SAT Prep – How SAT Scores are Calculated

Summary of Total Scores and Section Scores

Students who take the 2023 SAT receive a total score of 400 to 1600. This total score is the sum of the two section scores (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math), each of which contributes half of the total (200-800). The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score is divided equally between the Reading Test (52 questions) and the Writing and Language Test (44 questions), while the Math Test (58 total questions, 38 calculator and 20 no-calculator) is the sole factor in the Math section score.

Raw Scores and Equating

The process for section scoring begins with the calculation of raw scores, which represent the number of correct answers. Students receive one point for each correct answer, and unlike pre-2016 versions of the SAT, no points are deducted for incorrect answers. These raw scores are then converted to scaled scores using a process known as "equating," which revises raw scores upward or downward based on the difficulty level of a given test (scaled scores are not based on student group performance within a specific administration of the SAT). For example, a Math Test raw score of 30 (out of 58) can be equated to a Math section score of 530 on one version of the SAT and a section score of 580 on another. A raw Math Test score of 57 is good enough for a perfect Math section score of 800 on some editions of the test, but on others, a student must answer all 58 questions correctly in order to receive the highest possible score.

Calculation of Test Scores

Test scores that range from 10 to 40 are given for the Reading Test, Writing and Language Test, and Math Test, and raw scores are also the starting point for the calculation of test scores. Raw scores are equated into test scores by adjusting for test difficulty. Answering 26 of the Reading Test's 52 questions correctly, for example, can result in a Reading Test score of 25 or 26. 30 correct answers on the Writing and Language Test's 44 questions could be a test score of 29 or 30. The section score for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing is determined by adding the scaled Reading Test and Writing and Language Test scores together and multiplying by 10. The examples noted above would result in a section score of 540, 550, or 560, depending on the difficulty of the specific test taken by a given student.

Calculation of Sub scores

Seven sub scores of 1 to 15 are derived from selected questions on one or more of the SAT's three tests. The Writing and Language Test is a factor in four of these seven sub scores: Expression of Ideas (24 questions), Standard English Conventions (20 questions), Command of Evidence (8 questions), and Words in Context (8 questions). The Reading Test includes questions that count toward the Command of Evidence and Words in Context sub scores (10 questions each, for a total of 18 questions each for these sub scores). The Math Test is relevant to three sub scores: Heart of Algebra (19 questions), Problem Solving and Data Analysis (17 questions), and Passport to Advanced Math (16 questions). Sub scores are converted from the number of correct answers in each category (raw scores). This scaling of scores is necessitated by the different number of questions in each area. For instance, answering 16 questions correctly in each of these seven areas could result in scaled sub scores of 10 for Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions; 11 for Heart of Algebra; 13 for Words in Context; 14 for Command of Evidence and Problem Solving and Data Analysis; and 15 for Passport to Advanced Math. The actual sub scores a given student receives depend on the individual test and could be higher or lower than the example above.

Calculation of Cross-Test Scores

Students will also receive cross-test scores based on certain questions on all three of the 2023 SAT's individual tests. The Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science cross-test scores are calculated from 21 questions each on the Reading Test, 6 questions each on the Writing and Language Test, and 8 questions each on the Math Test, for a total of 35 questions for each cross-test score. Raw scores (one point for each correct answer) are scaled to a range of 10 to 40 for each cross-test score and adjusted for test difficulty. 32 correct answers on both Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science, for example, may result in a cross-test score of 38 on the former and 37 on the latter.

Upcoming Changes to SAT Scoring

In early 2022, the College Board announced that the SAT would be transitioning from a paper-and-pencil test to a digital test completed via computer. This change is reportedly set to begin in 2023 for international students and 2024 for students in the United States. Switching from the traditional format to a digital one will allow numerous benefits related to scoring, including the opportunity for students to receive their SAT scores in days rather than current wait time of weeks. This will allow students to make more informed educational decisions, including whether or not they wish to take the test again and what colleges and universities they can realistically expect to be admitted to based on their scores.

The College Board has shared that scoring will continue to take place on a 1600-point scale, with the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, as well as the Math section, still being scored in a range of 200-800 points. Some scores will be discontinued, and neither sub scores nor cross test scores will appear on the digital SAT score report. Based on available statements and documents, the College Board is attempting to balance providing useful information with providing streamlined information, and time will tell whether these more detailed scores will be missed or if the change to reduced score reporting will be a welcome one.

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