The most underappreciated strategy to score well on any exam is to know how the scoring is done. Once you know how the algorithm for the test works, you can work around almost every other problem to score well.
The SATs are no exception to this rule. Once you understand how your SAT is scored, you will understand exactly which areas you have to work on to secure a good score. you will know what weightage what section carries and where you could possibly lose marks.
If you have ever seen an SAT score report, you know it’s a comprehensive list of various scores. The issue is that it’s comprehensive for business schools and people who know exactly what each score means. For most students, it’s a confusing mess.
The score report has a total score, an essay score, cross-test scores, and subscores. To make matters worse, all these scores are further divided into subsections.
Evidence-based Reading and Writing + Math
Reading, Writing and Language, and Math
SAT Essay scores
2 – 8
Reading, Analysis, and Writing
Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. These scores are based on selected questions in all three sections.
From Evidence-based Reading and Writing: Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions. From Math: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.
Sum of the two section scores
So, without further discussions, let’s dive into how the scoring on the SAT works so this table starts making sense to you.
The total score on the SAT is the combined score of the two sections; Evidence Based Reading and Writing, and Math. Since the changes on the SAT in 2016, the maximum total score of these two sections (which was previously 2400) has been brought down to 1600.
This is your ‘Main’ SAT score that the undergraduate institutions you apply to are concerned with.
Both the Evidence Based Reading and Writing, and Math section account for 800 points each from the total score of 1600.
However, calculating this can be a little tricky.
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section tests students on Reading, and Writing and Language based questions (52, and 44 questions respectively). It also has subscores that we will discuss later in this blog.
It is scored initially on a 10-40 point scale which is called the Raw Score. The Raw Score is then converted into the 200-800 point scale which is the final score of the EBRW section.
Math on the SAT is divided into two sections, Calculator, and No-Calculator (38, and 20questions respectively).
Similar to the EBRW section, the Math section on the SAT is also scored initially on a 10-40 point scale which this then converted into the section score of 200-800.
Calculating section scores
To calculate your score on the EBRW section, calculate the number of answers you got right on both the Reading, and Writing and Language subsections. Now find the equivalent number to the number of correct answers on both the categories separately from the table below.
Once you have the test scores, as mentioned in the table below, for both the categories, add them and then multiply the result by 10 to reach you section score for SAT EBRW.
To calculate your score on the Math section during practice tests, simply add the number of questions you got right on both the calculator and the no-calculator sections. Once you have done that, refer to the image below to find your final score on the SAT Math.
What should your score be to be college ready?
As you must have realized so far, the score of an individual on the SAT does not fall below a combined total of 400 for the EBRW and Math sections. On the individual section, the lowest score students can attain is 200.
It is not possible to fail the SAT since there are no markers for that, but you can be deemed not ready for college by your SAT scores in the grade you took the test in.
The College Board, the authority on SATs, provides students and concerned parties with a list of benchmarks depending on the grade the student taking the SAT is in. These benchmarks are to help assess if a student is on the right growth oath to be ready for college and greater challenges by the end of high school, or if they need more help and assistance for the same.
The College Board also says that students who meet the score benchmarks have a 75% chance of securing at-least a C in the first semester of college.
When you receive your SAT score report, you will see some signs next to the EBRW and Math section scores. These signs are to mark your performance against the benchmark.
A green sign means you have exceeded or met the benchmark.
A yellow sign signifies a score which falls one-year short of the academic growth of the set benchmark.
A red sign indicates a score which falls much shorter, than one -year worth of academic growth, of the benchmark.
This table contains the list of scores per section set as benchmark for high-school.
Benchmark in Math
Benchmark in EBRW
Benchmark in Total
The essay on the new SAT was made optional. This also meant that the essay score had to be separated from the total score. the essay score is also measured very differently from any of the other score on the SAT. while the total score, the subscores, and the cross-test scores have some similarity within themselves, the examination and scoring of the essay is wildly different.
Students are tested on three parameters through the SAT essay.
This will test your understanding of the question presented to you by the SAT. Make sure you really understand what the author expects out of you before starting your essay.
This measures how you made the analysis of the prompt, through the strength of your arguments in the essay.
This score you on the basic criterion for essay writing. The flow of your essay, you sentence structure, i.e. grammar, and the basic clarity present in the essay.
How is Essay score calculated?
Knowing these different marking criteria is important for you as you and the colleges you send your report to will be able to see marks that you have been allotted for each one of them.
The essay is scored by two readers who then give you a score from 1-4 on each of the criteria above. Their scores are then to make a composite score between 2-8 for each criteria. The maximum score one can achieve in the essay section is 8-8-8.
The cross-test scores on the SAT are calculated from questions spread across the whole test without considering any section barriers. The range of the cross-test scores is 10-40, just like most of the test.
These scores calculate a student on two criteria.
Analysis in History/Social Studies
Analysis in Science
While taking a practice test, calculating these scores can be much harder as you would require to know which questions from all-across the test come under either of the categories of questions to test cross-test scores.
Once you know which questions were in this category, calculate your raw score and refer to the table below for the final scores on both the Analysis in History/Social Studies, and the Analysis in Science categories separately from the image below.
SAT Subscores evaluate your skills in four areas in Reading, and Writing and three areas in the Math section on a range of 1-15.
Evidence Based Reading and Writing Subscores
Command of Evidence
These SAT subscores will demand of the student to provide evidence for a certain answer. They can also ask them to point out the evidence an author uses in supporting her claims or state the relationship between a given image and the passage it relates to.
Words in Context
This analyses a test takers ability to use appropriate words to accurately get the meaning of a sentence across. You could be asked to either replace a word to make the meaning of a sentence more accurate to what the author wants or even scrutinize on how a word changes the tone, style and meaning of a given sentence.
Expression of Ideas
This can be seen as an extension of the Words in Context scoring as it requires a test taker to make structural changes and/or word choices to get the point across in a much more affective way than what the author has done.
Standard English Conventions
This score tests you on the more technical aspect of the English language. It checks your grammar, punctuation, and usage. It basically analyses a test takers knowledge of the correct sentence structure.
Heart of Algebra
These are hardcore algebra questions that require you to solve linear equation and inequalities, interpret linear functions, and/or function word problems. This is the basic algebra that a student is believed to have learnt throughout their school years.
Problem Solving and Data Analysis
It’s pretty much what the title says. These questions require you to analyses data and then solve the related problems. These generally include interpretation of ratios, scatterplots, tables, and percentages.
Passport to Advanced Math
Quadratic equations, nonlinear expressions, nonlinear equation graphs, polynomials, and exponential word problems are widely covered under this scoring in the Math section of the SAT.
Similarly, to the Cross-Test scores on the SAT, you would require to know which questions on the practice test come under all of the different categories of subscores. Once you have that knowledge, the drill is quite similar to the rest of the test, except the essay.
Find out the number of questions you got right in each of the categories of sub-scores, and then refer to the table below to know your final score.
Since we’re all done with scores on the SAT and how to calculate them, this seems like the perfect opportunity to provide you with the current data on SAT score percentiles.
99 and 99+
1 and 1-
Percentiles make it easier to understand what average scores you would require to get into the college of your choice. Quite obviously an IVY League university would favour the scorers of the 99th percentile while you could get into tier three or four college at the 50th percentile as well.
The most-handy a percentile comes in is when setting a goal SAT score. You can check every college’s SAT score percentile and decide what score would be achievable and improve your chances at an admit.
The SAT scoring might have changed in the past few years, but, if you have your study plan perfectly curated, you will be able to ace the new SAT at 1600 as well.
Although you won’t need this for some-time, i.e. till you take your SAT, another part of the SAT scoring, is the SAT score choice. We will talk about it in details in upcoming blogs but to really understand SAT scoring completely, you should have a quick look at this function for now.