How Scoring Works on the SAT: Section Scores, Equating & Reporting

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Registering for the SAT and What to Bring on Test Day

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Scoring Overview
  • 0:41 Multiple-Choice Scores
  • 3:00 Essay Scores
  • 3:57 How Scores are Determined
  • 4:51 Score Reporting
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Confused by SAT scoring? Not quite sure what all the numbers mean? Watch this lesson to learn exactly how your score is calculated and how to interpret your score report.

Scoring Overview

SAT scoring can be hard to decode because it's so different from normal grades, and if you took the SAT before March of 2016, the scoring worked completely differently from the way it does now. But once you get used to the CollegeBoard's special scoring system, it's not hard to interpret.

For scoring purposes, the SAT is divided into three sections: two required multiple-choice sections and one optional essay. In this lesson, we'll go over how these three sections are scored, how they're broken up into subsections, what kind of subscores you'll get, and how your answers get transformed into all these scores in the first place.

Multiple-Choice Scores

On the SAT, the two required multiple-choice sections are the Math section and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. These sections are each graded on a scale from 200 to 800, where 200 is the worst and 800 is the best. The scores on these sections are then added together to get a total SAT score between 400 and 1600.

Unlike the old SAT, the new SAT also has a bunch of different subscores, which give you a score for various selected subsets of the questions on the test. The subscores are meant to assess various skills across the test as a whole.

On the multiple-choice part of the test as a whole, you'll get cross-test scores for analysis in history/social studies and analysis in science. These scores are based on selected questions from both sections. They're supposed to measure how well you can understand written information about history and science and use that information to solve problems. In each area, you'll get a score from 10 to 40.

On the evidence-based reading and writing section only, you'll get subscores from 1 to 15 for two sets of selected questions: command of evidence and words in context. 'Command of evidence' is how well you can use information from a text to answer questions, and 'words in context' is how well you can understand the meaning of a word in the context of a particular text.

The evidence-based reading and writing portion is also divided into two tests: reading and writing and language. You'll get a separate subscore for each test on a scale from 10 to 40. For the writing and language section only, you'll also get subscores from 1 to 15 for expression of ideas and standard English conventions. 'Expression of ideas' is how well you understand the impact of organization and structure on writing. 'Standard English conventions' is how well you understand the building blocks of writing, like sentence structure, usage and punctuation.

On the Math test, you'll get subscores from 1 to 15 for three areas:

  • Heart of algebra is about solving equations and systems of equations.
  • Problem solving and data analysis is about quantitative reasoning, like using ratios and rates.
  • Passport to advanced math is about working with complex equations and functions.

Essay Scores

The optional essay is scored and reported separately, and it's not factored into the total score. You'll get three scores for the essay on a scale from 2-8.

  • Reading: how well you understood the passage and used information from it.
  • Analysis: how well you analyzed the argument in the passage.
  • Writing: how well-organized your essay was, how appropriate your tone and style were, and how well your writing conformed to rules of grammar.

All of this subscore business can get pretty mind-spinning, but don't get too caught up in it. Here's some practical advice:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account