes to read and write your essay, and your grader knows that. However, this leads straight into my one big “don’t,” based on the essays that I’ve seen...

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DON’T cram “rhetorical devices” into your thesis or topic sentences unless they are a major, recurring part of the passage. Honestly, it’s stronger to say “at the close of his argument, the author appeals to carefully selected facts and statistics to underscore his point” than to try to force “the author’s use of logos” into your essay and make it sound natural. There might be one or two devices that are present enough to warrant an entire paragraph (appeals to emotion and personal anecdote are two common examples) — and in that case, go for it! But if you feel like you’re “forcing it,” take another approach.

INSTEAD, pick a broader, more descriptive category for your topic sentence, and explain how this category functions for the author’s argument: rather than “the author uses diction to make his point,” say “the author richly describes the natural world, helping the reader to visualize what’s at stake.”

Now, this isn’t to say you should avoid mentioning rhetorical devices entirely. When you notice rhetorical devices, show off what you know! For example, when analyzing a specific piece of evidence in a body paragraph, you can say something like, “Carter’s description of nature in this quote edges on hyperbole” (before going on to further explain how that likely affects a reader). Just don’t let rhetorical devices become a “crutch” for your topic sentences. Your topic sentences should allow you to talk about all the most important parts of the passage, not constrain you to a list of rhetorical devices that you’ve memorized.

2019 Goal: Read More

Even though January 1st has passed, there’s still time to add “read more” to your New Year Resolutions list. Believe it or not, reading is important for more reasons than just succeeding in school (although that’s a pretty important reason!).

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A 2009 study performed at the University of Sussex by Dr. David Lewis found that reading can reduce your stress levels by up to 68%! This is a higher percentage than other commonly prescribed stress relievers such as listening to music or talking a walk. When your body is under stress, you may be unable to focus, have trouble sleeping, or notice that you get sick a lot more than usual. Managing stress is important for you to remain healthy and happy all year round!

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination” - Dr. David Lewis

So as the weather begins to worsen and the spring ACT and SAT test dates get closer, try managing your stress by reading for a few minutes each day. If you need some reading suggestions, check out the LP library, which is filled with books recommended by your favorite instructors! Or be sure to check out January’s book of the month: Sirens of Titans by Kurt Vonnegut.

The Other Half of the Test, and How to Master It

We all know there is a lot of material to learn on the path to mastering the SAT or ACT – formulas, grammar rules, reading strategies. But there is another skill to master: the mind game.

During the nearly four-hour test, pacing, endurance, and fatigue become huge factors in our mental performance. These hurdles make up the mind game: the psychological prowess needed in partnership with the material to maintain rigorous concentration during the test’s unique conditions. Rather than being learned in a lesson, these skills come from building the muscle of focus. And like any muscle, it needs to be trained. 

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Training is not something that happens over night – at our second trip to the gym, we don’t run a marathon. Instead, we take active steps to train this muscle during our practice.

Practice. Interesting word, that. What do we know about practice?

We are taught that practice makes perfect. This is not true. An aspiring pitcher who practices by bowling the baseball probably isn’t going to be very successful, even if they practice all day every day.

The truth is: Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

This means when we prepare for the test but do not exercise the mind game, we are making permanent the limited focus and energy we are bringing to our practice. That is why it is so important to push ourselves to improve focus during all of our SAT/ACT practice.

There are steps we can take to train our focus and improve our mind game when we study for the tests:

THE ENVIRONMENT

Just like test day, your practice space needs to be distraction free. Find a quiet space, preferably with as few people around as possible. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If kid brother is always practicing his air guitar and mom always has an endless number of phone calls, tell your family “Hey, I’m going to be studying for the SAT/ACT at 7 tonight, can I have an hour of quiet-time in the house?”

Most importantly, put your phone away. In another room, preferably. Practicing with it buzzing at the other end of the table is going to make permanent that little voice in your head wondering what your friends are texting you. It won’t be there on test day, so get it outta there.

Or better yet, head to LogicPrep anytime, and we’ll set you up in a distraction-free study space or an empty room. We’ll even hold your cell phone behind the front desk for you.

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THE BODY

Given the intensity of high school, it is understandable that sometimes SAT/ACT homework happens later at night than we might want. But attempting these endurance-based tests when we’re losing our energy to stay focused is bad practice, and builds bad mental habits. If you feel yourself losing steam, it might be best to call it a night and start up again in the morning.

Hunger can be just as distracting as tiredness. Stock up on brain foods to snack on before you begin your SAT/ACT practice, like nuts or berries. Just like with our phones, we do not want to make permanent the state of distraction that an empty stomach brings.

THE MIND

You know the feeling when you’ve read the same paragraph for the third time but still can’t remember what it is about? That’s your mind’s signal telling you that your focus is temporarily low and needs a little reset. There’s no use reading it a fourth time – we don’t want to make that mental state permanent. Instead, take a micro break. Try moving your body: walk up and down the stairs or do ten jumping jacks. Use this moment to wipe your slate clean and return to the question at hand as if it’s the first question you’re working on today. Slowly, our mental muscles improve, and we can reset and focus by simply taking a deep breath. But until then, note when your mind is drifting, and take active, physical steps to correct it.

In order to build the mental muscles required for staying focused during these large tests, it is important that you study in test conditions. Remember, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Why Reading Will Benefit You When Applying to College & Beyond

It is quite clear that we live in a digital age where our minds are often inundated with information from platforms like Facebook and Instagram and also from text messages we receive from family and friends. We spend a great deal of our time responding to notifications, time that we could otherwise spend devoted to old-school, deep reading. I get it! In fact, I am sometimes guilty of it myself getting carried away by such distractions (and I even enjoy it). However, I think it is important to note the difference between the texts found in a book or informative article and the text messages found in your phone. I favor the former and here are a few reasons why:

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Engaged reading can only improve your SAT/ACT scores

First, as many of us know, the current college application process involves more than just completing a set of courses in high school and achieving a certain GPA. It means preparation for standardized tests like the ACT or SAT. It means proving your intellectual strengths. For the ACT or SAT in particular, building the habit of engaged reading is crucial to see progress not only in the verbal sections of the ACT/SAT but all throughout. I see this all the time with my students. In fact, various studies show that deep engaged reading is actually connected to cognitive progress over time. This cognitive progress can help you overcome the reading section of the ACT/SAT, give you exposure to new vocabulary and new ideas, and even give you new forms of reasoning to solve that super complicated math problem.

Colleges want to know that you’re reading

Second, aside from standardized tests, colleges and universities admire students who go out of their way to delve into readings of their interest. So much so that often colleges and universities might ask for your favorite outside readings (not assigned in your English class) on their applications. Columbia for example asks “List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year” in one of their 2018-2019 supplement prompts. Boston College asks “Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?”. Both of these questions provide an opportunity to show that you strive to become more informed in areas that interest you. Reading in this case becomes an advantage during the application process. You can use a book to talk about your passions and values or how a book pushed you to explore a certain subject.

You’ll understand the world better

Finally and most importantly, reading is a tool to learn greater empathy. I read an article recently that asserts this: words serve as a vehicle that transports you through someone else’s perspective. When you read deeply and meaningfully, you come across characters that are just like you. You also get exposed to others that are completely different than you. But reading is so intimate that you are often looking through the eyes of a character whether understanding their struggle or celebrating their success. In fact, different parts of our brain that have to do with emotion activate as we read about the life of a character. As the article pointed out, when we are deeply engaged with a story our brains mirror the actions and feelings of the characters. When we read, we exercise our brain to process new ways of forging relationships between ourselves and others. You have the opportunity to gain more sophisticated ways of understanding the world.

You might favor reading quick posts on your phone because it requires minimal effort. However, keep in mind that with minimal effort comes minimal rewards. You might be slowing your test preparation progress. You might be giving up an opportunity to increase your reading speed and comprehension. You might be giving up an opportunity to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone different.

What I would encourage is instead for you to choose to participate in deep reading. Pick an area that you like, something that interests you, and research a book related to it. If you still have a hard time finding a book, come to any of us at LogicPrep and we will gladly help you.

Reading makes us smarter, more informed, and more empathetic. These characteristics will be highly valued as you apply to college and even beyond. Why not start building them now? You want to go into college showing maturity through empathy and also demonstrating that you can handle the volume and complexity of college-level reading material.

How to Solve It

One of my jobs at LogicPrep is to help students prepare for the ACT and SAT. Unsurprisingly, this involves spending lots of time working on, thinking about, and discussing ACT and SAT problems. These are activities some might seek to avoid, reminders of stressful days spent in examination rooms and the fraught process of college applications. While I understand the aversion, however, I do not share it. It is not that I enjoy the cutthroat arena of standardized testing (I do not); it is simply that these tests, while imperfect, represent an opportunity to develop a skill I value deeply in myself and those around me: the ability to solve problems.

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In 1945, Hungarian mathematician George Pólya wrote his short text, How to Solve It, an exploration of problem solving methods drawn from mathematics but applicable in a wide variety of problematic settings. Its introduction lays out the following four-step process, to be used when presented with a new and vexing problem:

1. Understand the problem

Example:
Susie is a rising junior in high school interested in applying to a competitive university, and she needs to take the ACT or SAT. This is a problem for her because she knows little about either exam, has a very busy course load at school, and does not consider herself to be a good test taker. Her older sister Jennifer, always a model student, earned a very high score on the ACT but was still rejected from her top-choice school, and Susie worries this may happen to her.

2. Devise a plan

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Ex. (continued):
Susie decides to meet with a tutor her friend recommends, and she and the tutor plot a course of action together. Since Susie is swamped with schoolwork, it is important she spread out her test preparation as much as possible, so she plans to begin the process the following weekend. She schedules a mock ACT and a mock SAT at a local testing center to determine which exam is a better fit, and she schedules weekly sessions with her tutor to work on relevant math topics, as math is her weakest subject. She aims to take her first official exam in the spring, leaving open the option of taking the test again in the summer and fall.

3. Carry out the plan

Ex. (continued):
Susie finds that the ACT is a better fit for her than the SAT, since she doesn’t mind its strict time limits and actually enjoys the Science section, much to her friends’ disbelief. She and her tutor begin a thorough review of important math topics, including linear and quadratic functions, right triangle trigonometry, and systems of equations. Though she takes a couple of weeks off from her ACT prep for an important soccer tournament (which her team wins), she completes the homework her tutor assigns her and doesn’t lose momentum. In April, Susie performs well on her first official exam, but she decides to shoot for a higher math score and takes the June test as well, ultimately achieving her goal score.

4. Reflect on your work

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Ex. (continued):
When Susie applies Early Decision to her top choice school and is admitted in December, she takes a moment to reflect on her work over the preceding year. Though it is not her style to boast, she feels proud of her accomplishment and is glad she set aside the time to thoroughly prepare for the ACT. Starting early had been a good idea; it made her feel more optimistic about her odds of success and allowed room for unforeseen interruptions to her preparation – her victory in that soccer tournament turned out to be a nice boost to her college application, and an experience with teammates she will never forget.

If Susie could have done one thing differently, it would have been to worry less about her sister’s performance on the ACT and in the college admissions process. Jennifer’s experience was instructive, but it was only one data point in a sea of possible outcomes (and Jennifer’s second-choice school turned out to be a perfect fit for her). Comparing herself with Jennifer was counterproductive, for everybody is different and follows a different path in life. Susie is now more confident in her ability to solve challenging problems on her own, and when faced with life’s next major problem, she will know how to solve it: just take things step by step.

Bounty of the Bard: The Profit of Minor Insights

As many of my students know, I am a self-professed Shakespeare obsessive. His writing – plays and sonnets – might first be introduced in middle or high school as seemingly distant, foreignly-rendered text, but the reality of each line teems with vivid, living and immediate human experience. This experience isn’t something apart from what you, the student, or I, the instructor, might be familiar with – somewhere, in any given line from any work of Shakespeare’s – from the popularly known to the obscure – contains an articulation of every complex emotion that can be experienced: all one needs to do is be paying attention.

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How is this relevant to education practice, or test prep, you might ask? In a larger sense, our shared work toward test prep mastery is centered on self-knowledge and improvement – we strategize around our strength and perceived weaknesses to build a more confident, fully-rendered you (and the human care and reflection built throughout Shakespeare can be a key tenet of that process). 

Let’s look at this in detail: Act I, Scene I of the comedy Taming of the Shrew:

No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en.
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.

Cush Jumbo and Janet McTeer in Phylida Lloyd’s 2016 Production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (   Photo courtesy of the Public Theater   )

Cush Jumbo and Janet McTeer in Phylida Lloyd’s 2016 Production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (Photo courtesy of the Public Theater)

In the very earliest moments of the play, Tranio (the servant of a secondary character, someone to whom, in the larger scheme of narrative, we might pay little to no attention) delivers an invaluable, sharp insight of empowerment. Enjoyment, and sincere investment, is key to effective growth in any capacity – particularly academic. It’s all about finding your point of entry. Perhaps the content is key, and you readily invest in any fictional work; perhaps you’re of a puzzle-breaking mind, and analyzing and breaking the patterns of the test is your tactic of approach; or perhaps, simply, your drive to put in the work is to finish as soon as possible. Success is personal, and honest-to-goodness happiness is key.

And maybe there’s a lesson to be taken not only from the text, but also from the fashion of its use. A kernel of profundity placed within the early lines of a minor character – easy to overlook, and even easier to not give credence to when notice is taken. Shakespeare imbues every character with expansive humanity, whether central or tertiary. There is human use to this – in the attention we pay to people of all stripes who enter within our narrative – and certainly educational use, too. 

There is innate value in detail-oriented attention, and by taking in every aspect of how value is delivered to us, in Shakespeare, in life, and in the testing room, build a stronger, more comprehensive understanding as we move forward. A growing profit, indeed.

A Letter to High School Students Who Don't Read

Dear High Schoolers,

Here’s the problem: you probably don’t read. Ok, actually, you don’t read at all. If you’re trying to get better at standardized tests, unfortunately, Instagram is not going to help you. Scrolling through nonsense on your phone does not count as reading, even if you’ve traded every spare minute of your life staring at Twitter.  

Here’s the solution: read something-- anything that’s more than one page long. I’m not asking for much, but let’s consider how much I’ve read this summer and then compare it to how much you’ve read this summer. We can then compromise on how many pages you are going to read so that you can become a faster reader and score higher on your tests. Perhaps they weren’t the best books I’ve ever read, but I’ll run you through them here just so you have an idea of what people who read, do. 

Roger caught reading at our annual retreat

Roger caught reading at our annual retreat

The first book I read this summer was called American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. It is a quick novel, just 465 pages, and I don’t recommend it unless you’re into fantasy and nonsense. Not the kind of nonsense on Elliot Tebele's Instagram, mind you, but well-written nonsense. The story is one of the old gods vs. the new; the old Norse and native American gods are getting old and can’t compete with the new gods of media and television. A war is taking place in the American psyche and you are on the front lines. I will not mention that this is now a TV show because you’ll probably just stream it and continue to read nothing.

Next up was Love and Other Pranks, by Tony Vigorito. It's a silly love story nestled in a silly caper to expose the lies and deceit of a new-age guru charlatan. The guru is a horrible person and hoards money that he gets from his congregation. His former student decides to take revenge with a lot of laughing out loud along the way.  

And then there was The Dark Tower, by Stephen King, a modern-day Lord of the Rings epic. While a bit more R-rated, this story follows a cloaked mercenary through a series of adventures that are typically weird. These books are also well-written nonsense but in my defense, we are up over a thousand pages of nonsense that I’ve put on my summer reading list so far.

For the nerdist types, the last book I'll mention is The Dragons of Eden, by Carl Sagan. This book takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery beginning at the brains of the dinosaurs. Reptile brains are small and consist of a spinal cord and a small nub at the end called the R-complex (much like the human medulla oblongata). It is thought that much of our instinct is present in this area and only through the advent of the cerebral corpus have higher order animals developed the ability to think clearly. The problem is that having a cerebral cortex does not guarantee that you, my friend, are thinking clearly.

Please, I implore you, use your cerebral cortex for more than cat videos and learn something for crying out loud. Let's compromise on you reading more than a few pages of an actual book every day. If for nothing more than to improve your ACT or SAT score. But remember, Instagram and Twitter pages don't count.

Sincerely,

Roger, Instructor (and concerned citizen)

Why the Diagnostic Process is Crucial to the Test Prep Process

The diagnostic process is the first step for everyone in what is a very long road. Why do we do this? It is extremely important for the student, the family and our staff to understand where we are starting from on both the SAT and ACT; knowing what you're up against is half the battle. Sometimes knowing what you don't want to do in your test prep is just as important as figuring out what to do, and we want all of our families to understand all of their options in totality before making a decision together. After we complete the diagnostic process, we can prepare a game plan for each student that addresses their specific needs.

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A question I get asked all the time now is why take both tests during the diagnostic process, as many students come in with a preconcieved idea about which test might be best for them after conversations with friends and siblings. The truth of the matter is that experiencing a diagnostic SAT and ACT brings clarity for the entire process. Creating a unified goal for us to work towards is crucial - and if they don't expereince both tests, many students will may ask themseves "what if?" once they hit the first plateau in their preparation.

Another key component in the diagnostic process that sets us apart, is the ability to meet with different instructors and pick whom you would like to work with. While all of our instructors are incredibly talented and bright, they all bring different personalities and teaching styles. Finding the right fit for each student is paramount to success.

At the end of the process, we want to empower our students to be in control of their test prep. This is an important process that allows for a lot of growth and we want to foster that growth.

In the words of our late founder, Jesse Kolber, "don't be the sage on the stage, be the guide on the side."

What Happened with the June SAT?

People are fired up about the June SAT.

When the College Board released SAT scores last week, many students noticed something off: they missed the same number of questions as on previous tests, but their scores were lower. In some cases, students answered more questions correctly only to see their scores go down.

How is this possible? Well, unlike most high school grades, the SAT scores that get reported to colleges are not "raw" scores that directly reflect the percentage of questions answered correctly. Instead, they are “scaled” scores out of 800 in each section. This scaled score is what allows colleges to compare a score that a student received in May in Brazil with a score received in October in Florida, or a score received by an applicant this year with a score received by an applicant last year.

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There are minor variations in difficulty between one test form and another, so the scale used -- commonly called the test's "curve" -- changes slightly from test to test. In one typical test, missing 5 questions across the two math sections might lower a student's score from a "perfect" 800 to a 760. In another, the same number of errors might only lower the score to a 780. The College Board calls this process test equating, and it's based on test statistics, not on individual performance.

This kind of "equating" -- and the frustration it can cause students -- is nothing new. So why are people so upset about the June SAT? Two reasons: First, the curve was the steepest by far since the new SAT was first administered in 2016. According to some students' score reports, missing the same number of questions resulted in scores as many as 90 points lower than in previous test administrations. A gap that large raises alarms: while equating works well between tests with only a slight variation in difficulty, it doesn't work well when some tests are substantially "easier" than others. The frustration over the curve is felt particularly strongly among high-scoring students since a test with a steep curve fails to distinguish meaningfully between content-based errors and a small number of careless mistakes.

Second, four items were removed from the Verbal side of the test (two from the Reading section, and two from the Writing and Language section). The test is designed to be able to provide an accurate score even when some questions are deemed flawed after the fact and removed from consideration; still, having four items removed on top of a steep curve for an "easy" test has left many students feeling like the College Board's June test was simply unfair.

What can be done?

The College Board has released a statement affirming that scores are accurate, so don’t expect any adjustments to the test's scale or scoring. Instead of focusing on this one test, students should remember that standardized testing is a long game. Most of our students take the test multiple times in part because the tests -- as well as individual performance -- can vary from day-to-day. The ultimate goal of testing is to present colleges with a score that reflects your hard work and your abilities, and it's difficult for any one test to indicate more than just your performance on a single day. This is a big part of why many colleges "superscore" the test, taking the highest score from each section across multiple tests. Even rising seniors still have several opportunities to take the test again, including August 25 (registration deadline July 27, late registration deadline August 15), October 6, and November 3.

The June test was unusual -- and with all the outcry, you can be sure the College Board will be working even harder to ensure consistent test difficulty in the future. But under normal circumstances, "equating" makes the tests more fair, not less. If you're well prepared and one test section feels harder than usual on test day, you should expect the curve to reflect that. And if you unexpectedly finish a section earlier than usual, be sure to take that opportunity to double check for careless mistakes.