The SAT Essay: Scoring Scales & Reports

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Take a look at SAT Essay scoring scales to find out what the people who score your exam will be looking for. You can also learn how to send score reports and discover resources to help you prepare for this portion of the SAT.

How Is the SAT Essay Scored?

The SAT Essay consists of a reading passage and a prompt asking you to analyze the author's argument. Your response will be graded by two people who individually assign scores from 1-4 in each of three categories, which include reading, writing and analysis. The scores for each category are then added together (for example, if you receive scores of 2 and 2 for reading, then your final score for the reading category will be 4).

What Do the Scores Mean?

Scores in each category give colleges an idea of your reading comprehension skills, your ability to analyze an argument and your command of English grammar conventions. The scoring range and the essay characteristics each score represents are outlined below:


  • 4 (Advanced): You demonstrate complete comprehension of the passage's main ideas and the connectedness between the supporting details. You include quotations and/or paraphrases in your essay.
  • 3 (Proficient): You understand the reading passage's main ideas, can identify important details, don't misstate any facts and use quotes in your essay.
  • 2 (Partial): Your response shows you understand the main point of the text, but didn't grasp important details. Quotes may not be used properly.
  • 1 (Inadequate): This response doesn't show any comprehension of the main idea. There are factual errors and very few quotations.


  • 4 (Advanced): Your response is thorough, contains plenty of relevant, supporting details and shows your ability to analyze an argument.
  • 3 (Proficient): This response is well thought out and engaging, but not quite as thorough as it could be.
  • 2 (Partial): Some analysis is attempted, but not adequately supported.
  • 1 (Inadequate): There's no real analysis and no support of the claims made in the essay.


  • 4 (Advanced): You have a good central claim as well as a strong introduction and conclusion. You demonstrate an appropriate style and tone as well as a command of sentence structure. There are very few grammatical or spelling errors.
  • 3 (Proficient): Your main claim is fairly well supported and organized. You also didn't make any large errors in your writing.
  • 2 (Partial): This response may have several grammatical errors and vague wording. The writing might be very repetitive and poorly organized.
  • 1 (Inadequate): The writing has no introduction, conclusion or central claim. There are also several errors and poor word choice throughout.

How Do I Send My Essay Score Report?

You won't need to do anything special to receive the score for your essay. It will be reported alongside the scores from other SAT test sections.

You'll have four free reports to send to any school you want for up to nine days after you complete the test. After that you can visit the College Board's website to purchase additional copies of your test results.

What Can I Do to Prepare?

You can familiarize yourself with the exam by checking out these lessons on the SAT Essay Portion. You can also get tips for each stage of the writing process and prepare to get all 4s by checking out the following collection of lessons:

These engaging video lessons can help you sharpen your writing skills, and each chapter includes quizzes that allow you to apply what you know. You'll also be able to reach out to writing experts if you should have any questions.

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