Aug 27, 2009

How Much Harder Can Score Choice™ Get?

After advising students to check directly with colleges concerning individual positions on SAT Score Choice™, I decided to do a little research on my own. This is what I found: it’s not easy to discover school policies on testing. In fact, it’s a real headache.

It may be that most colleges and universities don’t recognize how confusing the new Score Choice policy is and haven’t addressed it yet on their websites. They’ll find out once students start trying to submit scores through the College Board and a link appears reading, “Help me choose test scores” and a dialogue box flashes that reads in part, “You’ve chosen not to send a test score that was recommended in this college’s or scholarship program’s SAT score-use practice….” Say what?

At least one website I reviewed had not been updated on the matter of standardized testing since 2006. More forward thinking schools have separate web pages dedicated to Score Choice. For example, Georgetown University sternly advises:

“Georgetown University does not participate in the Score Choice option available through the College Board or the similar program through Educational Testing Service (ETS). Georgetown requires that you submit scores from all test sittings of the SAT, ACT or SAT Subject Tests. Georgetown evaluates thousands of competitive applicants each year for admission; access to your full testing profile enables the admissions committee to fully and fairly assess your individual strengths in comparison to the entire applicant pool.”

Appearing to leave the decision to students, Washington and Lee University also provides guidance:

"Beginning with the March 2009 administration of the SAT, students will have the option of participating in the new Score Choice program, or they may choose to have all their SAT results sent to W&L. Washington and Lee recommends students NOT participate in Score Choice. This will mean that all SAT results will be sent to us, ensuring that our Admission Committee has access to a student's best scores."

And goes on to warn:

"Students who decide to exercise the Score Choice option for reporting SAT scores to W&L must be very careful to specify that we receive the results of each SAT administration representing that student's highest score for each section of the test."

After evidently receiving a number of inquiries, UVA’s “Dean J” recently created a separate post labeled Score Choice on the Notes from Peabody blog:

"When we read your files, we are only interested in seeing your very best scores. We set up our system to pluck the best composite ACT score (we don't recombine the sections) and the best of each section of the SAT (sometimes called super scoring). If you take the SAT more than once, we will only see your best score from each of the three sections. I'm really not interested in anything but the best scores. Just send your reports through the official channels and the application system will make sure we see the highest scores."

While not referring to the program, the College of William and Mary indirectly suggests that multiple sets of test scores are perfectly acceptable:

"If an applicant submits multiple test scores, we use the best overall combination of the highest scores achieved on each section when reviewing the application."

James Madison University politely “asks” that students submit all scores but does not appear to make it a requirement:

“JMU accepts and recognizes both the SAT and ACT, [sic] we ask that you send all of your scores. When reviewing test scores we use the highest individual verbal and highest individual math scores from the SAT. For the ACT we use your single highest composite score.”

The University of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, “requires:”

“Penn requires that applicants submit all testing results from each administration of the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests. We evaluate only the highest of your ACT Composite scores, the highest score on each section of the SAT, or the highest single testing result from multiple sittings of any SAT Subject Test.”

And Stanford will put up with no “hiding:”

“Applicants must self-report and submit all SAT scores or all ACT scores and cannot elect to 'hide' any scores with either testing agency.”

Finally, the most humorous and factual take on Score Choice comes from Dean Andrew Flagel, of George Mason University:

“I don’t really have any problem with the policy, but you should know two things. First, it’s unlikely to make ANY difference to your admission. As I’ve written many times, colleges and universities will use your best scores, and use the best portions from different sittings (so English section from one time, Math from another, to get your best total score). Also, the few schools that really care about seeing all of your scores are STILL MAKING YOU SEND THEM ALL.

In other words, there are [sic] a group of schools that won’t let you use score choice, so it really doesn’t matter. For the sake of simplicity I call these the ‘So incredibly uptight universities that if we placed coal under their seats we’d all have diamonds’ or SIUUTIWPCUTSWAHD schools, or ‘annoying’ for short.

At the other end of the spectrum you have schools that know that you’re more than a test score, many of which not only embrace score choice (despite the reality that it’s largely meaningless) but even go so far to offer score optional admissions. We can call these the ‘Schools that actually care’ institutions or ‘George Mason University for short.”


  1. Thank you for posting your take on this confounding, labyrinthic, circuitous maze! Whom do you think is more devious: colleges, College Board, or students? Can it really matter that much if a student achieved a lofty score because of her unflagging perseverance or her good fortune to be a great test-taker?

    I plan to keep your piece handy to share with confused students!

  2. Thank you for addressing this confusing subject. For this situation alone, I am encouraging students with ACT scores that are = or higher than their SATs to only send their ACT scores with the writing to colleges.