Information about SAT Scoring

Understanding the SAT Scoring System

For most of the SAT, (except the essay) raw scores are calculated by giving students one point per correct answer and deducting one-quarter point for each wrong answers. Answers that are omitted get a score of zero. The Grid-In questions in the SAT Math section are an exception, as there is no penalty for wrong answers to those questions.

For the SAT essay, two readers independently read the essay and score it on a scale of 1 to 6. The readers are experienced teachers on the high school and college level who have been specially trained to score the essay. The two scores are added together to achieve a raw score that ranges from 2-12. If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, (which is rare) a third scorer will review the essay. The essay counts for 30 percent of the writing section score, while the multiple choice answers count for the other 70 percent.

The scores for each section are then "equated," which means the College Board uses statistics to adjust the test to account for slight differences in difficuly level from one test to the other. The College Board has statistics on the level of difficulty of the test because test questions have been pretested through placement in the unscored experimental section of earlier tests. The College Board has retained and evaluated data on how many students answered each of the questions correctly when they were pretested, and what the overall scores were of the students who did and didn't do well on the questions when they were prestested. Using equating, the raw scores are converted to scaled scores, which are reported on a 200-800 scale for each section.

Currently, the mean Critical Reading score is 496, the mean Math section score is 514, and the mean Writing section score is 488. o score in the 95th percentile in each of the three sections currently requires a 700 in Critical Reading, a 720 in Math, and a 690 in Writing.

What to Expect from the SAT Score Report

The SAT score reports show students' scaled scores as well as their raw scores. The scaled scores also come with score ranges, which essentially show the potential margin of error in caculating the scaled score.

The numbers that count most for colleges are the scaled scores, however there is further information on the SAT score report that helps students put their scores into context. The College Board shares national and local percentile rankings with students on their score reports, so students can see how high their scores were compared to the rest of the country, compared to the rest of their state, and the compared to the students from their high school who took the SAT the year earlier.


The SAT is one of the few standardized tests where retakes are not only common, but also usually successful. At least half of all students take the SAT twice – usually in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. The College Board reports that most students improve their scores the second time around. Specifically, 55 percent of juniors taking the SAT improved their scores as seniors, while 35 percent saw scores drop and 10 percent had no change. Juniors who retook the test as seniors improved their scores on average by 40 points. Approximately one in 25 gained 100 points or more in Critical Reading or Math.