The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities in the United States to make admissions decisions.
Its purpose is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants.
The SAT is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test created and administered by the College Board.
College admissions officers will review standardized test scores alongside your high school GPA, the classes you took in high school, letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, admissions interviews, and personal essays.
How important SAT scores are in the college application process varies from school to school.
Overall, the higher you score on the SAT, the more options for attending and paying for college will be available to you.
How the SAT is scored
When you take the SAT, you don’t get just one score.
The SAT reports a total score, but there are also section scores, test scores, cross-test scores, and subscores. This wide array of scores provides insight into your achievement and your readiness for college and career. You earn points on the SAT by answering questions correctly.
No points are deducted for wrong answers, so go ahead and give your best answer to every question — there’s no advantage to leaving any blank.
Total Score and Section Scores
The total score is the number most commonly associated with the SAT and it ranges from 400 to 1600.
This score is the sum of the scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (which includes the Reading and Writing and Language Tests) and the Math section.
Of the 154 questions in the entire SAT (not counting the Essay), 96 questions are on the Reading and the Writing and Language Tests and 58 questions are on the Math Test.
Section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math are reported on a scale from 200 to 800. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score is derived in equal measure from the scores on the Reading and the Writing and Language Tests. The Math section score is derived from the score on the Math Test.
Test scores are reported on a scale of 10 to 40 for each of the three required tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
Cross-test scores — one for Analysis in History/Social Studies and one for Analysis in Science — are reported on a scale of 10 to 40 and are based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests that reflect the application of reading, writing, language, and math skills in history/social studies and science contexts.
Subscores: Subscores are reported on a scale of 1 to 15. They provide more detailed information about how you’re doing in specific areas of literacy and math.
Two subscores are reported for Writing and Language: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions.
The Expression of Ideas subscore is based on questions focusing on topic development, organization, and rhetorically effective use of language. The Standard English Conventions subscore is based on questions focusing on sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.
The Math Test reports three subscores: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.
Heart of Algebra focuses on linear equations, systems of linear equations, and functions.
Problem Solving and Data Analysis focus on quantitative reasoning, the interpretation and synthesis of data, and problem-solving in rich and varied contexts.
Passport to Advanced Math focuses on topics important for progressing to more advanced mathematics, such as understanding the structure of expressions, reasoning with more complex equations, and interpreting and building functions.
The final two subscores — Words in Context and Command of Evidence — are based on questions in both the Reading and the Writing and Language Tests.
Words in context questions address word and phrase meanings in context as well as rhetorical word choice. Command of Evidence questions asks you to interpret and use evidence found in a wide range of passages and informational graphics, such as graphs, tables, and charts.
The scores for the optional SAT Essay are reported separately and aren’t factored into any other scores. The Essay yields three scores, one each on three dimensions:
Reading: How well you demonstrate your understanding of the included passage
Analysis: How well you analyze the passage and carry out the task of explaining how the author of the passage builds an argument to persuade an audience
Writing: How skillfully you craft your response Two raters read each response and assign a score of 1 to 4 to each of the three dimensions.