Manhattan Review SAT Prep – Scoring Overview
The 2023 SAT includes a scoring system that was first introduced in 2016 and remains quite complex, featuring a total score, section scores, test scores, sub scores, and cross-test scores.
The total score on the 2023 SAT ranges from 400 to 1600 and is the sum of the scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math sections, each of which counts equally toward the total score. The total score, sometimes also referred to as the "composite score," is the most well-known of the SAT numbers reported by the College Board, and is the score most frequently referred to in statistical analyses, rankings of student academic performance, and everyday discussions of the SAT.
Students receive section scores of 200 to 800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and for the Math section. The former section consists of two tests, while the latter contains only one test, but these sections are nonetheless equal factors in the total (composite) score. Section scores are first calculated from the percentage of correct answers on each section's tests, which the College Board refers to as "raw scores." These raw scores are then converted to the 200-800 point sectional scores through a process that the College Board calls "equating," which is meant to provide consistency of scoring across all administrations of the SAT by accounting for variations among the several distinct versions of the test.
The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section includes a Reading Test and a Writing and Language Test, and students will receive a score on each of 10 to 40. This enhanced scoring system allows the College Board to provide both an overall assessment of verbal skills and more targeted assessments of reading and writing abilities. The Math section consists only of a Math Test, which is likewise scored from 10 to 40.
The College Board also reports seven sub scores for the 2023 SAT, each of which is between 1 and 15. All of these sub scores are associated with one or more tests. The Words in Context and Command of Evidence sub scores are drawn from questions on both the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test. Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions are sub scores that are specific to the SAT Writing and Language Test, while the Math Test includes three sub scores: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. Sub scores, which were first introduced on the 2016 SAT, provide college admissions officials with information that is helpful to the general admissions process, and they also assist individual academic departments in their evaluations of applicants' skills in the areas that are most important to a given academic subject.
Questions on all three of the 2023 SAT's tests factor into two cross-test scores for Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. Cross-test scores, which are given on a scale of 10 to 40, are a component of the principle of enhanced scoring.
SAT Essay scores are from 2 to 8 in each of three areas: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Essay scores are based on the composite of two independent scorers, and essay scores do not affect any other scoring category. This system allows separate evaluations of essay-writing and editing skills, the latter of which are the focus of the Writing and Language Test.
Retention of Traditional Scoring
The 2023 SAT retains the 800-point sectional structure that has been in place in one form or another since the test was first divided into verbal and math sections in 1930. With a minimum score of 200, this system has the advantage of providing a clear midpoint of 500 in the scoring range. Mean sectional scores have generally hovered around this level for much of the SAT's history, either through actual student performance or via College Board scaling of scores to reach this average.
Upcoming Changes to SAT Scoring
In 2022, the College Board confirmed that the SAT will transition from being a paper-and-pencil test to a digital test completed via computer. The digital SAT will be available to international students towards the middle or end of 2023 and to students in the United States beginning sometime in 2024. According to the College Board, the SAT will continue to be scored on the 400-1600 scale, with section scores ranging from 200-800, while sub scores and cross-test scores will no longer be reported.