How SAT is Scored: Understanding the Grading Process

Gain insights into how the SAT exam is scored and understand the grading process with this informative blog post. Get ready to ace the test!

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of SAT Test Structure
  3. Understanding the Scoring System
    1. Raw Scores
    2. Scaled Scores
    3. Section Scores
    4. Composite Scores
  4. How SAT is Scored?
  5. How Scores Are Reported
    1. Sending Scores to Colleges
    2. Score Choice
  6. Factors Affecting SAT Scores
    1. Test Difficulty
    2. Question Format and Types
    3. Timing and Pacing
    4. Test Anxiety and Nervousness
  7. Tips for Maximizing SAT Scores
  8. Conclusion
  9. FAQs

As a high school student preparing for college admissions, the SAT is likely a test you’re familiar with. It is a standardized test widely used by universities and colleges to evaluate a student’s readiness for higher education. But have you ever wondered how SAT scores are calculated? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how the SAT is scored and what factors are considered.

Overview of SAT Test Structure

Before we dive into the scoring process, it’s important to understand the structure of the SAT. The SAT consists of two main sections: the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Each section is scored on a scale of 200-800, with a maximum score of 1600 for the entire test. Additionally, the SAT includes an optional essay section, which is scored separately on a scale of 2-8.

Understanding the Scoring System

Raw Scores

The first step in calculating your SAT score is to determine your raw score. Your raw score is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so it’s always better to guess rather than leaving a question blank.

Scaled Scores

Once you have your raw score, it is converted to a scaled score. Scaled scores are used to adjust for differences in difficulty between different test administrations. Each section is scored on a scale of 200-800, with 200 being the lowest possible score and 800 being the highest.

Section Scores

Your scaled scores from the two main sections of the SAT are added together to create a total score out of 1600. The optional essay section is scored separately on a scale of 2-8, which is then added to your total score.

Composite Scores

In addition to your total score, you will also receive section scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. These section scores are calculated using a similar process to the total score, with scaled scores ranging from 200-800.

How Is the SAT Scored?

The SAT score range spans from 400 to 1600, with 400 representing the lowest possible score and 1600 being the highest. However, the process by which the College Board calculates these scores can be somewhat complex.

Initially, your raw scores for each section of the test (Math, Reading, and Writing and Language) are calculated based on the number of questions you answered correctly. You receive one point for every correct answer and there is no penalty for incorrect answers.

Subsequently, the College Board takes your raw scores for each section and converts them into scaled test scores ranging from 1-40 using a special equating process that considers differences among tests. These test scores are then transformed into section scores on a scale of 200-800.

At this stage, your Reading and Writing section scores are combined to yield a single Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section score out of 800. Additionally, you will receive a Math section score out of 800.

Your total score is the sum of your EBRW and Math section scores.

How Scores Are Reported

Sending Scores to Colleges

Once you have received your SAT scores, you can choose to send them to the colleges and universities of your choice. Most colleges require official score reports sent directly from the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT.

Score Choice

Score Choice is an option that allows you to choose which SAT scores you send to colleges. With Score Choice, you can choose which test dates you want to send scores from and which individual scores you want to send.

Factors Affecting SAT Scores

Several factors can affect your SAT scores, including test difficulty, question format and types, timing and pacing, and test anxiety.

Test Difficulty

The SAT is designed to be a challenging test, and the difficulty can vary from test to test. Some tests may have more difficult questions than others, which can affect your overall score.

Question Format and Types

The SAT includes a variety of question formats and types, including multiple-choice, grid-in, and free-response questions. Some students may perform

better on certain question types than others, so it’s important to be familiar with all types of questions and practice accordingly.

Timing and Pacing

The SAT is a timed test, and the time allotted for each section can be a source of stress for some students. Poor time management can lead to rushing through questions or not finishing the section, which can negatively impact your score.

Test Anxiety and Nervousness

Test anxiety and nervousness can also affect your SAT scores. It’s important to practice relaxation techniques and find ways to reduce stress before and during the test.

Tips for Maximizing SAT Scores

To maximize your SAT scores, it’s important to prepare well in advance and develop effective test-taking strategies. Here are a few tips to help you do your best on test day:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test format and question types
  2. Practice consistently, using official SAT practice materials
  3. Develop time management strategies and practice pacing yourself
  4. Manage test anxiety and stress with relaxation techniques
  5. Consider working with a tutor or taking an SAT prep course

By following these tips, you can feel confident and prepared on test day, giving you the best chance of achieving your desired score.


The SAT is an important test that can have a significant impact on your college admissions process. Understanding how SAT scores are calculated and what factors affect them can help you prepare effectively and maximize your score. By developing good study habits, practicing test-taking strategies, and managing test anxiety, you can achieve your best possible score and open up opportunities for higher education.


  1. Can I take the SAT multiple times?
    Yes, you can take the SAT multiple times. However, keep in mind that some colleges may consider all of your scores, while others only consider your highest score.
  2. Is the SAT or ACT better for college admissions?
    There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some colleges prefer one test over the other, while others accept both. It’s important to research the admissions requirements of the colleges you’re interested in to determine which test is best for you.
  3. What is a good SAT score?
    A good SAT score depends on the colleges you’re applying to and their admissions requirements. Generally, scores above 1200 (out of 1600) are considered competitive for most colleges.
  4. Can I retake the SAT essay section?
    No, the essay section is not offered separately from the rest of the SAT, so you cannot retake just the essay section.
  5. How long does it take to receive SAT scores?
    It typically takes about two weeks to receive SAT scores after the test date. However, during busy testing periods, it may take longer.

By Superingenious

I help students who are preparing for their international test or the once are looking to improve their English skills. So I help students learn English, get better scores on their tests, and prepare for the future.