Test-Day Tips

SAT
2/1/2018

SAT and ACT Score Choice and Superscoring

- by Bridget Vaughan

First things first; score choice and superscoring only matter if you plan to take the ACT or SAT multiple times. It is in your best interest, unless you pulled off a flawless perfect score during your first sitting, to take the test more than once. Simply by shaking out nerves on your first early-morning four-hour test experience and becoming familiar with the process, you are likely to see improvement on your second or third tests. Don’t take this logic too far - most students would be best advised to take the test just 2-3 times in total!

What is Superscoring?

Superscoring is when a college chooses to look at your highest section score across all test dates. Let’s say that the first time you took the SAT, you scored a 690 in math and 720 in reading & writing. You buckled down with your math prep and took the SAT a second time, scoring a 700 in math and 710 in reading & writing. If the college you are applying to superscores (also called “highest scores across sections”) they will take your 720 reading & writing score from test #1 and your 700 math score from test #2 to calculate your “superscore.”

This is a great way to get credit for your best performances on each section even if they weren’t on the same test day. Colleges that superscore often do so to get a better understanding of your testing abilities. It doesn’t hurt that this policy will also help colleges with their own self-image and ranking, as it allows them to list these superscored test scores, increasing the average admitted student scores.

Traditionally, colleges that chose to superscore would often only superscore the SAT, not the ACT. This is no longer as common, and typically if a school superscores, they will do so for either test. The best way to know is to check your school’s specific policy on their admissions page.

What is Score Choice?

“Score choice,” instated in 2009, is an example of the SAT catching up to policies that the ACT has had all along. Even though the ACT doesn’t have a label like “score choice,” the policy is the same: score choice allows students to send to schools only their best individual test score. If you took the SAT three times, for example, scoring a 1020, 1010, and 1100, you would be allowed, *by the testing company*,  to send only the best of these scores.

The first and most altruistic idea behind score choice is to empower students by giving them some choice in the matter, and ease stress in the case they have an off-day and perform poorly. The second idea behind score choice is that students will be incentivized to take the test multiple times, which means more money for these ever-growing testing companies.

Sidenote: Score choice also applies to SAT subject tests, so if you’ve taken any subject tests more than once, you may have the option to send the better of the two scores.

Great news! So it doesn’t matter if I bomb a test? On the contrary, just because the testing companies are going to allow you to send your best individual test score through score choice doesn’t mean your colleges will also accept this policy!

Many colleges do not accept score choice, instead requesting that you send all of your scores from every test date you have.

Do my colleges accept score choice?

Score choice sounds great in theory. If you were sick for one of your test dates or just lost all energy halfway through (don’t forget some snacks and jumping jacks during break next time!), you could essentially throw that test date out.

In reality, though, many schools expect and require you to send all of your scores. This is just another reminder not to take either the ACT or SAT before preparing adequately, as you are likely to apply to at least one college that will see every test score.

 

Schools that accept score choice**:

California:

  • California College of the Arts
  • California Maritime Academy
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  • Cal Poly Pomona
  • Cal State: Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Chico, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Northridge, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Marcos, Stanislaus

Ivy League:

  • Brown
  • Columbia
  • Harvard
  • Princeton
  • Dartmouth (but they superscore!)
  • MIT (but they superscore!)
  • University of Pennsylvania (but they encourage you to send all scores)

 

Schools that require all scores (do not accept score choice):

California:

  • California Christian College
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Mills College
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Soka University of America
  • Stanford University
  • All UCs: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
  • All Claremont Colleges: Pomona, Pitzer, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna

Ivy League:

  • Cornell
  • Yale

 

What about colleges not listed here?

The College Board has compiled a comprehensive list of colleges and their policies regarding test scores. The list can be found here.

The terms the College Board uses to explain each policy are:

  1. “Highest Section Scores Across Test Dates - Version 1”: These schools will superscore, and will consider any additional scores you want them to see.
  2. “Highest Section Scores Across Test Dates - Version 2”: These schools will superscore, and only consider your highest section scores.
  3. “All scores”: When sending scores, you must select “all scores” for the SAT, and actively select all test dates for the ACT.

Email or call the admissions department of the colleges you are applying to if you aren’t clear on their specific policies. This can serve as a good opportunity to show that you’re organized and particularly interested in their school as well.

**A very important note: Just because a school accepts score choice does not mean you should use score choice! I know, I know - why does score choice exist if we shouldn’t use it?

Should I use score choice?

If you have established that your college accepts score choice, the only time it is truly beneficial to use is if either of the following is true:

  1. You have one awesome test date: if all of your best section scores are from one stellar test date, then just send this one.
  2. You have one terrible test date if your worst section scores are from one test date, simply omit this test, and the admission committee won’t lay eyes on it.

If, instead, you have one test date you scored highly in math, and another test date you scored highly in reading, as is quite common, it is best to send both of those tests to your college (yes, even if they accept score choice).

Now that I know my college’s policy, and have learned what I scores to send…

How do I send my SAT scores?

For the SAT, you can send scores online through your College Board account. When you’re logged in online, there will be a page titled ‘Your Selected School and Scholarship Program Recipients.’ On this page, you’ll see your list of colleges in a column. To the right of each college, there are two options listed: ‘all scores’ and ‘choose scores.’ Keep in mind that if you do not actively select ‘choose scores,’ the default option is to send all scores. If you select ‘choose scores,’ the specific college’s policy will pop up. It’s best to double-check by referencing the college’s own admissions page before making your final selection.

If your college does not accept score choice, and you must send all scores, just make the ‘all scores’ selection. This still counts as sending one official SAT score report, even though you’re sending multiple scores. The SAT will charge you just one score report per school, at $12 per score report, regardless of how many scores are in each report.

How do I send my ACT scores?

Because the ACT has offered score choice for ages, their system is set up so that you just select the test dates you want to send scores from. This means that if you’re applying to a score choice accepting college, just select your best test date. If, instead, you’re applying to a college that requires all scores, you’ll have to select every test date individually (there is no “all scores” button as on the SAT). The ACT will charge you one score report per test you send, at $13 per score report, sometimes making it significantly more expensive than sending SAT scores.

For both the SAT and ACT, colleges that don’t accept score choice still cannot physically prevent you from using score choice, so it is up to you to read and abide by their rules.

Payment for score reports

Both the SAT and ACT offer four free official score reports when you register. For the SAT, you can opt to edit your list of 4 colleges up to 9 days after registration. In both cases, additional score reports are available for a fee ($12 for the SAT, $13 for the ACT) unless you have a fee waiver.

Just like random internet pop-ups flaunting free trips to Hawaii, you should be wary when considering the free score reports offered to you at registration. Whatever four schools you put into this free official score report list will get the scores from the test you are about to take - before you have a chance to see the scores. These score reports cannot be canceled or deleted, even if you do poorly on the test.

To use those free score reports or not to use those free score reports: that is the question.

It may be best to leave these four free score reports blank. This will let you see your scores before submitting, which is especially beneficial when applying to colleges that do accept score choice.

If you have a fee waiver, however, you can use your free 4 SAT score reports at any time, so definitely take advantage of them. The ACT, unfortunately, only lets you use your 4 free score reports at the time of registration, even with a fee waiver.  

What about cancelling scores?

Both the SAT and ACT have some options for cancelling scores before they are graded, which should typically be reserved for instances of getting notably and unexpectedly sick during the test.

In order to cancel an SAT score, which will mean it won’t be sent to be graded and cannot be recovered in the future, you must submit a ‘Request to Cancel’ form. If an emergency arises during your test, you can ask the test proctor for a form to fill out, sign, and submit back to the proctor. If you’ve completed the test and returned home, you must print a ‘Request to Cancel’ form, and fax or physically mail it such that it is received by the College Board no later than the Thursday the week of your test date. Remember, this should truly only be used as an emergency option! For the ACT, you may cancel your score by telling the test proctor to void your test. If you have already finished and left the test site, you cannot stop the test from being graded.

The ACT offers the unique, however, to erase a graded test from your ACT history entirely. This option requires some time and energy. You must first submit a physical letter requesting to delete an ACT score from your records. You then must wait for them to send out an official form for you to fill out and send back. Before doing so, it is best to wait until you have retaken the ACT and achieved a higher score, before dramatically erasing a test date completely. This action cannot be undone!


Ultimately, wishing the scoring policies of your college worked more to your benefit is not nearly as helpful as making those scores super in the first place. Start early, build skills gradually, and get comfortable with these bizarre things we called standardized tests, and you’ll be proud of those score reports, whatever form they may take!


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