Updated UT-Austin Academic Index Formulas

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UT-Austin uses two criteria with equal weight to assess each applicant - the Academic Index and the Personal Achievement Index (PAI).

The Academic Index (AI) uses formulas to weigh a student’s class rank and their single best SAT or ACT score that helps them the most in the admissions process.

Based on a student’s first choice college or school, UT compares the AI and PAI scores of all applicants to determine who gains admission.

In this post I…

  • Present the most recently available formulas from 2014

  • Address issues with these formulas

  • Discuss possible corrections

  • Introduce new Academic Index formulas of my own creation

  • Conclude what they may mean for applicants, families, and HS counselors.

The Old Academic Index Formulas

UT has only publicly released these formulas once in a 2014 report that they tucked away at the very end in some footnotes. This document is regularly circulated.

I used the formulas in the above document to write my book chapter on the Academic Index in Your Ticket to the Forty Acres. I will need to write completely that chapter for the next admissions cycle.

Why UT doesn’t publicly disclose their current Academic Index formulas and leave thousands of people speculating is beyond me.

One reason I always suggest a student to submit all of their ACT/SAT scores is because you can’t know how UT is measuring and weighing the subscores for each exam and your first choice major.

In the formulas below, the first number is a constant, HSR means high school rank, the subscores for the ACT/SAT, and a .1 constant if you take one class that exceeds the state minimum requirements to graduate.

To calculate HSR, you take your rank percentage and subtract by 100. So if you’re in the top 6% of your class, your HSR is 100-6 = 94.

If your school doesn’t assign a rank, please refer to this post.

Here are the old formulas:

Business – ACT Model:

-0.63 + (HSR * 0.015) + (ACT M * 0.062) + (ACT EngComp * 0.031) + .1

Business – SAT Model:

-2.668 + (SAT M * .002) + (HSR * .032) + (SAT CR * .002) +.1

Engineering – ACT Model: 

-1.661 + (ACT EngComp * .045) + (HSR * .020) + (ACT M * .060) +.1

Engineering – SAT Model:

-2.254 + (SAT R * .002) + (HSR * .023) + (SAT M * .003) +.1

The Liberal Arts Group – ACT Model: 

.125 + (ACT EngComp * .046) + (ACT M * .046) + ( HSR * .007) +.1

The Liberal Arts Group – SAT Model:

-.285 + (SAT R * .003) + (SAT M * .001) + (HSR * .009) +.1

The Natural Science Group – ACT Model:

-1.179 + (ACT EngComp * .052) + (ACT M * .051) + (HSR * .017) +.1

The Natural Science Group – SAT Model:

-1.617 + (SAT Math * .003) + (HSR * .020) + (SAT CR * .002) +.1

Problems with the Academic Index Formula

I’ve realized only now after publishing my book and gathering enough real student data that there are serious issues with the Academic Index formulas.

How UT currently measures a student’s rank and test scores is currently unknown. However they calculate your academic information now is out of your control.

Issue #1: The formulas are not calibrated consistently

If you input HSR 99 (a valedictorian) and perfect 36s or 800s in each old formula, they add up to different numbers.

In the 2014 document on Best Practices, UT states the maximum score should be 4.3. This is also consistent with what I used to observe in student files when I worked for UT from 2011-2014.

In practice, however, there are very different maximum scores a student can receive.

Here are the “perfect” AI scores for each old formula

  • Business ACT = 4.3

  • Business SAT = 3.8

  • Liberal Arts ACT = 4.23

  • Liberal Arts SAT = 3.91

  • Engineering ACT = 4.2

  • Engineering SAT = 4.12

  • Natural Sciences ACT = 4.31

  • Natural Sciences SAT = 4.46

As you can see, the perfect scores are all over the place. There are differences between whether you submit the SAT or ACT. The SAT generally yields lower scores while the ACT is closer to 4.3 and has less difference between the different groups.

Since the scores aren’t calibrated accurately, they are of little help to an applicant who wants to see which major and test score will give them the highest AI score.

I first noticed this issue when all of my Liberal Arts clients seemed to have abnormally low AI scores especially those submitting the SAT.

The other big issue was the difference between ACT and SAT Business where ACT students with similar scores to SAT ones had much higher AI scores.

Issue #2: There are discrepancies in how the SAT/ACT subscores are weighted within groups

If you look within each group, there are differences in whether your math or verbal score will be weighted more or less depending on which exam you submit.

Generally speaking, admissions gives a little bit more weight to majors like Engineering and Business that are more quantitative/math heavy.

Take a look at the Natural Sciences formula though.

The Natural Science Group – ACT Model:

-1.179 + (ACT EngComp * .052) + (ACT M * .051) + (HSR * .017) +.1

The Natural Science Group – SAT Model:

-1.617 + (SAT Math * .003) + (HSR * .020) + (SAT CR * .002) +.1

In the ACT model, the subscores are roughly even while the SAT model presents a significant difference in the weight between critical reading and math.

Within Liberal Arts, the ACT is weighted equally with the SAT giving three times value to the verbal section.

The Liberal Arts Group – ACT Model: 

.125 + (ACT EngComp * .046) + (ACT M * .046) + ( HSR * .007) +.1

The Liberal Arts Group – SAT Model:

-.285 + (SAT R * .003) + (SAT M * .001) + (HSR * .009) +.1

Issue #3: They’re outdated.

These formulas were published when the SAT used the 2400 scale, when they still considered writing and the timed essay, and before the ACT started averaging their sections together into “STEM” and “ELA” categories.

The problem with ACT STEM and ELA is they account for factors that UT and other universities may not consider.

UT has never used the ACT Science section, and pretty much all universities are moving away from writing, so STEM and ELA aren’t so helpful.

What to make of all this?

Reforming the Academic Index

To account for calibration issues, inconsistencies between subscores within groups, and the most recent SAT and ACT, I’ve made up my own formulas.

To reiterate, I have no idea how UT computes the Academic Index nowadays. I use these formulas for my own internal purposes.

To address the calibration issue, I adjusted that first number, the constant, to get all of the formulas as close to 4.3 as possible when inputting perfect scores. I left high school rank (HSR) the same throughout.

I adjusted the weight of the subscores to reflect similar ratios for Business and Natural Sciences - I didn’t change Engineering. For Liberal Arts, I weighted both math and reading equally as reflected in the original ACT formula.

The SAT subscore definitions are straightforward because there are only two sections currently: Evidence-based Reading/Writing and Math.

The ACT is trickier. For “ACT M” I input the Math subscore, and for “EngComp” I average the English and Reading subscores and round up in case it the average is 25.5, for example.

I don’t use the writing or essays for either exam or ACT Science since there isn’t a reference point for how UT might use these.

New Academic Index Formulas

Here are the Academic Index formulas I use to assess my clients and provide feedback. These are useful for you to see how applying to a different first choice major might give you a different AI score depending on your SAT/ACT section scores.

Business – ACT Model 

-0.63 + (HSR * 0.015) + (ACT M * 0.062) + (ACT EngComp * 0.031) + .1

Business – SAT Model 

-2.57 + (SAT M * .003) + (HSR * .032) + (SAT CR * .0015) +.1

Engineering – ACT Model 

-1.56 + (ACT EngComp * .045) + (HSR * .020) + (ACT M * .060) +.1

Engineering – SAT Model 

-2.077 + (SAT R * .002) + (HSR * .023) + (SAT M * .003) +.1

The Liberal Arts Group – ACT Model* 

.195 + (ACT EngComp * .046) + (ACT M * .046) + ( HSR * .007) +.1

The Liberal Arts Group – SAT Model 

.11 + (SAT R * .002) + (SAT M * .002) + (HSR * .009) +.1

The Natural Science Group – ACT Model** 

-.58 + (ACT EngComp * .035) + (ACT M * .051) + (HSR * .017) +.1

The Natural Science Group – SAT Model 

-1.78 + (SAT Math * .003) + (HSR * .020) + (SAT CR * .002) +.1

*Liberal Arts Group first choice colleges/schools = Liberal Arts, Communications, Education, Social Work, Fine Arts, Undergraduate Studies

**Natural Sciences Group first choice colleges/schools = Natural Sciences, Architecture, Geosciences, Nursing

How can you as an applicant use this revised Academic Index tool moving forward?

The Academic Index, even the imperfect versions published in 2014 and workshopped in my book, have only ever been for rule of thumb reference points rather than some precise indicator of your admissions chances.

These formulas, even the inconsistent old ones or my best-educated-guess new ones, are still more useful than Naviance scatterplots that use things UT doesn’t consider like either weighted/unweighted GPA, the ACT/SAT Composite Scores, or not accounting for a student’s first choice major.

Let’s say you’re a totally undecided applicant who ranks in the top 10% of their class and has two similar composite yet different subscores: ACT (31 Math, 34 EngComp) and SAT scores (680 CR, 760 Math).

What would your Academic Index score be using the old versus these new formulas?

  • Old Business – ACT Model: 3.8

  • Old Business – SAT Model: 3.19

  • Old Engineering – ACT Model: 3.63

  • Old Engineering – SAT Model: 3.56

  • Old Liberal Arts Group – ACT Model: 3.85

  • Old Liberal Arts Group – SAT Model: 3.59

  • Old Natural Science Group – ACT Model: 3.8

  • Old Natural Science Group – SAT Model: 4.1

As you can see, these AI scores are all over the place, and even when the model should award a higher subscore in SAT Critical Reading in Liberal Arts, for example, the ACT score with a weaker Math subscore is still a lot higher.

Let’s input the same academics with the new formulas.

  • Business – ACT Model: 3.8 

  • Business – SAT Model: 3.71 

  • Engineering – ACT Model: 3.73 

  • Engineering – SAT Model: 3.73 

  • The Liberal Arts Group – ACT Model: 3.92 

  • The Liberal Arts Group – SAT Model:  3.9

  • The Natural Science Group – ACT Model: 3.87 

  • The Natural Science Group – SAT Model: 3.76

As you can see, the range of possible AI scores is much smaller with the new formulas (3.71-3.92) than the old ones (3.19-4.1) because they’re calibrated to a maximum score of 4.3. There is also less variation within each group’s models.

For these reasons, if you’re going to go through the trouble of computing your personal Academic Index or those of your students if you’re a counselor, my formulas are a lot more helpful.

I know this is a very long and technical discussion of something that should be straightforward. Please contact me directly at kevin@texadmissions.com with any questions.

Interested in working together? Complete my questionnaire for a free consultation.

Kevin MartinProcess