SAT scoring - the ultimate guide

SAT scoring - the ultimate guide

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If you're reading this, you're probably gearing up to take the SAT—a critical step on your journey to college. The SAT isn't just about answering questions; it's about understanding how those answers translate into scores. Today, Tutorpeers will dive into the nitty-gritty of SAT scoring.

SAT Verbal and Writing Score

Alright, first up is the SAT Verbal and Writing section, also known as Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). This part of the test combines two sections: Reading and Writing & Language. You'll face questions that test your comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar skills.

How It's Scored

Each section—Reading and Writing & Language—has its own raw score. That's just the number of questions you get right. These raw scores are then converted into a scaled score, ranging from 200 to 800. Your SAT Writing Score is actually a part of this larger EBRW score.

Here's a quick rundown:

  • Reading: You'll get 52 questions; each correct answer contributes to your raw score.
  • Writing & Language: This section has 44 questions contributing to your raw score.

The raw scores from both sections are combined and then converted to the scaled score we discussed. So, when you hear someone say they got a 700 in EBRW, that's a combo of their performance in both Reading and Writing & Language.

SAT Math Score

So, you've tackled the Verbal and Writing sections, and now it's time for Math. The SAT Math section is split into two parts: one where you can use a calculator and one where you can't. Yep, you read that right—no calculator for some questions!

How It's Scored

Like the Verbal and Writing sections, the Math section has its own raw score. You get one point for each correct answer, without penalty for wrong answers. The raw score is then converted into a scaled SAT Math Score, ranging from 200 to 800.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Calculator Section: This part has 38 questions, and you have 55 minutes to solve them.
  • No Calculator Section: You'll face 20 questions here, with a time limit of 25 minutes.

Your performance in both these sections contributes to your overall SAT Math Score. So, make sure you're prepped for both calculator and no-calculator questions!

SAT Essay Score

Last but not least, let's talk about the SAT Essay. This one's optional, but it can showcase your writing skills to colleges if you choose to take it.

How It's Scored

The SAT Essay Score is separate from the other sections and doesn't affect your overall SAT score. It's evaluated on three criteria: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Two graders score Each criterion on a scale of 2 to 8, making the highest possible score 24.

Here's what the graders look for:

  • Reading: How well you understood the passage and its nuances.
  • Analysis: Your ability to dissect the author's argument and reasoning.
  • Writing: The quality of your writing, including structure, vocabulary, and grammar.

So, if you're aiming for a stellar SAT Essay Score, ensure you're nailing these three criteria.

Exploring the SAT Bell Curve: Reality or Myth?

You might've heard rumors about the SAT being graded on a "bell curve," but what does that actually mean? And is it even true? The idea behind the bell curve is that your SAT score isn't just about how well you did; it's also about how well you did compared to everyone else who took the test.

The Truth Behind the Curve

While it's not a strict bell curve, the SAT uses a process called "equating" to ensure scores are fair across different test dates. So, if you end up with a super hard Math section, the scoring might be adjusted to account for that. But don't bank on the curve to save you; your best bet is solid test prep.

Sample SAT Scoring Chart

Let's look at a sample scoring chart to give you a clearer picture of how SAT scoring works. Remember, this is just an example; the actual conversions can vary.

Raw ScoreVerbal and Writing Scaled ScoreMath Scaled Score

This chart shows how raw scores in the Verbal and Writing, and Math sections get converted into scaled scores. As you can see, a perfect raw score of 50 would get you a perfect scaled score of 800 in both sections.

Understanding SAT Percentiles

So, you've got your SAT score, but what does it actually mean? That's where percentiles come in. Your SAT percentile tells you what percentage of test-takers you scored better than. For example, if you're in the 90th percentile, you did better than 90% of people who took the test.

Why Percentiles Matter

Percentiles are super useful for colleges to see where you stand compared to other applicants. They can also help you set goals for test prep. If you aim for a top-tier school, you'll probably want to aim for a higher percentile.

Average SAT Scores

Alright, let's talk averages. You might be wondering what's considered an "average" SAT score. The most recent data shows that the average SAT score is around 1028. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Average SAT Math Score: About 530
  • Average SAT Verbal and Writing Score: Roughly 480

Why Averages Matter

Knowing the average SAT scores can help you set realistic goals. If you score way above the average, that's a good sign you're on track for your dream school. But if you're below average, don't sweat it—there's always room for improvement, and that's what test prep is for!


Phew, that was a lot to take in, right? But hey, understanding SAT scoring is a big deal. It can help you set goals, pick the right test prep strategies, and ultimately, get into the college of your dreams. So, whether you're just starting your SAT journey or looking to improve your score, use this guide as your go-to resource.


Q: What's a Good SAT Score?
A: A "good" score varies depending on your target colleges. Generally, anything above the average SAT score of 1060 is considered good.

Q: How long are SAT scores valid?
A: SAT scores are generally valid for five years.

Q: How long does it take to receive scores?
A: You'll typically get your scores about two to three weeks after taking the test.

Q: How often can I take the SAT?
A: You can take the SAT as many times as you want, but most students take it two or three times.

Q: Can I retake the SAT to improve my score?
A: Yes, retaking the SAT is common and can help improve your score with additional test prep.

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