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

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  • 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
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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:

  • Take a practice test. Score it and look at your subscores on every section.
  • Notice if any subscores stand out.
  • If you need to, practice the areas where you need extra work. Use the subscores where you didn't do well to guide your practice. Focus on those types of questions, since that's where you need the most work.

Other than that, don't panic about subscores.

How Scores are Determined

On the old SAT, you used to get penalized ¼ of a point for wrong answers. That's not true any longer. On the new SAT, wrong answers give you 0 points, just like leaving a question blank.

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