The SAT is a standardized test designed to measure basic critical reading, math and writing skills. Most colleges and universities request ACT or SAT score results from applicants. Students may usually take their test of choice, but it is best to check with schools of interest before selecting (unless the student plans to take both exams). Standardized tests are an important factor in the admissions process, and students should do their best to show schools that they know their stuff. The SAT is composed of three main sections, each with its own subsections. The three major sections will be graded on a scale of 200-800. The final score will be the sum of all sections, a number between 600 and 2400. Here is what you can expect to see in each section.
The weight placed on SAT scores varies from school to school. Colleges and universities also consider high school grade point average and academic transcript, letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal essays when deciding on admissions. In addition, virtually all U.S. colleges and universities will accept ACT scores in lieu of SAT scores. For more specific information about the weight of your scores, contact the admissions offices of the schools to which you will apply.
When should I take the SAT?
Most students take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year -- that means either in March or in May. Depending on their scores, many students then decide to take the test again in the first semester of their senior year. If you’re planning to take the test a second time, make sure you take it early enough so that your scores will reach colleges before the application deadline passes. If you’re taking the test senior year, you should take it in either October or November to be certain nothing goes awry. The December date is time and again too late. So check with the schools to which you are applying and make sure that you’re on track to take the test by the correct date.
How much does the SAT cost? What if we can’t afford the fee?
The fee to take the SAT is $49. Students who cannot afford test fees can request a fee waiver from their school counselor.
Each SAT fee waiver:
Covers the registration fees for a single test date, either for the SAT or for up to three SAT Subject Tests
Covers the cost of either the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) or the Student Answer Service (SAS), when these are ordered during registration.
Learn more about these services.
Covers the international testing fees, if applicable, including the security fee if testing in India or Pakistan
May qualify your child for application fee waivers at many colleges
Students eligible for fee waivers also receive the following free and discounted services:
Four additional flexible score reports that they can use free of charge at any time — from registration until they graduate from high school
A $40 discount on the purchase of The Official SAT Online Course, when ordered during online registration
How is the SAT scored?
To get your SAT scores, the first thing that’s calculated is your “raw score” for the multiple-choice questions in each of the 3 main sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills. The raw score is calculated by:
Adding 1 point for each question that was answered correctly
Subtracting ¼ of a point for each question that was wrong (except for math grid-in questions, where no points are deducted for a wrong answer)
For example, in total there are 70 multiple-choice Critical Reading question spread across three sections of the SAT. If a student got:
Left 3 blank
They would have a raw score of 55 – (¼)(12) = 51. Note that no points are lost for questions that are left blank.
Raw scores for each section are then translated to ‘scaled scores’ from 200 to 800. A statistical process called equating is used to ensure that a scaled score always represents the same level of ability, even across people who took different versions of the SAT at different times and so might have slightly different raw scores. A scaled score near 500 generally means that a student is performing at average level compared to their peers. The scaled scores for each of the 3 major sections are then added together to give a total SAT score out of 2400.
The Writing Section
Unlike the other sections, your scaled score for the writing section takes into account both your performance on the multiple choice Writing Skills questions and your Essay score. The multiple choice questions are mathematically weighted 70%, while the essay is weighted 30%, but you can see your ‘subscores’ for both of these elements on the SAT score report as well.
As well as giving you a scaled score for each section, your SAT score report will also list your percentile for each section, which is a number between 1 and 99. The percentile indicates what percentage of students earned a score lower than you. If you get a percentile of 95 for math, this means you did exceptionally well compared to your peers, as 95% of them scored less than you on that section.
How is my essay scored?
Unlike multiple-choice questions, the essay is marked on a scale from 0 to 12. Two different readers (trained high school and college teachers) each independently read your essay and assign it a score from 1 to 6. A score of 0 is rare and only given if the essay is blank, illegible, or completely off-topic. These two scores are added together to give a final essay score out of 12, which will be listed on the SAT Score Report. The essay score is mathematically combined with your raw score on the multiple choice Writing Skills questions to create your final Writing score on a scale from 200 to 800.