Updated: Jun 27, 2022
SAT is a standardized test evaluating the written, verbal and mathematical skills of a student seeking admission in undergraduate colleges. If you are planning to prepare for the SAT, you probably know that passing the SAT with good scores is no cakewalk. One has to follow an intense study schedule to achieve high scores and secure admission to colleges of their choice. By preparing well in advance and taking enough practice tests, you can ace the SAT exam effortlessly.
Before you appear for the test, it would be useful to brush up your knowledge on how SAT scores are calculated. SAT has a specific scoring structure and acquainting yourself with the scoring system would help assess where you stand in terms of preparation. SAT has raw scores, scaled scores and total scores. Understanding how these determine your final SAT score can be a bit confusing if you are new to SAT. This article is therefore an attempt to help you understand the different aspects of SAT scores in detail.
Let us walk you through the score calculation process.
How to calculate SAT scores?
Knowing how to calculate SAT scores will help you prepare better. There are three steps to calculating SAT scores. Calculate your raw scores, convert them into scaled scores and add them together to get the composite score. Let’s understand each of these steps in detail.
1. Calculate raw scores
Raw scores are dependent on the number of questions you attempt correctly. There are three sections namely Math, Reading and Writing in SAT. You earn one point for each correct answer. SAT doesn’t give negative marks for incorrect answers. So, students are free to attempt a question even if they aren’t sure about an answer. The raw score will vary for each section depending on the number of questions in each section. The Math section typically contains 58 questions whereas Reading and Writing sections contain 52 and 44 questions respectively. If you attempt all questions correctly, your raw score for the Math section would be 58 points. Similar calculations apply for reading and writing sections as well.
2. Turn raw scores into scaled scores
Now that you have a fair idea about calculating raw scores, it’s time to understand how to convert these into scaled scores. Raw score conversion is done with the help of a table on a 200 to 800 scale. It isn’t possible to know the conversion table in advance as the table varies for each test. The table is created such that the test remains standardized for all the students. The table ensures test scores do justice for students irrespective of the difficulty level of the tests conducted on different dates. A ‘perfect’ raw score of 58 may translate to a 800 or 790 on different test dates.
Calculating scores for the Math section is easy. You can convert the raw score directly using the table on a 200-800 scale. But the score conversion method for the Reading and Writing section slightly differs. While Math scores are converted on a scale of 200 to 800, Reading and Writing scores are calculated on a 10-40 scale first and then converted on a 200 to 800 scale. Below is an example of a table with raw scores converted into scaled scores.
Math Test Score
Reading Test Score
Writing and Language Test Score
Raw scores secured for Reading and Writing are converted into scale scores using the above table on a scale of 10-40. These scale scores are again added together and multiplied by 10 to obtain the final score on a scale of 200 -800. For example: If your raw score for the Reading section is 47, the scale score according to the above table would be 37. Similarly, if your raw score for the Writing section is 44, your scaled score would be 40. You need to add 37 and 44 and multiply by 10 which means the final score would be 770.
3. Add the scaled scores of all sections
The final step is to take the scaled scores of all sections and add it to obtain the final score. For example, if your math scaled score is 710 and your reading and writing score together is 770, your final score would be 1480.
How to understand your SAT score report?
You may see that your SAT score report contains total score, section scores among others. You must be able to correctly interpret what these scores mean as your college admissions are dependent on these scores. Let’s understand what a SAT score report looks like and the different components of a score report.
Total score - Total score is the sum of all section scores. It ranges anywhere between 400 and 1600.
Section scores - You will also see section scores mentioned in your score report. There will be two section scores - one for the Math section and another for evidence-based reading and writing section. The section scores range from 200 to 800. Section scores are calculated after converting raw scores as discussed above.
Test scores - Test scores are between 10 to 40 for Math, Reading and Writing sections.
Cross test scores - 2 cross test scores are given for Analysis in Science and for Analysis in History/Social Studies. The scaled scores for these range between 10 and 40.
Sub scores - Scored between 1 and 15, sub scores indicate the strengths and weaknesses of a student. These scores take proficiencies such as Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math into consideration.
SAT Percentiles - Percentiles indicate where you stand in terms of performance. There are two percentiles included in the report. One percentile makes a comparison between your score and that of a nationally representative group. The second percentile draws comparison between your score and other SAT takers.
Benchmarks - It’s an icon that gives a quick insight into your performance. A checkmark means you have scored equal to or higher than the benchmark whereas an exclamation mark indicates your score is lower than the benchmark.
What is the difference between SAT raw scores and SAT scaled scores? How are they calculated?
SAT raw scores as discussed earlier are points earned for each correct answer. These raw scores are then converted into scaled scores. While raw scores are simply scores earned for each section, the conversion is done to ensure fair assessment of all students appearing for the test. Raw scores become scaled scores through a process called equating. SAT tests are conducted on different dates and chances are there may be slight variations in the difficulty level of tests. By equating, the College Board ensures that students who took a slightly difficult exam are scored at par with students who took a relatively easy test on some other date. There is no fixed formula that dictates how raw scores convert to a scaled score. The formula keeps changing for each test.
If you are taking practice tests published by the College Board, you will also find that the College Board has conversion tables to help students calculate their own scaled scores. Find the scaled score corresponding to raw scores for each section in the table. By understanding the scaled scores from the table, you can calculate your final score as explained in detail in the previous sections.
Why is the SAT exam curved?
Contrary to what many people think, the SAT exam isn’t actually graded on a curve. Equating is the right term to use here. Equating ensures fair assessment of students. Grading on a curve means that a student’s score would be affected by scores of other test takers which isn’t the case in SAT. The scoring system of SAT is a bit different and most of them find it difficult and confusing. People assume it's a curved exam due to the equating system. The curve here essentially refers to the raw score to scale score conversion system called equating implemented by the College Board. The equating system exists so no student is at an advantage or disadvantage just because he/she took a test which happened to be slightly easier or tougher on a particular day.
Equating is done to adjust the slight differences or inconsistencies that may occur between tests conducted on different days. Plus, admission officers can compare scores of students who appeared for exams on different days only if the scores have been allocated fairly. Equating is important to facilitate a fair admission process.
How to calculate your SAT superscore?
Students often appear for the SAT exam multiple times to attain desired scores. Reputed colleges require high SAT scores for admission and students keep trying to achieve the scores accepted by the colleges of their choice. But there are also colleges that accept SAT superscores. When you appear for tests more than once, chances are that your scores for each section may fluctuate in every attempt. While you may manage to score high marks for the Math section in the first attempt, you may score less marks in the second attempt. In short, it may be difficult to score equally well in all the sections on the same test date. Superscore takes into account your highest score for each section even if the scores are from different tests.
Let’s suppose your scores for all three attempts are as follows.
Math Score and Reading &Writing Score
Reading and Writing: 600
Math Score: 750
Reading and Writing: 650
Math Score: 730
Reading and Writing: 700
As you can see, the Math score (750) is highest in the second attempt and the Reading and Writing score (700) is highest in the third attempt. Add both the highest scores and you will get a superscore of 1450.
What is the average SAT score?
The average SAT score ranges between 1010 and 1060. If your scores are higher than 1060, you have an above national average score. The national SAT average scores for reading and writing and Math are 533 and 528 respectively. A score below 1060 would mean you scored less than most test takers.
Knowing exactly how you will be scored will enable you to adjust your preparation strategies accordingly. The SAT exam is already tough enough and you don’t want to add to the stress by appearing for the test without even a basic understanding of the scoring system. SAT scores are an important indicator of your academic readiness to pursue education in a college and you must leave no stone unturned in securing the highest score possible.
Take enough practice tests and calculate scores using conversion charts given by the College Board to get a rough idea of what your final scores would be on the actual test day. If you are wondering how to go about preparing for SAT exams, you could always approach a reputable SAT coaching institute. Preparing for SAT exams without professional guidance could be a bit overwhelming for first time test takers. A flipped learning approach could be of immense help for students appearing for SAT.
Prestige Institute is a pioneer of flipped learning model where students learn through interactive sessions. By limiting access to study materials for just five weeks, we make sure students complete their preparations within a stipulated time. With study groups and doubt-solving sessions designed for students, we ensure there is maximum engagement and knowledge retention. If you are preparing for SAT exams or want to improve your scores, contact us today! We’ll help you crack the exam with the best preparation tips and techniques!