Super Scores and Score Choice: Can We Game The System?
The History and Definition
About a decade ago, The CollegeBoard introduced Score Choice, a system by which students could pick which SAT dates’ results they wanted to send to schools. If you took the test 5 (or 10) times, you could send only one score—presumably your best—and your prospective University would be none the wiser. The ACT followed suit with an equivalent program.
Many colleges saw the potential for test-abuse and responded by asking to see all scores from all proctored sittings. The schools claimed that they would consider the highest score, but wanted to see others for context.
Around this time, the concept of a Super Score evolved. A Super Score is simply a score composed of the highest scores in each section. If you took the SAT twice, first scoring 700 on Math and 500 on Reading, then scoring 500 on Math and 700 on Reading, your Super Score would be 1400 (the highest Math + the highest Reading)
The Old School of Thought and the New Wisdom
Both Score Choice and Super Scores are attempts at putting one’s best foot forward, but they’re both something of a façade, and it was a long-held belief that the more elite institutions would not consider Super Scores nor accept Score Choice. But The Princeton Review and PrepScholar recently performed an interesting analysis suggesting that the tides may be shifting in students’ favor.
We can generally look at what the ultra-competitive universities allow, in order to see a canary for how the admissions landscape is shifting. Of the top 10 schools (US News and World 2016 Universities) here is the breakout:
What Does This Mean?
Unless you’re dead-set on Princeton or Yale, you have some good built-in flexibility in the testing process. Here’s how you can maximize your outcome: plan to test about three times or more. If a school allows score choice, you can maximize your high-score potential without negative repercussions by testing often. Historically, the rule of thumb was don’t test more than three times, but this, we note, is not the case any longer.
Second, this should go a long way to reducing stress levels. Students should take comfort knowing they do not have to be perfect on every section, on every test day. It is enough to be outstanding on one, mediocre on the rest, and then repeat the process, shifting the distribution.
And that, perhaps, is the biggest takeaway: schools are becoming more flexible with their methods of processing students’ test scores, and students are the beneficiaries. Specifically, non-perfect-scoring students (almost all, then) will now have a slight boost, as they have more opportunities to demonstrate their testing prowess.