The CollegeVine Guide to SAT Scores: All Your Questions Answered
If you’re like many high school students, the hardest part of the SAT isn’t the hours of prep work that you put into it. Yes, that’s definitely hard, but at least you have some control over it. There’s some reassurance in being able to direct your time towards productive and, hopefully, satisfying results. What’s harder for many students like you is the time between your test and your score release. There’s nothing you can do to speed the process, so waiting patiently (or impatiently) is your only option.
If you’re awaiting SAT scores, or perhaps you’ve just received them, you might be wondering how your test is scored, what the scores mean, or even what to do if you believe your SAT score is incorrect. Read on for CollegeVine’s answers to all your SAT score questions.
How is the SAT scored?
Most of your SAT answers were multiple-choice bubbles that you meticulously filled in with a #2 pencil. Even the grid-in math questions involved those tiny little bubbles. So it’s probably no surprise that those bubbles play an integral part in scoring your exam. With millions of students taking SAT or PSAT-related exams each year, the ability to score each exam quickly and efficiently is beyond important. After all, imagine how long the wait would be if each test had to be scored by hand.
What is a raw score?
Multiple-choice and grid-in answers are scored by a computer that scans your answer sheet. This computer produces your raw score, which, simply speaking, is the number of questions answered correctly. Beginning in spring 2016, there is no penalty on the SAT for incorrect or unanswered questions, so your raw score simply accounts for the number of questions that you answered correctly.
A separate raw score is produced for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and for the Math section. Each of these scores is then converted to a scaled score of 200 to 800. This conversion accounts for slight differences in difficulty among different versions of the test, so your resulting score is consistent across test forms.
How is the SAT essay scored?
If you took the optional essay section of the SAT, you will remember that this portion of the test was the one that did not involve those little bubbled-in answers. Instead, you produced a written product, which obviously must be scored quite differently from a computer-scanned answer sheet.
Each essay written for the SAT is scored by two separate and independent readers. The readers evaluate essays on three dimensions. These dimensions include reading, analysis, and writing.
For the reading dimension, scorers assess your understanding of the passage, including central ideas and important details. For the analysis dimension, scorers evaluate your understanding of how the author builds an argument and how you support and develop your ideas with evidence from the text. Finally, for the writing dimension, essay readers score your ability to craft a focused, organized, and precise essay with appropriate style and tone.
Each essay reader will award between one and four points for each dimension. These scores are then added together to create a score ranging from two to eight for each dimension. If the scores awarded for any dimension differ by more than one point, a scoring director will score the essay. This automatic validation helps to ensure the universal accuracy of the essay scoring process. For more information about the SAT Essay scoring process, including a rubric of scoring guidelines for each dimension, review the College Board’s SAT Essay Scoring.
When will I receive my SAT score?
The release date for SAT scores varies depending on when you took the test. Tests administered in the fall are usually scored and released in about three to four weeks. Tests administered in the spring tend to take a little longer, probably due to the large volume of students taking them. These are scored and released in about five to six weeks. For an exact calendar of score release dates organized by test date, check out the College Board’s table of When to Expect Scores.
How will I receive my SAT score?
SAT Scores Online
The easiest way to receive your SAT score is through the College Board website. If you registered for the test online, you have already created an online College Board account. Log in to your account on the score release day to view your results.
SAT Scores By Paper Score Report
If you do not have an online College Board account, or you registered through the mail and did not include your College Board account on your registration, you will receive a copy of your scores in the mail. This will be mailed around the same day that scores are released online.
SAT Scores By Phone
You may also receive your SAT scores by telephone beginning on the date of the score release, but there is a fee attached to this service and you will need to provide a credit card number when you call. To receive scores by phone use the following phone numbers:
TTY: 888-857-2477 (U.S.), 609-882-4118 (international)
What do my SAT scores mean?
When you receive your scores, you’re probably expecting a number between 400 and 1600. You will get this, and a whole lot more, on your official SAT score report. So what do all these different numbers mean?
SAT Total Scores
This is the number you’re probably most familiar with when it comes to SAT scores. It is a single number between 400 and 1600 and represents your total score. This total score is calculated by adding your score from the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (200-800) with your total score from the Math section (200-800). You will also receive a percentile accompanying your total score. This number shows you how your score compares to the scores received by other students taking the SAT.
SAT Section Scores
These are the individual section scores between 200 and 800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score is a combination of the Reading Test score and the Writing and Language Test score. The Math section score is a combination of the Math Test – Calculator score and the Math Test – No Calculator score.
SAT Essay Scores
The SAT Essay scores will include three scored dimensions. The dimensions scored are Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Each dimension is scored on a scale from two to eight points. The score report will show the prompt you responded to, your essay itself, and a link to the Essay Scoring Guide.
Other Score Components
Although the total scores, section scores, and essay scores are the most important numbers on your score report, they are not the only numbers.
You will also receive test scores ranging from 10-40 for the content in each of the tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
You will see cross-test scores ranging from 10-40 as well. These scores show your performance across the three tests in the domains of Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science.
Finally, you’ll see subscores ranging from 1-15, which reflect your performance in the following skill areas:
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem Solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
Although these scores aren’t necessarily important to colleges or universities, they can be used as feedback to guide your studying for any future SAT exams you might choose to take.
Is my SAT score good enough for schools?
There is no standard SAT score required for college admissions. The exact range of SAT scores admitted to each college varies widely depending on how competitive the school’s admissions are and the various other factors considered on every application, such as grades and extracurricular activities. To get an idea of the SAT scores expected at the college or university of your choice, look them up online. A simple online search query with the college name and the term “average SAT score” should yield the results for which you’re looking.
Although there is no minimum SAT score required for general college admissions, the College Board does set benchmarks that assess your college readiness. These benchmarks are designed to:
- Identify students who are on track for success in college and career readiness.
- Identify students who may need extra support while there is still time for improvement.
- Find students who may be ready for more challenging course work.
The benchmarks are not intended to assign academic tracks, discourage students from pursuing college, or keep students from participating in challenging courses. Instead, these benchmarks are designed by the College Board to predict a 75% likelihood of achieving at least a C in a set of first-semester college courses.
The benchmarks are set separately for each section. The current Evidence-Based Reading and Writing benchmark score is 480. The current Math benchmark score is 530. Your score report will include your performance compared to the benchmark scores. This comparison is categorized by color with the following designations:
- Green: Your section score meets or exceeds the benchmark.
- Yellow: Your section score is within one year’s academic growth of the benchmark.
- Red: Your section score is below the benchmark by more than one year’s academic growth.
How do I send my SAT scores to schools?
Sending SAT Scores Before Test Day
Every time you register for the SAT, you can order four free score reports to colleges and scholarship programs at no cost to you. This is a good choice because it’s the only free option available, and many colleges will view your early submission as a demonstration of your interest.
Although some students might hesitate to send scores before you know them, if this is likely the last time that you’re taking the test or your test date falls close to the application deadline, you should definitely consider taking advantage of the free score reports. For more information about sending test scores before you’ve received them, read CollegeVine’s Should I Send My Test Scores To Colleges Before I Know Them?
Sending SAT Scores After Test Day
There are two scenarios for sending scores after test day. If you leave the test on cloud nine and you are certain that you aced it, you can still take advantage of the four free score reports up to nine days after the test. Simply log in to your College Board account online and send your scores.
If you wait longer, or would rather postpone sending any scores until you’ve seen them yourself, you’ll still be able to send scores easily through your online College Board account, but you’ll have to pay to do so. These score reports are $12 each (fee waivers are available if needed). A rush report is an additional $31.
What should I do if I think my SAT was scored incorrectly?
There are a couple levels of review available if you think your SAT was scored incorrectly.
Student Answer Service (SAS)
First, if you just have an inkling that something is off but aren’t totally sure, you can 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.
Essentially, the Student Answer Service is a more specific overview of your performance for you to look over. It is not reviewed by anyone else, but is provided for your own personal use to better understand what went wrong (or right!). If your SAS report reveals that you got every difficult question wrong, it’s likely that your exam was graded correctly, and you may not have realized how hard those questions actually were at the time of the exam.
This answer verification service is not designed to be used as a test prep or practice tool. You may request this service when you register for the test or up to five months after your test date. The fee for this service is $13.50. See the SAT Answer Verification Services Order Form for 2016-17 for more information.
Question and Answer Service (QAS)
You may also choose to receive a Question and Answer Verification Service on select exam administrations. This service is available for all May administrations of the test, and for other select administrations within Canada and the U.S. For a calendar of availability for this service, see the SAT Answer Verification Services Order Form for 2016-17.
The Question and Answer Service includes a booklet copy of the test you took with a table of correct answers and scoring information. You will also receive a report that lists the type and level of difficulty of each question, along with what your answer was, and whether it was correct, incorrect, or omitted. Again, this service does not include a review by anyone else, but is provided for your own personal use to better understand where you failed to gain points. This service costs $18.00.
If you still don’t think your test was scored correctly, you may request a score verification. This is a good idea if your score is very different from what you expected and 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.
Keep in mind when requesting score verification that your new score will be final, regardless of whether it is higher or lower than your original score. Also, you should know that the verification of essay scores does not include rereading the essay or an appeal of the essay score. It simply reviews the essay visually to ensure that it was legible to the original readers who scored it.
For more about score verification services, check out the College Board’s Important Information for Using the SAT® Score Verification Service.
To learn more about the SAT, check out these CollegeVine posts:
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