How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
Getting a perfect score on the SAT seems like the stuff of legends. A very small percentage of test-takers–less than 1%–achieve this feat. A perfect SAT score increases your chances of being admitted to Ivy League school and other top universities, and it can supplement a weaker GPA.
With enough effort, it’s possible to get a perfect score on SAT. In this post, we’re going to break down exactly what you need to do and need to know to get a perfect score. Even if you’re not aiming for 1600, you can still use this advice to improve your SAT score and achieve your goals.
What is a Perfect SAT Score?
The SAT score structure gives you a few different ways to look at your score, but the way that most colleges and universities look at it is by looking at your total score and your section scores.
The SAT has two sections, one called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and the other simply called Math. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score is determined by how well you do on the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test; the Math section score is determined by how well you do on a Math test that has a no-calculator and calculator-based portion.
Each section is scored from 200 to 800. The total score is a sum of the section scores, and ranges from 400 to 1600. Because the highest score that anyone can get is a 1600, this is a perfect score.
What Does it Take to Get a Perfect SAT Score? How Many Questions Can You Miss?
As you might have guessed based on the word “perfect,” you will need to get virtually every question right. At most, you might be able to miss one Reading test question, but you can’t bet on that. This means that you’ll need to develop a test strategy that allows you to confidently predict that you’ll be able to answer every question right.
How do we know that you can maybe miss one Reading question, and not miss any questions on the Math or Writing and Language test? We took a look at the practice SAT tests that College Board shares and their scoring guides. They show how many questions you could miss on these tests and get a 1600. Here’s a sample of them:
- Practice Test 1: You can miss 1 Reading test question. You must get all the Math and Writing questions right.
- Practice Test 2: You must get every question right.
- Practice Test 3: You can miss 1 Reading test question. You must get all the Math and Writing questions right.
As you can see, you’ll want a reliable test strategy that ensures you answer every question right.
Can I Really Get a Perfect SAT Score?
We’ve all heard the stories of the neighbor’s kid who got a perfect SAT score, and all he did was roll out of bed that morning. While this might have been true for some perfect scorers, it’s not true of most of them. Perfect scorers spend time and effort to achieve their score goals.
Anyone can get a perfect score, but it’s not easy. You will need to:
- Dedicate time spent practicing and studying for the SAT
- Spend effort analyzing your mistakes
- Develop strategies to overcome mistakes for the future
- Embrace what is often called a growth mindset
Never heard of growth mindset? The term “growth mindset” was coined by Stanford psychologist and educator Carol Dweck, who found that when students approached challenges as opportunities to grow, they gained knowledge more quickly and often outperformed other students in the long-run. Seeing the SAT as a challenge, not as a barrier, and knowing that you can achieve your goals with effort and strategy is how you adopt a growth mindset when aiming for a perfect SAT score.
The strategy you use to study for the SAT can make all the difference when aiming for a perfect score. Here’s a breakdown of how you can reach your goals.
Steps to Getting a Perfect SAT Score
1. Identify your weaknesses
Everyone has a test-taking weakness. What sets perfect scorers apart from the rest is that they learned how to overcome their weaknesses to achieve their goals.
You’ll need to identify your weaknesses before you can develop strategies to overcome them, which means you’ll need to spend time analyzing your score on a previous SAT or using one of the practice tests that College Board provides. Analyze every question that you missed and why you missed it so that you know what to avoid in the future. Identify patterns of mistakes based on a variety of factors, like the question type and how confident you felt answering that questions.
Some common types of weaknesses include:
- Spending too much time on a single question–”getting stuck”
- Rushing through questions
- Misreading a question
- Not knowing an academic concept
Most of us are blind to our own weaknesses, but to get a perfect score you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Give yourself plenty of time to be thorough about this analysis. You may want to do this over the course of three sittings, one each for the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math test.
While you can do this analysis yourself, it’s a lot easier when you have an outside perspective from an expert. That’s why CollegeVine’s SAT Tutoring starts with a diagnostic that allows our expert tutors to determine exactly what you need to do to improve. The diagnostic allows you to quickly move past this step and get to Step 2 of our process for getting a perfect score.
2. Develop strategies to overcome your weaknesses
Once you understand what your SAT weaknesses are, you’ll likely be able to answer this question: why do you make the mistakes that you make?
Here’s a common mistake pattern: you’re taking the SAT and you spend time being stumped by a question. You then realize you’ve spent too much time on the question, and now you’re flustered and you rush through the next five questions to make up for it, committing careless mistakes as you go.
Pretty familiar, right? Most of us have done this on a test before, whether it was the SAT or for a class. In this case, the initial mistake was spending too much time being stumped by one question. The solution is to develop a strategy for being decisive about when to move on to other questions so you don’t rush other questions and make careless mistakes. It could be as simple as making a snap judgment about whether as question is easy or difficult to solve, and solving it if it seems easy or returning to it later if it seems difficult.
Here are some example solutions for the other weaknesses listed above.
- Misreading a question: This often happens on the Reading and the Writing and Language Tests. As a form of practice, try rephrasing the questions on a practice SAT and answering your new question. This will help you make sure that you understand each question’s nuances before you answer the questions.
- Not knowing an academic concept: Sometimes you don’t understand a concept thoroughly or are able to recognize when the test is drawing upon knowledge of that. In this case, you’ll need to teach yourself the concept with online resources, materials from your local library, or asking a trusted teacher from school for additional assistance.
3. Create a consistent study schedule
After analyzing your score from a diagnostic and seeing how much you’ll need to improve, you’ll get an idea for how much time you need to set aside for working on your weaknesses. The farther your current score is from 1600, the more time you need to devote to studying before you take the SAT for real.
Why is that? Many students don’t put in as much time as they need to during their self-guided studying because they’re focusing on too many different aspects of the test. You’ll want to create a schedule that allows you to brainstorm strategies that might help you overcome any test weaknesses, and then time to practice and refine those strategies.
To create a consistent schedule, look at what your current time obligations are. How much time do you spend in extracurricular activities, working a part-time job, or on homework? You’ll want to give yourself enough time to keep up with your other responsibilities, and schedule times when you can devote to studying. You may need to rearrange other responsibilities, at least temporarily, to make space for your studying.
Once you’ve established when you’re studying, you may want to connect getting a 1600 to a bigger goal. You won’t stay motivated for very long if getting a 1600 isn’t tied to one of your values, like “I want to go to my dream school” or “I want to make my family proud.” Remind yourself of why you’re putting in this work every time you sit down to study.
4. Test and refine your strategies based on practice
There is no one strategy that will work for everyone. You’ll need to put your strategies to the test to make sure they’re giving you the results you want. You’ll want to work on one weakness at a time, maybe two, instead of trying to focus on everything at once.
As you work on improving one weakness, your score will go up predictably. As you saw in the earlier example, by being decisive about when to move on to another question you could eliminate a tendency to rush and avoid some careless mistakes. Make sure that this strategy works consistently before you move onto another weakness.
You will find that some strategies work really well, and you’ll try some that don’t work for you. This is why having a growth mindset will benefit you; instead of getting hung up on a recommended strategy that didn’t work, you’ll just scrap that one and try a new approach and see if it works better for you.
5. Continue to analyze your weaknesses and the test structure to further improve.
Overcoming your weaknesses takes work, and is a cyclical process. Once you’ve gotten the hang of one strategy, you’ll need to go back and do the same process with a new one, until you’re at the point where you’re getting every question right.
While you may have analyzed the test structure a bit in the first step, it’s often more helpful to do it at this point in the process. Why? Because you’ll naturally begin to see that you often miss a particular type of question that is unrelated to test jitters or not knowing the material, and being able to spot the questions that trip you up just by reading it gives you the advantage of paying close attention to them.
Use the SAT Practice Tests to assess how well your strategy works. When it comes to the real test, you’ll need to be able to identify the question type so you know which strategy to apply. Often, you’ll use a combination of strategies, such as underlining key phrases in the question and drawing upon an academic concept you learned to find the correct answer.
Once you are consistently getting every question right, you can be ready to expect 1600 on test day.
With enough self-discipline, anyone can get a 1600 SAT score. By identifying what your test weaknesses are, developing strategies to overcome those weaknesses, and putting your strategies into practice, you’ll be on your way to an improved SAT score.
Check out more of our posts about the SAT:
- What to Do If You’re Not Improving on the SAT
- The New SAT Reading Test: Strategies for Question Types
- How to Set a (Realistic) Target SAT Score
Want to know how your SAT score/ACT 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!
Want more SAT tips sent to you?
Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.