Test Prep

Can You Appeal Standardized Test Scores If You Think They're Wrong?

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Your score report just came in – but are those numbers for real? You spent hours preparing for the SAT, ACT or an AP exam, yet the score doesn't seem to reflect that. Is it possible that there was a mistake in the scoring process? If so, you may want to investigate an appeal.

Just because the scoring for these tests is mostly automated (except for the essay portions), that doesn't mean the process is infallible. Luckily, the test makers also realize this and offer score verification for those who'd like to double-check the numbers.


But before you rush to get your test rescored, think about any factors that may have distracted you while you were taking the test. Did you wake up sick? Was another test taker sneezing or coughing throughout the test? Were you more anxious or nervous than you expected? Did you skip breakfast? Did you accidentally place answers in the wrong section of the answer sheet? Any of these things could be a reason that your score was lower than what you had hoped it would be.

However, if you're confident that your score should have been higher because you studied hard and performed well on test day, then you do have a few options. Here's how to find out if your official score report for the SAT, ACT or AP exam is truly correct or not.

SAT and SAT Subject Tests

If you prefer to check your answer booklet on your own, you can request the SAT's Question and Answer Service (QAS), which can be ordered when you register for the test or up to five months after the test date. QAS is not available for SAT Subject Tests. Order online by logging into your College Board account, or fill out this form and send it in, along with the correct payment. In case the score report was actually correct, you can save money by requesting the QAS, which is only $18, compared to the much more costly hand-scoring verification service.

Although QAS is only offered for the test dates in March, May and October, this service is very useful if you can get it because it includes all the questions and correct answers from the test, a report showing the answers you gave for each question, plus the difficulty level and type of each question that was on this test. Aside from verifying your score, this service also allows you to go back over the questions you got wrong and understand what skills you may need to work on for the next time you take the test.

If you prefer to go straight for double-checking the numbers, you can request the hand-scoring service. Carefully read and fill out this form, then send it in with the correct payment. Just know that there is a risk here: This could result in a higher score, but if the new score is found to be lower than what your score report is showing, this will be your final score, and it will be automatically sent out to the colleges that you listed as your score recipients. This service, like QAS, can be ordered up to five months after the test date.

You will pay $55 for hand-scoring of the multiple choice section on the SAT or SAT Subject Test, or for essay score verification. But if you obtained a fee waiver to take the SAT or SAT Subject Test that you are appealing, you will only pay half the cost, $27.50, for either of these services.

The essay is the only portion of the SAT that will not be double-checked (as in, it will not be re-read), but you can still ask for the score to be reviewed. This process means that the College Board will go back and review the score assigned by the official essay readers, and find out if it matches with the score published on your score report. If these two scores does not match, your score report will be updated with the correct assigned score, and the fee you paid for the score verification will be refunded to you. If you happened to write your essay in pen instead of pencil (the scanner does not pick up pen ink very well, so it may not show up in your online score report), your essay will still be re-scored, but your score verification fee will not be refunded.

ACT

The ACT offers Test Information Release, which is basically the same thing as the SAT's QAS: You receive the multiple choice questions, correct answers and the answers you gave. If you took the essay portion, you can also request the essay prompt, essay scoring explanation and the essay score you received. When ordering online, you have only five days after the test date to put in the order. You have up to six months if you order by mailing in this form with a payment of $22.

Again, like with the SAT, you can bypass this question and answer list service if you are certain that there has been a mistake. However, unlike the SAT, there is one important difference with the ACT hand-scoring verification process: If your score report is found to be wrong because it was lower than your actual score, it will be updated, sent out to your listed college recipients, and the fee for the verification process will be refunded to you. BUT if the hand-scoring shows that your score report was mistakenly higher than your actual score, the ACT allows you to keep the higher score from your original score report.

Score verification for the ACT without essay component costs $50. The cost for essay score verification is another $40, and the process is the same as that of the SAT and includes checking to make sure that the essay score assigned by the official essay readers is the same score that is on your score report. Fill out this form, and send it in with the correct payment, to participate. You have up to 12 months after the test date to request score verification.

AP Exams

If you don't agree with your AP exam score, there is only one option available to get it double checked. Fill out and send in the request form for Rescore by Hand, along with a payment of $30 per exam, by Oct. 31 of the year you took the AP exam. The verification process only applies to the multiple choice questions – any free response section will not be re-scored. However, this is the College Board, so as with the SAT score verification process, if the hand-scoring results in a lower score than that of your official AP exam score report, the lower score will be your final score that is sent out to the schools you've listed as score recipients.