The SAT’s Question-and-Answer Service (QAS)

The SAT folks make available (for an additional price, of course ;-)) a Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) or a Student Answer Service for each of their seven test dates. As I point out on The SAT page of the website, I highly recommend purchasing the QAS service if you’re taking the SAT for the first time, as having a copy of the test questions can be valuable as you prepare for your second time.

For the October SAT, which I took, I purchased the Question-and-Answer Service. Let’s learn from what I received.

With the Question-and-Answer Service, you receive a copy of your test booklet and a one-page report of your answers.

Test Booklet

The test booklet begins with all essay prompts from my test date, including the one that I answered. It appears there were four different prompts for the October 2009 test. Towards the back, you’ll find the SAT Essay Scoring Guide, which I believe is also available from the CollegeBoard website.

As with everything else, it’s important to practice the essay portion. Having three additional, actual prompts is valuable if this is an area in which you need to improve.

Following the essay prompts are each of the other eight sections (the equating section is not included) of my test – three Critical Reading sections, three Math sections, and two Writing sections. Using the one-page report of my answers, I can now review those questions I got wrong!

(Remember that one Math question that I guessed on? Well, it turns out that it was of difficulty level 4 and that I chose poorly. 😀 The other one that I missed was of difficulty level 3. I still need to go back and figure out what I did wrong.)

After the test sections, the test booklet contains scoring information, including conversion tables (raw score to scaled score). Here are some interesting tidbits for you:

1) There are 67 Critical Reading questions. For my test, raw scores of 64, 65, 66, and 67 all received scaled scores of 800.

2) Math scores dropped quickly and then leveled out a bit. For example, losing two raw points (i.e. getting a 52 out of 54), like I did, resulted in a 50-point reduction in the scaled score (a 750), while losing ten raw points – five times as many – resulted in a 150-point reduction in the scaled score – only three times as much.

(It gets better: losing 20 raw points – ten times as many – resulted in a 230-point reduction – only 4.6 times as much!)

3) There are apparently variations in the difficulty of the essay prompts, and it appears that my prompt was determined to be the most difficult. There were eight ways to achieve an 800 on the Writing section using my prompt, versus seven ways with the second prompt, and six with the third.

4) Had I scored a 0 on my essay prompt, my multiple-choice Writing raw score of 48 (I missed only one of the 49 questions) would have given me a 650 scaled score. As we know, the essay portion makes up approximately 30% of the Writing score; therefore, my score of 9 on the essay brought me up to a 780.

Finally, at the end of the test booklet, there’s an Answer Sheet Copy Service Order Form for those who’d like to order a photocopy of their answer sheet. The cost for this service is $25.

One-Page Answer Report

The one-page answer report is divided into the testing sections. It shows, for each question, the correct answer, your answer, the type of question, and the difficulty level (1-5).

Turns out my Critical Reading mistakes were overwhelmingly in the Passage-Based Reading area (I only missed one Sentence Completion/vocabulary question while missing six Passage-Based Reading questions), and of my two Math mistakes, one was in Algebra and the other in Numbers & Operations.

Take-Aways for you:

Most students take either the SAT (or the ACT) twice, while some take it three times, the third time being in the fall of their Senior year. Having this information can really guide you as to where you need to put your efforts if you want to do better the second, or third, time. Do you need to work on your vocabulary or reading comprehension? Were most of your missed Math questions in a particular content area, for example, geometry? Can you find a pattern that applies to your Writing mistakes?

As with anything, if your goal is to improve, you need to understand both what you did well and what you did not-so-well. There is no other way.

Hope this helps. Don’t forget… Plan, Practice, Perform. 🙂

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