Have you ever wondered how this seemingly mysterious process works? Where does the 1600 come from? The SAT might be long, but it’s not 1600 questions… and why not just grade it out of 100%? Why would they grade each section out of 800? As a student, I heard rumors that you got 200 points just for signing your name, can that be right?
Well wonder no more, in this article we will get down to the nitty-gritty of how the Scantron machine, and the attached black box, eats up your answer sheet and spits out a score. To start, there are two components you’ll need to know— the Raw Score and the Scaled Score.
First, the Raw Score— you will have one raw score per topic (Math, Writing, and Reading). Remember, the essay is graded separately and will not count toward your score out of 1600.
The Raw Score is the number of questions you got right per section (in the new SAT, they don’t count off for wrong answers!). Note there are 52 questions in the Reading section, 58 in Math, and 44 in Writing. So if you got 50 questions correct in the Reading section, your Raw Score in Reading would be 50. Seems simple enough so far, right?
Next, per topic (Math, Critical Reading, and Writing), we need to convert the Raw Score into the corresponding Scaled Score. This conversion changes based on the day you take your test. In other words, the SAT is actually curved, or standardized. Raw Scores are translated differently depending on the averages of that particular test.
Put simply, on an SAT that is determined to be hard, a 57 Raw Score in Math may be translated as an 800 Scaled Score, while on an SAT that is determined to be easy, a 57 Raw Score may be translated as a 790 Scaled Score. Per topic, each score in translated a little differently. We’ll go section by section.
Math Scaled Score
For the Math section, the conversion from a Raw Score to Scaled Score is fairly straightforward. Each Raw Score value is assigned a point value between 200 and 800. The conversion between the Raw Score and Scaled Score is the interesting part. Remember, the scaling of each Raw Score is different depending on the specific test taken.
Reading and Writing Scaled Scores
Though you will be tested on both Reading and Writing through the same section, their Raw Scores (and Scaled Scores) are actually calculated separately. The Raw Scores for Reading and Writing will be mapped to values between 10 and 40. Again, the conversion table shifts based on the difficulty of that specific SAT. Below is an example of a score chart (note this is not a real chart, and real charts cannot be predicted ahead of time!).
Calculating Your Total Score
So now we have three Raw Scores and three Scaled Scores, but how do we pull out the proper total score? With this formula! Where M, R, and W are our respective Scaled Scores for Math, Reading, and Writing.
M + (R + W)*10 = Total Score
By using the conversion chart above, let’s take an example. Let’s say Sally Sue just took the SAT and achieved Raw Scores of 48, 50, and 35 in Math, Reading, and Writing respectively. Based on the chart above, that means she has Scaled Scores of 680, 39, and 32. Now let’s put those algebra skills to the test!
680 + (39 + 32)*10 = 680 + (71)*10 = 680 + 710 = 1390
Wow, way to go Sally Sue.
And there you have it, the mystery formula unfurled before your very eyes. The key points to take away— every SAT is scaled differently, also note that there are 58 Math questions, 52 Reading questions, and 44 Writing questions. With a bit of number crunching, we can see that each correct Math answer on the SAT roughly translates to +10 points on your total score, each Reading answer to +6, and each Writing to +7 (again, this is a big time ballpark estimate; the exact values differ from test to test).
Use this knowledge to get a better handle on how they turn your test into a number out of 1600, and also use it to help translate your scores should you choose to receive the in depth report!
That’s all for now! As always, for help on the SAT, or any other subject, check out Chegg Tutors, and if you want to talk to me specifically, just send a message!
Scotty G. is an online ACT and SAT tutor who graduated from Washington and Lee University. He teaches mathematics and music.
In March of 2016, the College Board rolled out the new SAT. At the time, these changes to the SAT were the most significant since 2005, when the College Board introduced a writing section and increased the scoring range from 1600 points to 2400 points.
Initially, many students, teachers, tutors, and guidance counselors were anxious to see what the changes would mean. In fact, changes to the scoring structure and format of the new test were of particular concern, as many students did not know exactly how their performance would be assessed.
Now, almost a whole year later, we have a much better understanding of the new SAT and how it is scored. Specifically, we now know the new scoring scale and we know that the actual scoring process is not much different than it was for the older version of the SAT.
To learn more about the format, scoring scale, and scoring process for the new SAT, read on.
What is the format of the New SAT?
At first glance, the new SAT appears significantly different from the SAT administered prior to March 2016. It contains two primary test sections, and one additional optional test section, as opposed to the three required sections on the previous version of the test.
One of the primary tests is the Math Test. This is actually comprised of two smaller test sections: the Math Test With Calculator and the Math Test – No Calculator.
The other primary test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. This is also comprised of two smaller test sections: the Critical Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.
The final component of the new exam, the SAT Essay, is now optional.
How are tests scored?
When you are finished taking the SAT, the test supervisor will collect and count the test books to make sure all materials have been turned in before dismissing you from the testing room. This is to help ensure the security of testing materials.
All test materials are then put into a sealed envelope and sent to a scoring center. At the scoring center, SAT Essays are removed for separate scoring, while the remaining answer sheets are scanned by a machine that counts the number of correct answers bubbled in on each answer sheet.
Tests are scored based on the number of answers that you got correct. With the exception of the SAT Essay, all tests have multiple-choice or grid-in answers. This means that answer sheets can be quickly scanned to tally raw scores. Because there is no scoring penalty for wrong answers, your raw score is simply the number of correct answers that you achieved on each section.
Once your raw scores have been tallied, they are converted to scaled scores through a process called equating. Equating accounts for very slight differences in test difficulty and ensures that scores are consistent across different forms of the SAT.
The exact equation used to equate your raw SAT score to a scaled score varies slightly from one test to another, and is adjusted in small increments to reflect the difficulty of the test.
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 is the score range for the new SAT?
Scaled scores for each required SAT test range from 200-800. You receive one score from 200-800 for the Math test, which takes into account your performance on both the Math Test With Calculator and Math Test – No Calculator sections. You receive another score from 200-800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test, which takes into account your performance on both the Writing and Language Test and the Critical Reading Test.
Your total SAT score will always range from 400-1600 and is calculated simply by adding together the scores from your Math test and your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test.
The new, optional SAT Essay is scored differently, using a different scale, and it bears no weight on your total SAT score.
To learn more about SAT scores, read CollegeVine’s What Is a Good SAT Score?
How is the new SAT essay scored?
The optional essay cannot be scored by computer since its answers are not multiple-choice or grid-in. Instead, each SAT essay is read by two qualified readers. The readers each assign a score from one to four in three different dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
If the scores assigned by the readers to any single dimension vary by more than one point, a scoring director will read the essay to resolve the discrepancy.
The points assigned in each dimension are then totaled, resulting in a score range for each dimension between two and eight. The dimension scores are added together to result in a total score ranging from 6-24.
You can read more about the SAT Essay scoring process and preview the scoring rubric on CollegeBoard’s SAT Essay Scoring site.