# PWN the SAT Q&A

Isn't there a significant curve on the SAT? I thought it was widely accepted that the curve is higher in the fall, lower in the spring. Or it might be the other way around. Either way, more seniors take it at a certain time, and more SAT-prepped students take it at a certain time, pushing the curves up. And at higher scores, one question is valued at more--missing one question could drop you from a 2400 to a 2360, but only from a 1600 to a 1590. Something like that?

Each test has a slightly different scoring table—that’s true. But the differences aren’t due to who took that test; they’re due to the slight variations in test difficulty and a process called “equating” that adjusts for those variations.

The “experimental” section you take on every test has 2 purposes:

1. To try out questions for future tests
2. To compare the performance of samples of your test group to the performance of other test groups on the exact same sections.

The second thing is called equating, and it’s why scoring tables change for each test, even though your score isn’t affected by the group of kids you tested with.

You also mentioned that scoring tables are more punishing at the top. That’s true, but usually not as extreme as 40 points off for one mistake. They’re also more generous at the bottom, near 200. Again, this is a result of equating. It comes down to whether the test in question is easier or harder than normal, not how well or poorly a particular group performed on it.

That’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Your scoring table depends on the difficulty of the test, not the group taking the test. That difficulty is determined through equating, which compares your test group to all other test groups. So I guess you could think of the SAT being curved against everyone who takes it over a long period of time, but it’s not curved against the group that takes it on the same day as you.

I’ve written a lot more about this here, and you can read it straight from College Board’s mouth here. It’s a confusing thing to wrap your head around, but please trust me when I say that you REALLY don’t want to get into the game of trying to figure out when the optimal test date is based on what other groups (seniors, test-prepped people) are doing. It’s not only impossible to know when the smartest people will take the test—some of the smartest people take every test—but also a distraction from what you should be doing: finding weaknesses in your own testing abilities, and diligently turning them into strengths.

Take the test(s) that work best with your schedule. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

EDIT: I was remiss in the original post in not including Erik The Red’s fantastic and thorough analysis of released test scoring tables. If you look through these, you’ll hopefully see that “easier” or “harder” tests aren’t predictable based on time of year.