How Is the SAT Scored?

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The SAT Is Scored on a Standard Scale

When you’re used to your test scores in school being graded out of one hundred percent, understanding the scoring process on the SAT can be a little confusing.

As of this writing, possible SAT scaled section scores are as follows:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section: 200 to 800 points
  • Math Section: 200 to 800 points
  • Essay (optional): three subscores each ranging from 2 to 8

A perfect total score on the SAT is currently a 1600. A 1600 is usually–but not always–a reflection of having gotten every single question on the SAT correct.

If you get every single question correct on the SAT you always earn a 1600. If you don’t get a single question right, you receive a 200. The SAT Scaled Score exists so that scores on different tests can be compared effectively and to maintain an effective mean score of 500 on each section.

Let’s look at how the SAT is scored section by section.

How the SAT Is Scored

How the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Is Scored

The Reading test and the Writing and Language test combine to create your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score. They each individually account for 400 of the points that contribute to a possible 800 points.

Any SAT sample or QAS will include a conversion table that correlates Raw Score, Math Section Score, Reading Test Score, and Writing and Language Test Score all in one big sheet.

Your Reading Test Score is found by counting up the number of reading questions you got correct. You don’t lose points for incorrect questions anymore, so your raw score is always just the number of questions you got right. Find the correlating scaled score in the same row.

The tricky thing here is that the raw score to scaled score isn’t completely consistent from SAT to SAT, so I can’t tell you that getting X number of questions right will automatically earn you the exact scaled score you’re looking for.

Nevertheless, a rough idea on more recent tests shows a Raw Score to Scaled Score conversion like this:

Approximate Scales for SAT Scores: Reading

Reading Raw ScoreScaled Reading Score
1620
2425
3330
4335
5140

Just as above, the same goes for the Writing and Language Test: find your raw score by counting up how many correct answers you have and find its correlating subscore on that test’s scale.

Approximate Scales for SAT Scores: Writing

Writing Raw ScoreScaled Writing Score
1320
2225
3130
3835
4440

How To Find Your Total SAT Score

To find your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score, you just add your Reading and Writing scaled scores together and multiply that number by 10 to find your SAT score on the 200 to 800 scale.

How the SAT Math Is Scored

This one is far more straightforward: even though there are technically two math tests, No Calculator and Calculator, they aren’t worth 400 individually. Your Raw Score on the Math section is just the total number of math questions you got right out of all 58 questions on both tests.

Then you go through the same translation: your Scaled Score comes from your Raw Score.

Approximate Scales for SAT Scores: Math

Math Raw ScoreScaled Math Score
17400
27500
39600
50700
57800

How Is the SAT Essay Scored?

The SAT essay is a little bit different in its scoring, one, in that it’s scored by people rather than a machine and, two, in that its scoring ranges from 2 to 8 on three different subsections.

Each reader on your essay rates your essay in three different categories on a scale of 1 to 4. The two scores you receive from each reader are added together to form a single dimension score on the 2 to 8 scale.

You don’t ultimately receive a single SAT Essay score; you receive three. While this isn’t the official word from the College Board, it’s probably easiest to imagine that an 8 on each section is similar to getting an 800 on the multiple choice sections

SAT Essay Scoring Dimension One: Reading

This section accounts for one subscore of 2 to 8. The reading dimension of the essay rates how easily you can correctly identify the author’s argument and the specific supporting details she uses to make that case.

SAT Essay Scoring Dimension Two: Analysis

This section accounts for another subscore of 2 to 8. You earn a strong analysis score by explaining how the author builds her argument and appeals to her audience to get them to agree with her. You’ll earn a strong analysis score if you go into great detail about how the author is persuasive.

SAT Essay Scoring Dimension Three: Writing

This section accounts for your last subscore of 2 to 8. This is the section in which your writing itself is evaluated; of course the mechanics and style of your essay matter, too.

You can find detailed information about the scoring rubric your SAT essay graders use when over at the College Board. If you want to improve your SAT Essay score, check out my posts about How To Write the SAT Essay.