If you are getting ready to take the SAT or are still picking between the SAT or ACT, you are probably curious about how the SAT is scored. Understanding exactly how the SAT is scored is very important to help you set some goals for your SAT score and put together a plan to get prepared.
In this post, we will discuss how the SAT is scored overall and within each section. We will also talk about how this scoring can affect your decision to take the SAT and some basic strategies that you should use after you know how the scoring works.
If you want to learn more about whether you should take the SAT or ACT, check out our post on SAT vs. ACT - 6 Big Questions To Help You Decide and SAT vs. ACT - Choosing Which Test To Take
On the SAT, students receive two scores from 200-800: one in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (based on the Reading Test and Writing and Language Test) and one in Mathematics. The total score out of 1600 is simply the sum of the two section scores. For example, if you get a 580 in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and a 620 on the Math, you will get an overall score of 1200.
The scaled scores come from your raw score in each section, which is simply the total number of questions that you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT, so you should make sure to always answer every single question.
The Writing portion (Essay) is scored separately on a scale of 2-8 points. This score is an extra score and does not have any effect on a student's overall SAT score.
Where Do My Scores Come From?
For each SAT, there is a table that is used to turn your raw scores into scaled scores. These tables are used to determine what scaled score you will received based on the number of questions you answer correctly in each section.
The SAT uses a scaled scoring system to ensure that scores are consistent across separate test dates. In other words, the SAT wants to make sure that getting a 700 in the Math Test on the January SAT is equivalent to getting a 700 in Math Test on the November SAT.
The scoring tables for each SAT are not based only on the students who take the test on that test date. Instead, the SAT uses an equating formula to "equate" different SAT test dates.
An example of an SAT Scoring Table is below:
These tables do differ for various test dates though, as the raw scores can translate to different scaled scores. The difference is based on how difficult the questions on that test are.
For example, on the SAT above, you would need to answer 44 Math questions correctly and get a 650, but on a different test date, you could need to answer just 42 questions correctly to get that same 650. The score of 650 shows equivalent math skills and is equivalent across these two test dates. However, the math section on the first test were comparably easier than the second, so you would need to get 2 more answers correct to earn the same score.
How is My Composite Score Calculated?
You will get a score from 200-800 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and the Math Section. Your overall score is just the sum of those two scores.
But the SAT has 4 sections....how do I only get 2 scores?
Do not worry...calculating your SAT score is not this complicated!
Math Section Score
Your Math Section score is based on the number of questions that you answer correctly in both the calculator and no-calculator sections. To find your score, you simply add the number of correct answers that you get in the no-calculator section and the calculator section to get your raw score. Once you know your raw score, you then use the scoring table to find out what your corresponding Math Section score is.
For example, let's say that you answered a total 40 questions correctly in the two math sections. Using the scoring table above, you would find that you earned a score of 610 on the Math Section.
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score
Your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score is based on your performance in both the Reading Test and the Writing & Language Test. To find your score, you will need to first find your raw scores in these two section.
Your raw score for the Reading Test is the number of questions you answered correctly in that section. The maximum raw score on the Reading Test is 52. Your raw score for the Writing & Language Test is the number of questions you answered correctly that section. The maximum raw score for the Writing & Language Test if 44. Once you have your raw scores, we can use the scoring table above to calculate your scores.
So how do you go from a raw score to a scaled score?
For the Reading Test, use the scoring table and your raw score to find your scaled score, which will be on a scale of 10-40. Let's say that you got a raw score of 38 on the Reading Test; you will get a scaled score of 32.
For the Writing & Language Test, use the scoring table and your raw score to find your scaled score, which will be on a scale of 10-40. If you correctly answered 32 questions on the Writing & Language test, your scaled score will be 30.
To calculate your total Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score, add up your raw scores from the Reading Test and the Writing & Language Test and multiply by 10. Using our example, you would add your 32 on the Reading Test with your 30 from the Writing & Language Test to get a total raw score of 62. After multiplying by 10, you would find your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score was a 620.
Finding The Total
To find your composite SAT score, simply add your two section scores together. Using our example, add up the Math score (610) and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score (620) to find your composite SAT score: 610 + 620 = 1230.
What About the Essay?
If you take the SAT Plus Essay, which we recommend that you always do, you will complete an essay in addition to the four multiple-choice sections that we have already discussed. The essay is an extra, optional section and will be scored separately from your composite SAT score.
So how is the essay scored?
Did you know that the readers will only take 2-3 minutes to grade your essay!?!
Your essay will be scored on a scale of 2-8. Two readers will grade your essay on a scale of 1-4 in three categories (Reading, Analysis, and Writing). The scores that the two readers give you will combine to give you a score from 2-8 in each of the four subsections. Your overall essay score is just an average of the four subscores rounded to the nearest whole point.
Your score on the Writing Test is important, but it is not nearly as important as your scores on the four multiple-choice section. A high composite SAT score will give you much bigger benefit with college admissions and scholarship opportunities than a high essay score will.
What Does the Scoring Mean For You?
Now that we know how the SAT scoring works, let's talk about some strategies that you can use to help you score better on test day. These test-taking strategies will help you across all 4 multiple-choice sections of the test.
1) Take A Guess - Never Leave Your Answer Sheet Blank
The SAT does not penalize you for guessing, so you should never leave a question unanswered. If you do not know an answer, simply bubble in your best guess and move on! Your raw score is just based on the number of correctly answered questions, so guessing can really help your score.
If you hit any difficult questions that you are going to skip, bubble in your best guess before moving on.
If you get stumped on a question, take a guess and move on.
If you have trouble with finishing sections of the SAT, pay attention to the clock and bubble in any remaining answers when there is 1 minute left. This will make sure you do not have time run out with questions left blank on your answer sheet.
2) Keep Yourself Moving
Time management is crucial for success on the SAT. One of the biggest problems for students is getting stuck on a difficult question for too long and running out of time. When you see difficult questions that stump you, mark the question, take your best guess, and move on.
Remember, every question is worth the same 1 point, so it is your job to find the questions that you can answer and get the most points possible.
If you finish the section with some time left, you can come back to all the questions that you have marked and use your remaining time to try to solve them. That way, you'll make sure that you use every second to your advantage to try and get the best score possible.
Keep an eye on the clock.
3) Know Your Guessing Strategy
As you prepare for the SAT, you should know your guessing strategy. This will depend on your own skills and goals on the SAT, so it will be different for each student.
Know your strategy to win on test day!
Is Math one of your weaknesses? Rushing to finish all of the questions is probably not the best strategy for you, as all of the most difficult questions are usually at the end of the multiple-choice section and the end of the grid-in questions. A better strategy for you may be to focus on doing as well as you can on the less difficult questions that occur earlier in the multiple-choice and grid-in questions and then guessing on many of the later hard questions. Every question is worth the same 1 point, so your job is to find the math problems that you can answer correctly.
Do you struggle with finishing the Reading section? Use your practice SATs to find out the best guessing strategy for you. If you get stuck on any Reading questions and find yourself taking a long time to find it in the passage, it can be best to bubble in a guess and move on. This will help make sure you finish the section. Remember, you can always come back to these questions if you have any time left over at the end.
I know these sound very general, but that is because YOUR strategy must match YOUR skill and SAT goals. The best way to find out your own guessing strategy is to work through some Free Practice SATs and find out what works best for you.
If you want to know more about the SAT, check out our post on Everything You Need To Know About the SAT.
It is also important to put together an SAT Prep plan to get ready for test day. You will need to know How To Prepare for the SAT and When To Take the SAT.
You can find the exact 2017 SAT Test Dates here.
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