How To Calculate / Read An SAT Score

Many students opt to take the SAT more than once, as you can submit your second, higher scores to colleges if the first attempt left you with less than desirable numbers. To learn from your mistakes, though, you have to understand how your SAT score is calculated and how to read the scores you’re given.

SAT scores used to range from 400 to 1600, but today’s test has an additional writing section, adding another 800 possible points to the total. So, if you receive a perfect score, you’ll get a 2400 on the test. However, of the approximate million students who take the test every year, only about 20 get a perfect score every year. Most colleges don’t expect you to be anywhere close to perfect!

There are three sections to the SAT – Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. The lowest score you can get on each section is 200, and the maximum score for each section is 800. First, the test grader will calculate your raw scores for the math and reading sections. You’re given one point for each correct answer and a quarter of a point is subtracted for each incorrect answer. No points are deducted for questions you don’t answer.

The writing section is, of course, scored a bit differently. Each essay is read by two readers, who score the essay on a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 being high), which gives you a number between 2 and 12. If the two readers’ scores differ by more than one point, a third reader scores the essay as well, but the final score you’ll receive will be between 2 and 12. This score accounts for 30% of your total writing section score, with the other 70% of the score coming from writing-related multiple choice questions.

Once each section has a raw score, these scores are converted into scaled scores. This process converts your raw score into a score out of a perfect possible 800 points.

Each test also includes a short unscored section. Across the country, multiple forms of the SAT are given, and the unscored section, which is the same everywhere, allows the board to ensure that each test is comparable to the next. It’s also a way that test creators try out new test questions that they may use in the future.

In 2009, the average SAT scores for students were 515 for Math, 501 for Critical Reading, and 493 for Writing. Once you receive your SAT scores (see dates here), you’ll be able to see where your weaknesses are. That way, if you chose to retake the test, you can focus on problem sections. Many colleges allow you to submit your best section scores, even if they come from different tests, so if you have extremely high scores in some sections, you don’t have to worry that by taking the test again, you’ll lost those high scores.

Still need to take the SAT? Here are national test dates!


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