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How is the SAT Scored?

Are you getting ready to prep for the SAT? You’ve probably been told time and time again how important it is to get a high score on this exam, but it is hard for a student to know how many points they can score on the SAT if they do not understand how the test is scored, especially with all of the recent changes that the test has made to its scoring system. Let’s break down how the SAT is scored, and how knowing this information will help you on test day.


How many points can you get on the SAT?

In the past, the SAT was scored on a 2400-based point system. As of March 2016, the SAT is now scored on a 1600-scale; keep this in mind when looking at old average score data for colleges. This 1600 comes from adding the total points a student received on each section of the exam, but it does not factor in the score a student received from the optional essay (although the essay score does appear on the official score report).


SAT Scoring by Section

There are three sections of the SAT – the Math Section, Evidence-Based Reading Section, and Writing Section, plus an optional Essay. The points allotted to each section are as follows:

  • Math: 800
  • Evidence-Based Reading & Writing: 800
  • Essay: 24

These points make up the scaled score for each section of the SAT. This scaled score is then converted to a raw score, or the number of questions you answered correctly, for each section. This raw score does not take into account the questions that you got wrong.

The Math, Reading, and Writing sections are all scored by a computer scanner. The Essay, however, is scored differently. For this section of the exam, two human test graders evaluate your essay and give it a score of 1-4 for each of three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing. So, a perfect essay would earn a 12 from each grader, for a total of 24 points.

When you take the SAT, you receive a score report that gives you an in-depth look at your performance on the exam. This report shows you your cross-test scores (which show you how well you performed on certain types of questions throughout the exam) and subscores (which break down your performance on each section of the SAT), which are useful for analyzing how well you did on the test, and what you can do to improve your score in the future.


How do you get your SAT scores?

Just as the SAT is given on specific days of the year, SAT scores are also released on specific days. When you register for the exam, you will know exactly when your score will be released. This release date used to be around five or six weeks after you took the SAT, but more recently The College Board has announced changes to let you find out your scores even sooner. Now, scores for the multiple-choice section of the test are released about two weeks after test day. If you take the SAT with Essay, your Essay score will be released five days after you receive your multiple-choice scores. These scores are released online, and are also available by paper.

Why should you care about this timing? Getting your scores sooner not only means less stressing about how you did on the test, but it also lets you know sooner if you need to get to work on preparing for the exam again. And, the sooner your test is scored, the sooner your score is sent to colleges, so you’re a little bit less likely to run out of time before applications are due.


How can understanding SAT scores help you score higher?

You can use the SAT scores of past exams or practice tests to set a benchmark for future exams. Fortunately, The College Board now offers eight SAT practice tests for download. These are a great resource for any student who’s getting ready for the SAT. Additionally, Veritas Prep now also offers its own free SAT practice test. This practice exam is another great way to supplement your SAT prep. By looking at how well you perform in each section of these exams, you can determine your strengths and weaknesses as a starting point for your SAT preparation.