by Kathie Sutin
A challenge for students preparing to take the SAT college entrance exam is the changing nature of the test itself. In 2005, the long-time structure of the SAT was changed when analogies were eliminated, shorter reading passages were added, and a student-written essay became part of the test. Then, in 2010, for the first time students were given the option of participating in what the SAT calls Score Choice.
Pick which scores you’ll send
For students who take the SAT more than once, usually in hopes of bolstering their scores the second time, Score Choice allows them to submit their choice of one score, all scores, or no scores at all to a particular college.
Previously, students were required to send scores on the test when they took it as well as scores on all previously taken tests.
"In the past if you took the SAT, all of your score history would be sent with your score report,” said Kristen Campbell, director of College Prep Programs for Kaplan, a company that offers prep classes for college admissions tests, graduate school entrance exams, high school admissions tests, and a variety of other tests. “Whether you took the test one time, two times or three times, all of your score history would be included.”
Starting with the class of 2010, students have had the option to decide which score is sent to which school, Campbell told Parent USA City.
Some colleges demand all scores
However, Campbell added, “The one caveat—and it’s an important one—is that colleges also have the choice to participate. Some colleges have come out and said, ‘We’re not participating and you, as a student, have to send all of your scores.’”
Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania are examples of schools that continue to require students to send all of their scores, Campbell said. “They’re saying, ‘We’re likely going to look at the highest score but you’ve got to send all of them,’” she added.
And Ed Carroll, executive director of High School Program Development for The Princeton Review, another test prep company, recommends against using the Score Choice option.
“Our advice is for students to release all scores,” he said. “The colleges want to see all scores.”
“False fear” of lower admission chances
The Score Choice option was developed to allay worries that students and parents have over scores, Carroll said. “The only reason Score Choice exists is that the College Board is trying to make parents and students happy.”
Some parents and students are “afraid” to have colleges see all the scores because they think a lower score will affect their chances of being admitted, he added.
But for the most part that’s a “false fear,” Carroll said.
In general, for most students it would be a mistake to withhold scores especially if the score on an individual section—math, reading or writing—is higher than those being submitted.
That’s because standardized tests are very good at giving consistent scores. On those tests, most students will get similar scores each time they take the test unless they do “some kind of significant practice in between,” Carroll said.
“If you hold back a score where one of the original sections was higher than it was on the scores you sent, you’d actually be damaging yourself in doing so, because schools usually consider your best individual sections regardless of on when the test was taken.”
Schools want the highest scores just as the student does, and for the same reason, Carroll said. “It benefits the student, obviously, to be competitive and it benefits the school when it is reporting the average incoming scores. So it does the school good to have high scores come from you as well.
“If you’ve withheld your scores then the school can’t look and find the highest that you possibly had,” he said.
“In general, our advice is, don’t use Score Choice. Send all of your results.”
Kathie Sutin is an award-winning freelance journalist based in St. Louis, Missouri. She specializes in writing about medical issues, travel, parenting, education, business, food and people. She has three children.© Photo by Lev Olkha | Dreamstime.com