SAT Scores Often Denied After ETS Review

Around 2.8 million students take the SAT annually. Of those 2.8 million scores, around 2500 are flagged for review. Typically, half of those test takers have their scores denied, or thrown out, because the review board deems them unacceptable. Why are these exams flagged for review? Typically, because ETS feels that the student cheated on the SAT exam. In a recent article, one teen was denied admission to her first choice school as a result of her scores being denied.


Tiara Brown, a high school senior, dreamed of attending NYU. After her initial SAT scores were lower than she expected, she took an SAT test prep course and studied hard for her third attempt. After scoring 460 points higher than her first attempt, her outstanding score was flagged for review. In a matter of weeks, Brown discovered her scores were thrown out because she was accused of cheating resulting in her not getting into NYU.


Unfortunately, students facing this same problem do not have many options to fight decisions made by ETS. Typically, ETS maintains their decisions when appealed. And if a student or parent chooses to take the decision to court, it can take months to get a response, typicalling meaning the student is already enrolled in college meaning the scores no longer hold value in admissions decisions.


How can test takers avoid being flagged?


It seems that test takers are being flagged when they see a jump in test scores over 300 points. Students wanting to avoid these major jumps should take the first test attempt seriously preparing as much as possible for the big day. That includes extra study time and SAT test prep courses. The good part is doing well on the first test session is a relief for students who do not have to worry about retaking the exam in an attempt to raise their scores.





How much should I expect to improve my test score?


By: Dr. Stephen Harris


A key step in preparing for a standardized test is setting a realistic target score, preferably based on your performance on a pretest taken near the beginning of your preparations. Every student is different, not to mention every test, but a rough rule-of-thumb is that students who begin a prep class with a score near the average for that test should expect to improve by one standard deviation. Students who start off with lower scores may achieve score improvements significantly greater than this. We’ll talk about specific numbers in a minute, but first it’s helpful to put this kind of improvement into perspective: if you start with an average score and improve by one standard deviation, you will pass more than one-third of all test takers, and move from a 50th percentile score to an 84th percentile score! Needless to say, this can make a big difference in your competitiveness as a candidate.


What does this mean for me in, like, numbers?

Since each test uses a different scoring scale, there is no single answer that applies to all of them. So let’s look at a few examples.


ACT: The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36, with an average score of about 20 and a standard deviation of about 7, for each of four sections – English, math, science reasoning, and reading. The total, or composite, score is the average of these four scores. A student whose composite score is in the 17-23 range should expect to improve to the 24-30 range.


SAT: The SAT is scored (in 10-point increments) on a scale of 200-800, with an average score of about 500 and a standard deviation of about 100, for each of three sections – writing, reading, and math. The total score is the sum of these three sub-scores. A student in the 1400-1600 range should expect to improve to the 1700-1900 range.


These kinds of improvements can have an especially large impact since they can affect not only which schools you are accepted to, but also the amount of financial aid you receive once you are accepted.


That sounds pretty good. But how does it happen?


High quality test preparation programs should be designed to target specific question types with specific skills. A key component to a high quality program is homework and additional practice to reinforce these skills.


While there are plenty of exceptions, if your test has a math component then you will probably realize your biggest score increase on that section. Tests with math sections do require you to be familiar with the relevant math facts (which are covered in class). However, standardized tests like the ACT and SAT generally seek to measure you problem-solving ability as much as, or more than, your aptitude in mathematics. Even though the math facts required by the ACT and SAT are relatively basic (mostly 10th-grade math or lower), the problems can be quite tricky. Familiarity with question themes, and a mastery of sound strategies for addressing them, will result in significant score gains.


Regardless of the test you are preparing for, the key is to remain engaged during class sessions and ask plenty of questions. But just as importantly, be sure to complete all assignments including any practice tests, and flag for review any question that you answer incorrectly. Thorough preparation may require two hours of study outside of class for every hour spent in class.


Dr. Stephen Harris is the founder and Director of Instructional Design for Educational Testing Consultants. He is a former standardized test item writer and twenty year test preparation veteran. You can contact Dr. Harris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or online at

Philadelphia Teen Gets Perfect SAT Score


It took a lot of studying and preparation, but a Philadelphia junior earned a perfect 2400 on the SAT. Kevin Biju, who was a sophomore at the time of the test, was 1 out of 360 students who earned a perfect score out of 1.7 million students who took the exam. 


Kevin worked hard to earn his perfect score. His guidance counselor, Will Peck, said that he set his mind on achieving his goal to earn acceptance into the best colleges and he knew what it took to get there. He spent all of his free time studying for the exam, including Friday nights when most other teenagers are out with friends or at other social events.


In addition to preparing for the SAT, Kevin has mapped out an entire academic plan for himself using Microsoft Excel. With his planning, he is making sure he has the most well-rounded experiences to make himself stand out to any college admissions department.


So how should other high school students prepare for their SAT so they can score as high as possible? Lots of studying and lots of practice. Students should start preparing as soon as they make the decision to pursue higher education. Although students can take the SAT exam more than once, it's always best to take it one time and achieve your best score possible so you can concentrate on the rest of your academic career.

SAT Scores Not Only for Acceptance, But Also Paying for College

"You can't think about going to college without thinking about paying for it," said Colin Gruenwald, Kaplan test prep director of college administrative programs. These words ring true to high school seniors, or their parents, when choosing a college. Having an excellent SAT score could be your ticket to acceptance and paying for college. Finishing up high school is a huge accomplishment, you've worked hard to maintain a great GPA! Why would you let your all of those accomplishments slip when it comes to your SAT score? There are many reasons to anticipate that college acceptance could depend on your Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) performance. 

Students who chose to attend an elite university may depend on scholarships and financial aid to attend the school of their choice. Also, your institution of choice may have set standards for entry. These are indicators that SAT scores are not only a requirement to attend college, but the reason you can go to college. Usually students have favored universities they plan to attend post high school graduation. This proves that it is imperative to have high SAT scores, or you could have your goals of college crushed. 

So, how do you ace the SAT? You could read and study on your own. You could attempt to memorize vocabulary and common SAT questions, but you would be risking your probability of success. The best choice is to take an ETC Test Prep classes where you receive professional advice on how to approach the SAT with actual tests previously used.  It is proven that simply knowing the format of the test you are taking gives a huge advantage, but what if you also knew the layout plus example questions to ace the SAT? Our instructors are experienced in improving confidence, skills, and scores by showing you how to strengthen your test taking abilities. Let us help you succeed and attend the college of your choice, with the potential to receive funds that could pay for your tuition! Your parents would appreciate it too.

Go here to see our upcoming SAT preparation classes.

ETC Test Prep offers in class, online, and SAT tutoring in the Charlotte area. We can't wait to meet you!

How Important are Preparation Classes to Students?

Studies show that taking a test preparation course can reduce stress and increase scores, regardless of the students' prior education status. In preparation courses students practice using former tests, making the student more comfortable on test day because they know what to expect. Being familiar with the test's format is the single best way to prepare for that test. Students who plan ahead, practice, and are motivated, will achieve higher scores than those who do not prepare for tests and who are not motivated to ace it.  

No matter if a student does or does not take a preparation class, if they are not driven to learn how to take a test, the student will not score as well as their peers. Whether you are taking an exam to enter college or graduate school, your determination plays a big role in how well you will do

Students can learn valuable elements to the test they are taking by attending a preparation class. On average students who prepare increase their scores between 50 to 100 points, that could be the difference of being accepted or denied to the college or graduate school of your choice. Preparation classes will also show the student their strengths and weaknesses that they can work on prior to taking the exam. Test takers who are aware of their strength and weaknesses have improved focus during the test and have prepared leading up to testing to refine their skills.

Additional testing tips that many students forget are, remembering to eat a balanced meal, getting adequate sleep, and arriving early to the testing center. To be the expert at your upcoming exam, consider taking a preparation course to ease your apprehension. ETC Test Prep is here to ensure your confidence and skills to master your test and get you into the program you want to pursue!

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