How to Calculate SAT Score

How to Calculate SAT Score: A Clear and Confident Guide

The SAT, administered by the non-profit College Board, assesses high school students’ readiness for college-level work with two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math, each scored from 200-800.

The EBRW evaluates reading, writing, and grammar, while the Math section assesses mathematical and problem-solving skills. The final score is determined by converting raw scores using a table that adjusts for test version differences.

However, it’s crucial to understand that colleges consider various factors such as grades, extracurriculars, essays, and recommendations, so a high SAT score doesn’t guarantee admission, and a low score doesn’t necessarily lead to rejection.

Breakdown of SAT Sections

The SAT comprises three sections: Math (with calculator and no-calculator subsections), Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (including Reading and Writing and Language Tests), and an optional Essay.

The Math section covers algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, with the calculator-allowed part having more complex questions. Math scores are calculated by adding and multiplying subsection scores by 10.

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score combines Reading and Writing and Language Test scores, assessing reading comprehension and grammar. Subscores in History/Social Studies and Science analyze students’ interpretation of corresponding texts.

The optional Essay, scored separately on a 2 to 8 scale, evaluates argument analysis and writing skills in Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

How SAT Scores are Calculated

SAT scores are calculated using a complex process that considers the number of questions answered correctly, incorrect answers, and skipped questions. The process ensures that scores are comparable across different test versions.

Raw scores in each section are determined by tallying correct answers, with no penalty for incorrect or skipped questions. The maximum raw score varies per section based on the total number of questions.

Next, the raw scores are converted into scaled scores using equating. Equating ensures that scores from different versions of the test are comparable. The equating process considers the difficulty of the questions on each test version and adjusts the raw scores accordingly.
Once the scaled scores are calculated for each section, they are combined to create section scores.

Section scores in Reading and Writing, as well as Math, range from 200 to 800. The total score, a sum of these sections, ranges from 400 to 1600.

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Beyond section scores, subscores (1-15) reflect performance in specific test areas, like Heart of Algebra or Passport to Advanced Math. Cross-test scores (10-40) assess skills across multiple sections.

Finally, Scores are transformed into percentiles via a conversion table. The percentile reflects the proportion of test-takers scoring below the student. A percentile of 75 means the student outperformed 75% of test-takers.

Understanding Your SAT Score Report

After taking the SAT, you’ll receive a comprehensive score report detailing your total score, section scores, and percentiles for benchmarking against other test-takers.

The SAT is scored from 400 to 1600, with 200 points each for the Reading, Writing, Language, and Math sections. The Essay section is optional and is scored separately. Your total score is the sum of your section scores, with a maximum possible score of 1600.

Your percentile ranking, displayed alongside your score, signifies the percentage of test-takers scoring lower than you. A 75th percentile ranking denotes outperforming 75% of participants.

You will also see two types of percentiles: one that compares your score to a representative group of 11th and 12th-grade students and another that compares your score to typical SAT test-takers.

Your score report also includes a score range, which shows the range of scores that you could potentially receive if you were to take the test again. The score range is based on statistical analysis and estimates the score you will likely receive if you take the test again.

In addition to your scores and percentiles, your score report includes many other useful information. For example, you will see a list of your correct answers, incorrect answers, and omitted questions for each section of the test. This information can help you identify areas of strength and weakness and guide your studying for future tests.


When applying to college, students must decide between the SAT and ACT. Both tests are widely accepted, but differences exist that influence the choice.

Test Format

The SAT is longer, clocking in at 3 hours and 50 minutes, while the ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes. The SAT has two sections, Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, plus an optional essay. The ACT has four sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional essay.


The SAT has a maximum score of 1600, with 800 points each for Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The optional essay is scored separately. The ACT has a maximum score of 36, with scores for each section averaged together for a composite score. The optional essay is also scored separately.


The SAT focuses more on vocabulary and reading comprehension, while the ACT focuses more on math and science. The SAT also includes a no-calculator section in the math portion, while the ACT allows using a calculator throughout the math section.

Preparation for the SAT

Preparing for the SAT is crucial for achieving a high score. It is recommended that students start preparing for the test at least six months in advance. This will give them enough time to study and practice without feeling overwhelmed.

There are several ways to prepare for the SAT, with practice tests being highly effective. Utilize free resources like Khan Academy and College Board to familiarize yourself with the format and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Another way to prepare for the SAT is to use study materials. Several study materials are available, including books, online courses, and tutoring services. Students should choose study materials tailored to their learning styles and needs.

When preparing for the SAT, it is important to set a target score. A target score will help students stay motivated and focused on their goals. Students should set a realistic target score based on their abilities and the requirements of the colleges they are interested in.

SAT Scoring and College Admissions

SAT scores are an important factor in college admissions. The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, provides colleges with a score report that includes a student’s total score, section scores, and subscores. This information can help colleges evaluate a student’s academic abilities and potential.

Colleges evaluate applicants based on various factors, including SAT scores, high school grades, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendation letters. Recognizing that SAT scores are just one component in the admissions process is crucial.

For example, Harvard University considers SAT scores part of its admissions process, but they also emphasize the importance of a student’s academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal characteristics. Similarly, the University of Southern California considers SAT scores, but they also consider a student’s essays, letters of recommendation, and involvement in their community.

Understanding the SAT Math Score

The SAT Math section is one of the two main sections of the SAT. It consists of 58 questions, which must be answered in 80 minutes. The Math section is divided into two subsections – one with a calculator and one without a calculator. The questions in the Math section are designed to test a student’s ability to reason mathematically, solve problems, and apply mathematical concepts to real-world scenarios.

The Math section score is calculated by converting the student’s raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) to a scaled score. The scaled score ranges from 200 to 800, with 800 being the highest possible score.

The scaled score is calculated using a complex formula that considers the difficulty of the questions and incorporates the number of questions answered correctly and incorrectly.

The Math section score is important to a student’s overall SAT score. Colleges and universities use it to assess a student’s mathematical ability and potential for success in college-level math courses.

A high Math section score can help students stand out in college admissions and make them eligible for certain scholarships and other academic opportunities.

To prepare for the Math section of the SAT, students should become familiar with the types of questions that are typically asked and practice solving similar problems.

They should also develop a strong understanding of basic mathematical concepts and formulas, as well as the ability to apply those concepts to real-world scenarios.

Understanding the SAT Reading Score

The SAT Reading score is one of the two section scores that make up the total SAT score. The Reading section tests a student’s ability to read and understand passages of varying lengths and complexities. The passages are drawn from various sources, including literature, science, and social studies.

The SAT Reading section consists of 52 multiple-choice questions and is scored on a scale of 200-800. Each question is worth one point, and there is no penalty for incorrect answers. The Reading section is divided into five passages, each followed by questions. The passages are typically 500-750 words long and cover various topics.

To achieve a high score on the SAT Reading section, a student must be able to read quickly and accurately while comprehending the passages’ main ideas and supporting details. They must also be able to analyze the author’s tone, purpose, and argumentative techniques.

The SAT Reading section tests a student’s critical reading skills, which are essential for college success and beyond.

Understanding the SAT Writing Score

The Writing and Language Test is one of the two main sections of the SAT, alongside the Reading Test. The Writing and Language Test assesses students’ ability to analyze and revise written text. It consists of 44 multiple-choice questions and is scored on a scale of 200-800.

The Writing and Language Test score is combined with the Reading Test score to create a total Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score, which ranges from 400 to 1600. The Writing and Language Test score is also reported separately, ranging from 10 to 40.

The Writing and Language Test score relies on accurate answers, later transformed into a scaled score through the College Board’s conversion chart.

The scaled score considers the test’s difficulty level, ensuring that scores are comparable across different test versions.

Common Myths about SAT Scoring

There are several common myths about SAT scoring that continue to circulate. However, it’s important to understand the truth behind these myths to avoid confusion and misinformation. Here are some of the most common myths about SAT scoring:

Myth 1: There is a penalty for guessing on the SAT.

Many students believe that there is a penalty for guessing on the SAT, which can lead them to skip questions or leave answers blank. However, this is not true. The SAT doesn’t penalize for incorrect answers, emphasizing the importance of guessing rather than leaving questions unanswered.

Myth 2: The SAT scoring system is always the same.

While the basic scoring system for the SAT remains the same, the test is adjusted yearly to ensure that scores remain consistent and fair. This means that the number of questions and difficulty levels can vary from test to test, and the scoring scale may be adjusted as needed.

Myth 3: The SAT scoring system is based on trends.

Some students believe that the SAT scoring system is based on trends, which means that scores are adjusted based on the performance of other test-takers. However, this is not true. The SAT scoring system is based on a predetermined scale, and scores are calculated based on the number of questions answered correctly.

Myth 4: The SAT scoring system penalizes students who take the test multiple times.

While it’s true that some colleges may consider all of a student’s SAT scores, the SAT scoring system itself does not penalize students who take the test multiple times. The College Board encourages students to take tests repeatedly to improve their scores.

Understanding Readiness Scores

SAT scores gauge college and career readiness. Administered by the College Board, benchmarks indicate if a student is on track for college-level coursework, with scores reflecting a 75% chance of earning at least a C in first-year courses.

The readiness benchmarks are as follows:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 480
  • Math: 530

If a student’s SAT score meets or exceeds these benchmarks, they are considered college-ready in that subject area. However, it is important to note that meeting these benchmarks does not guarantee success in college, as other factors such as motivation, study skills, and time management also contribute to success.

In addition to the readiness benchmarks, the SAT score report includes a score range and percentile rank for each section. The score range shows the minimum and maximum possible scores for each section, while the percentile rank indicates how a student’s score compares to other test-takers. A percentile rank of 75 means the student performed better than 75% of their peers on the test.

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