How the SAT is Scored

How the SAT is Scored

Updated:November 21, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA

The Scholastic Aptitude Test, most commonly referred to as the SAT, is graded in a unique way.

It can seem confusing at first, but it’s really not all that complex. In this article I will break the SAT scoring down for you so you can easily interpret how it’s graded.

The SAT is made up of three sections. Two of them are multiple choice and the other is an optional essay. I’ll start by explaining how the multiple choice sections are graded before I explain the essay. In order to understand how the whole SAT scoring system works, you first need to learn about how the MCQ sections are broken into subsections and how your subscores create your final SAT score.

Let’s jump right in!

Multiple Choice: Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing

The scores for each sub section range between 200 and 800, which means the total score range is between 400 and 1600. These are the rules of grading for multiple choice:

  • 1 point is earned for each correct answer.
  • 0 points are earned for skipped questions or incorrect answers. (This means you should always guess if you don’t know the answer!)

The total amount of questions you answer correctly will be your SAT score.

The SAT is designed to challenge every level of student. As you work through the multiple choice sections, the questions will become more challenging. However, this is not the case for the Evidence-Based Reading questions.

With a time-limit and a seemingly endless amount of multiple choice questions, it might seem impossible to answer every question. The goal is to answer as many questions as you can; however, there will always be a few extra-tricky questions that you might not have a clue as to how to answer.

So don’t forget to guess!

There should not be any empty bubbles by the time you finish your SAT.

There is a major benefit to taking a multiple choice test like the SAT. You may be used to solving questions by working until you find a single answer. With multiple choice questions, however, the correct answer is already right in front of you. All you have to do is eliminate the wrong ones. This type of testing is different and requires practice to master, but you must look for the wrong answers first in order to find the right one.

SAT Essay Grading

You must use the provided passage as the basis for a well-written argument. The SAT essay section is optional, but you have the potential to earn 8 extra points. To get to this score, there will be two readers that look over your essay and grade it on a scale of 1 to 4 points. These two scores are added together to give you your final score for this section. The graders will be judging your reading, analysis, and writing.

What’s a Good SAT Score?

Now that you know how the SAT is scored, you are probably wondering:

What is considered a good SAT score?

With the SAT being based on a 1600 point scale, it can be hard to compare how well you do with other students. In order to find out what an “A” would be on the SAT, the raw scores need to be converted to scaled scores. This will let you determine percentile ranks that indicate how much better or worse you performed on the test compared to others. For example, if you scored in the 85th percentile, you did better than 85% of the test takers.

SAT Score Converter Chart

Check out this table of percentiles to see how your scores translate:

Score QualityPercentileScores
Best90th and AboveReading and Writing: 660-800

Math: 660-800

Better75thReading and Writing: 590-650

Math: 610-670

Above Average50thReading and Writing: 510-580

Math: 680-800

Below AverageLess than 50thReading and Writing: 500 or lower

Math: 510 or lower

SAT Study Tips

Now you know how it’s graded and you know what score you want. But how are you going to handle the task of preparing for the SAT?

Check out these SAT study tips to make the most of your study time:

  • Practice with official practice questions
  • Learn from your mistakes and focus on your weaknesses
  • For reading passages, skim first, read the questions next, then go back for a thorough read.
  • Actively read and get interested in the topics.
  • Find the evidence! There is always a clue in the question that will support the right answer.

Now it’s time to start studying so you can CRUSH the SAT!

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