College Board is Deliberately Misleading the Public with National Percentiles –
PSAT Scores PSAT Scores were released on December 12, 2016. Many students were delighted when they saw their scores and National Percentiles. Did you know that College Board’s “National Percentiles” are based on a fabricated population of students who are in high school and include those who never take the SAT? Did you know that College Board created this “National Percentile” definition beginning with its New PSAT in October 2015, and that these percentiles have continued to be reported this year with the New SAT and the New PSAT?
The one key difference between New SAT and New PSAT score percentiles is that College Board shows the National Percentile right next to the User Percentile in its SAT score reports. The User Percentile is nowhere to be found in the New PSAT score reports in 2016. At least they were reported in 2015! Why not now?
What are User Percentiles, and why are User Percentiles important?
User Percentiles are the standard for comparing scores between the SAT and ACT. National Percentiles are inflated percentiles. National percentiles are generally 4 to 6 percentage points higher than User Percentiles. What are User Percentiles? These are the percentiles that College Board and the ACT have historically been reporting until College Board did its revamp of the New SAT. User Percentiles are based on a real population of students who actually take the SAT or ACT. This is what makes the most sense! If you want to be able to compare your scores between the SAT and the ACT, you MUST use User Percentiles.
So why does College Board publish National Percentiles with its PSATs? It’s obvious -- the ACT surpassed College Board with the number of students taking its test in 2012. College Board is in the business of selling SATs!
If you believe that your percentiles are much higher on the PSAT than on a mock ACT you’ve taken, you’ll be duped into believing that the New SAT is a better test for you. Think again when you look carefully through these percentiles.
The type of comparison that you are really looking to do before you decide on one test or another is below.
Note this high-scoring student had a 97th percentile (National percentile) for her overall PSAT. One may falsely believe that this is equivalent to a 31.5 Composite on the ACT.
That false comparison is exactly why it is so important to go to the College Board documents and look up User Percentiles. One can even go back to concordance tables for the 2014 "old" PSAT reporting to look at equivalent percentiles. User percentiles and concorded percentiles are the best way to compare to the ACT because the percentile definitions are based on the same total population of students taking the actual tests. Note that the high-scoring student below is now similar to a 29.5 total score. Her Verbal scores, though, are really in the 78th to 84th percentiles. That's similar to a 26 on ACT Reading and 26.5 on ACT English. These are quite different from the immediate false assumption that the student's score is similar to a 31 to 32 ACT score.
Make sure that you are working with an informed test prep provider and that you do your homework!