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Makes it tough to seeMakes it tough to seehow students stack up While the Educational Testing Service restructured the Scholastic Aptitude Test grading system with the intention of clarifying the scores, college counselors have found that the move has made it even more difficult to determine exactly what the SAT measures. Starting this past April, the ETS adjusted the scoring of the SAT so the national average for both the math and verbal sections were close to 500 points. Each section has a maximum of 800 points. In past years, students scored consistently higher on the verbal section than the math, and the national averages changed from year to year. Last year the math average was 428 and the verbal was 482. According to Janice Gams, an ETS spokesperson, many students had difficulty assessing their scores because they could not tell how they had compared to other students. While the ETS scoring report includes the percentile in which the student placed, Gams said students tend to rely more on the actual score than the percentile. By recentering the exam to 500 for each section, students can measure how well they did as soon as they receive their score -- instead of having to wait for the national average. "Students take the SAT so that they know how they compare to the students at the schools to which they are applying," Gams said. "There's no reason why they should be comparing themselves to students in the 1940s -- which is when the test was last recentered." Gams added that recentering also eliminates some discrepancies between how the ETS counted points at each end of the scale. A student who got one answer wrong received a 740, but as the student made more mistakes, fewer points were deducted, Gams said. "Even though some students were at the 99th percentile, they were led to believe that did not do as well," Gams said. "Now we have put the score and percentile in better balance." Months before the first recentered exam, the ETS launched a major publicity campaign, sending newsletters to schools across the country, holding workshops for guidance counselors about the new grading process and creating videos for students that explained the new system. But until students get accustomed to the adjustment, many counselors worry that with the increase in scores, some students could overestimate how well they did. "I've encouraged students to look more at the percentile," said Julie Makin, college counselling director at the Agnes Irwin High School in Bryn Mawr, Pa. "But, there is definitely the danger that the kids who have taken the exam before and after the recentering will think that some miracle has happened," she added. And according to Judith Williams, counselling director at the Shipley High School which is also located in Bryn Mawr, students will have trouble gauging how they compare to the students already enrolled at the schools to which they are applying until all universities adjust their mean SAT scores.

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