Calculator Shopping the Night Before the SAT

Q: What does “SAT” stand for?
A: It used to stand for Scholastic Achievement Test, but in 1947, the name of the exam was changed to Scholastic Aptitude Test. Then the folks at the College Board used their Critical Reasoning skills and came to the conclusion that a coachable exam could not be called an “aptitude” test. So officially, SAT stands for nothing, although at least one college refers to it on its website as the Scholastic Assessment Test.
Q: What time does Staples close, in case your child can’t locate his TI-183 calculator the night before the SAT exam?
A: Luckily, the Staples in our neighborhood closes at 9 p.m., as we discovered the night before our son’s exam. (Our son, who had “just had” his calculator the day before, volunteered to pay for the new one, which added up to about a week of his summer wages.)
Q: What are some good snacks for the SATs?
A: A power bar, a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. We typically procure all of these, but our sons typically leave the power bar at home and the sandwich and banana in the car.
Q: What is the ACT?
A: Another standardized test, which up until 20 minutes ago was popular only in the Midwest. But because there are no trick questions, they allow score cancelling and unpenalized guessing, and offer an early September test date, it is the test du jour. New Yorkers are now obsessed with the ACT, and it is gaining fans in other trendy cities. In fact, for the first time ever, the number of ACT test takers is about the same as the SAT. Poor SAT — it now stands for Sad Anachronistic Test.
Q: What is a superscore?
A: A superscore is achieved by choosing the best subscores from multiple sittings of the same test. (We know, a “sitting” sounds like you’re posing for a portrait, but bear with us.) For example, let’s assume you have these SAT results from these three sittings:
Sitting 1: 800M, 500CR, 450W
Sitting 2: 600M, 410CR, 780W
Sitting 3: 510M, 740CR, 530W
Your composite scores would be 1750, 1790 and 1780, but your superscore would be 2320.
Q: Wow! Do colleges superscore the ACT as well?
A: Not many superscore the ACT, because they’d have to work with five separate numbers, including a composite that often has been rounded up or rounded down. That would require advanced math skills, which would be too confusing, even for colleges. Except MIT, of course. They will even cross-superscore the SAT with the ACT… just because they can.
Q: Do you have to send in all your test scores to Yale, even the ones that suck?
A: No, that’s Penn. Yale’s website says, “As long as you provide a complete set of score reports from one testing agency (either the College Board or ACT, Inc.), you are not required to report scores from both. You can choose to report either all of your SAT results (both SAT and SAT Subject Tests) or all of your ACT results.
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