It’s widely known that students get 200 points on each of the SAT sections just for putting their name down, so the lowest combined score a child can get is a 400.  But I’m often asked, should I just guess C if I don’t know the answer?  I conducted a fun–statistically insignificant–experiment: on a practice SAT, I took 4 versions of the same test. For the first version, I bubbled all As, for the next all Bs, then Cs, and finally Ds.  What were the results?  It doesn’t really make a difference which letter you choose. (In the math student-produced responses, I simply entered “0” as a constant.)

On the “A” only test, I earned a 330 on the EBRW and a 350 on the math, for a composite total score of 680 which placed me at the 1st percentile (99 percent of students would score equal to or better than that).  For the “B” test, I earned a 700 total composite score placing me at the 2nd percentile, for the “C” test, I earned a 740 which was the 4th percentile, and finally the “D” test was a 680, like the A test, at the 1st percentile. So, according to my totally unscientific, significantly lacking sample, whether I chose all As or all Cs was really not important for a number of reasons.

The College Board itself says that students’ scores can range broadly. In fact, on the
“Interpreting Scores” webpage, the College Board notes,

“Usually, section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math fall in a  range of roughly 30 to 40 points above or below your true ability. Colleges know this, and they receive the score ranges along with your scores to consider that single snapshot in context.”

Did you know that your score report actually has a range? The College Board gives the following example: while a student’s scores might be 490 in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and a 520 in the Math, the ranges might be 460-520 and 490-550, respectively. So your total score range could be anywhere from a 950 to a 1070. The total scores I earned in my experiment–from a 680 to 740–fall within these guidelines, and colleges might view these scores as within the same band. The percentile differences I ranked in, from 1st to 4th, also could be within a margin of error, thus being insignificant.

What does this all mean?  Guess…and guess confidently!  Don’t worry about which letter you choose on the SAT. Ivy Ed does recommend you pick one letter and stick with it so that if you want to double check your answers, you can see where you started guessing randomly. Our tutors can help you develop an individual test strategy.