Let’s say you took the SAT in June and got 50 out of 58 questions right on the Math section for a score of 550.
You wanted a higher score, so you took the SAT again in October. You got 51 out of 58 math questions right for a score of 530. The number of questions you answered correctly went up, but your score went down.
Is this a mistake? Should you get your test rescored? Probably not. Unless it turns out you answered more questions correctly, your score is accurate.
So what happened?
A Difference in Difficulty
Although the College Board works hard to develop tests with the same level of difficulty, some versions of the SAT are a little harder than others.
In the example above, the Math section of the first SAT was a bit more difficult than the Math section of the second test, so the questions on the first were worth a bit more. This is how we make sure scores are fair to all students, regardless of which SAT they took.
And it’s why you earned a 550 for 50 correct answers on the harder version, and a 530 for 51 correct answers on the easier version.
The Scoring Process
To make sure a section score from any SAT is equivalent to that same section score from any other SAT, regardless of its level of difficulty, we use a method called “equating.” Equating is a universally accepted statistical process used for all standardized tests. It ensures that scores are fair and valid for all test takers.
Some people confuse “equating” with “grading on a curve,” but it’s not the same thing. When a test is scored on a curve, your score may change depending on how everyone else performed on the test. Your SAT score is based only on how you perform. It’s never affected by other students’ performance.
Taking the SAT Again?
If you’d like to improve your score by taking the SAT again, try studying with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. Students who use this free study tool for just 6-8 hours see their scores go up an average of 90 points.