SAT Tutor: What Is SAT Score Choice, and Should I Get It?

Posted by Sam Ashworth on 1/17/14 8:47 AM

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At Cambridge Coaching, our SAT tutors in Boston and New York get the “What is Score Choice” question a lot, so today, we are offering our faithful readers a friendly PSA.  

Score Choice is an option the College Board makes available to its test-takers.  The basic idea behind it is that if students take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests multiple times, they can opt to choose one result that they will send to schools--otherwise, schools will automatically receive a score report with all the results.  The student then gets four free score reports.  On the surface of it, this seems useful: a student can take the test multiple times and hide all but the highest score from colleges.  

There are two catches, however.  

For one thing, Score Choice sends scores from one entire sitting of the test, and doesn’t allow you to choose individual sections.  Sometimes students’ scores will invert over two tests: a 640 on the Critical Reading, 700 Writing, and 700 Math may become 690 CR/710 W/650 Math--so how can you choose?  You can’t, but with Score Choice, you have to.  This makes Score Choice harmful to the application.  

The second catch is that colleges are only interested in your best sub-scores anyway, so unless you have completely cratered on a test, there’s no particular advantage to hiding a score.  And even if you do crater, you can enclose a note in your college application explaining why it happened (a migraine, a family issue, whatever), and schools will respect your request to disregard the score.

Additionally, some colleges admissions department require all scores anyway (and others are test-optional now), meaning it doesn’t particularly help.  Finally, it’s not often a good idea to take the test more than twice; most studies show that scores only go up marginally, if at all, between the second and third sittings.  In all, we take the position that Score Choice, by encouraging students to take the test multiple times, is in large part a money-maker for the College Board, and is more likely to weaken a college application than strengthen it.

For more see the College Board’s Score Choice FAQ page.

Tags: SAT