skip to main content skip to footer

A Study of Large Score Changes on the Scholastic Aptitude Test SAT

Jacobs, Paul I.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Entrance Examinations, Response Style (Tests), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Scores, Test Reliability, Test Repeaters


This study was concerned with reasons for "large" score changes from a SAT test taker's a junior to senior years. A large score change was defined as an increase of 125 or more points or a decrease of 75 or more points in either SAT-V or SAT-M. Sixty test takers showing large score changes on the SAT were asked about these changes in interviews. From their responses, the candidates were placed in six categories. The three largest of these were (a) the candidates who explained their score change in terms of relatively specific subject matter preparation, e.g., "I didn't take math as a senior," (b) those who explained their score changes in terms of "organismic" variables, e.g., health or motivation, and (c) those who could offer no explanation for their changes. Total test scores, in conjunction with the interview data, allowed for some consistency checks on the information provided by the candidates. A further analysis was made of the popularity of the correct and of the incorrect alternatives each candidate chose and the number of items omitted. These measures, which were related to total test score, yielded an additional check on the interview information provided by the candidates and also suggested a mechanism behind some of the increases in SAT-V. The results were in agreement with Davis and Fifer's finding that the particular wrong alternatives a candidate chooses may provide useful information.

Read More