How Is the SAT Scored? Read This Guide to Find Out.
Here at CollegeVine we’ve met a lot of students over the years, so we know that there are some universal questions that come up for serious students undergoing the college application process. One question that we hear frequently from one eager student after another is “How is the SAT scored?”
Some students wonder if the SAT is scored on a curve. Others wonder what the physical procedure is for scoring the SAT. Still more want to know how their SAT score is actually calculated from the raw data that is gathered from their tests. In all cases, the answers are fairly straightforward, though not immediately obvious to the casual SAT taker. In this post, we answer the question of how is the SAT scored and explain each step in the process.
Is the SAT Scored on a Curve?
First, let’s dispel the common myth that the SAT is scored on a curve—it’s not. In fact, the scores of other test takers taking the same SAT on the same day as you are entirely irrelevant to your score.
Instead, the SAT is scored according to a scale of difficulty that is independently determined ahead of time by a precise algorithm. When you take the test, your score does not depend on how the greater population performed on the same SAT, but rather on how difficult your version of the SAT was determined to be. This is to ensure that there is no advantage to getting an easier test and no disadvantage to getting a harder test.
If you happen to take an easier form of the SAT and receive a higher raw score, the equating process will account for this when converting your score. Any mistakes that you make on the easier test will count more than a mistake would count on a harder version of the it. Similarly, the equating process is more forgiving for students who take a more difficult version of the test.
To learn more about how SAT scores are equated, check out our article How Does the Curve Work for the SAT?
What Is the Scoring Procedure for the SAT?
When you take the SAT, you actually take several, smaller subject-specific tests. On the current version of the SAT, these include the Math test and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test, which actually contains separate sections for Writing and Reading.
After you take the SAT, your test along with everyone else’s from your test center is sent to a scoring facility. Here, your answer sheets for each section are scanned through a scoring machine. This is why it is so important that you fill out your answer sheet correctly using the appropriate writing utensil (a #2 pencil!).
The result of this machine scanning your answer sheet is commonly referred to as your raw score. A raw score is simply the total number of correct answers you submitted in each section. For some students, it comes as a surprise to learn that the average SAT taker never sees his or her raw scores. While the physical scoring process ends at the raw scores, there is still work to be done before you receive a neatly packaged score report.
How Is My SAT Score Calculated?
Raw scores are converted to section scores ranging from 200-800. This process is called equating.
Equating takes into account the specific difficulty of each version of the test. Because several different test forms are given at each test administration, the specific equating process for your test will depend on the specific version of the test that you took, and it may be different than the equating process applied to the tests of people sitting next to you.
These scaled scores make it possible to compare your score to scores obtained from different versions of the SAT, regardless of any variable difficulty. You can get a better idea of the exact process by reviewing the scoring procedure for official SAT practice tests prepared by the College Board. Check out the Raw Score Conversion Tables beginning on page seven of the packet Scoring Your SAT Practice Test #1.
What If I Believe My SAT Was Scored Incorrectly?
Millions of students take the SAT each year. While scoring errors are uncommon, they are not impossible. If you receive a score that seems completely out of line with what you expected, there is a process for requesting a review.
The first and simplest step you can take is to request a Student Answer Verification. This service includes an overview of the difficulty of each question answered correctly, incorrectly, or omitted and of the type of test questions. If your SAS report reveals that you got every difficult question wrong, it’s likely that your exam was graded correctly, and you just didn’t realize how hard those questions actually were.
This answer verification service is not designed to be used as a test prep or practice tool.The fee for this service is $13.50. See the SAT Answer Verification Services Order Form for more information.
If you still don’t think your test was scored correctly, you may request a score verification. This is a good idea if you believe you may have made an obvious mistake in marking your answers, or if your essay appears blank or completely illegible when you view it in your online score report. In this case, you may have written your essay in ink (which does not scan properly), and it would not have been assessed appropriately.
You may request a Multiple-choice hand score verification and/or an Essay score verification. Each service costs $55 (or $27.50 for fee-waiver users). Your score verification fee will be refunded if your score changes because of an irregularity in the College Board’s scanning and/or scoring processes. If your score does not change, if it changes due to an obvious error you made in marking your answer sheet, or if you wrote your essay in pen or otherwise failed to follow directions for marking your answers and completing test information, your fee will not be refunded.
For more about score verification services, check out the College Board’s Important Information for Using the SAT® Score Verification Service.
Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!
To get started with your studying, check out these free CollegeVine SAT study resources:
- Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Math Test
- Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Reading Test
- Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Writing and Language Test
- Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Essay
- 10 Tips to Prepare for the SAT
- Five SAT Strategies You Should Know
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