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.
You know your SAT score is important for college admissions and even things like scholarships, but how does your SAT score get calculated? I'll show the steps to calculating your final SAT score so you can get an accurate idea of how well you're doing on the exam.
Step 1: Determine Your Raw Scores
Your raw score is simply calculated using the number of questions you answered correctly.
- For every question you answer correctly on the SAT, you receive one point.
- There is no penalty for guessing or skipping.
The maximum possible raw score varies by section (and depends on the total number of questions asked). For example, for the Reading Test, there are 52 questions, so the maximum raw score is 52. If you answered all 52 questions correctly, you would have a raw score of 52. For Math, there are 58 questions. For Writing, there are 44 multiple-choice questions.
There is one essay, which is graded separately on a scale of 2-8 and is not factored into your composite score (your 400-1600 score); therefore, I will not be discussing it further in this article, but for more information, read our articles on the new SAT essay prompts and the SAT essay rubric.
Step 2: Convert the Raw Scores to Scaled Scores
The raw score is converted into the scale score (on the 200 to 800 scale for each section) using a table. This table varies by SAT test date. The table is used as a way to make sure each test is “standardized”. The table is a way of making “easier” SAT tests equal to the “harder” SAT tests. For instance, a raw score of 57 in Math might translate to an 800 on one test date and 790 on another.
For Math, you simply convert your raw score to final section score using the table. For the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score, there is an extra step. You get individual raw scores for the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test. These two raw scores are the converted into two scaled test scores using a table. The two test scores are then added together and multiplied by 10 to give you your final Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score (from 200 to 800). I'll explain this more in-depth with examples below:
You cannot know what the raw to scale score conversion will be in advance. While the exact raw to scale score conversion will vary by testing date, the College Board supplies this example chart in their new SAT Practice Test:
|Writing and |
Note: this is just an example. The exact conversion chart will vary slightly depending on the individual test.
Why are Reading and Writing and Language listed as separate sections? Why are they graded from 10-40 instead of 200-800? As I mentioned briefly before, you get separate raw scores for the Reading and Writing and Language. You then take these two raw scores and convert them into two scale scores using the above table. For example, if you answered 33 correctly in Reading and 39 correctly in Writing and Language, your scale scores would be 29 and 35, respectively.
These two scaled scores are then added together and multiplied by 10 to give you your final Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score (from 200 to 800). Continuing the above example, if your scale scores were 29 for Reading and 35 for Writing and Language, your final Evidence-Based Reading and Writing scaled score would be:
(29 + 35) x 10 = 64 x 10 = 640
Step 3: Take the Scaled Scores and Add Them Together
Once you have your scaled score for both the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections, you just add them together to get your overall SAT composite score.
For example, if you scored a 710 in Math and 640 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, your composite score would be 710+640 = 1350.
How to Understand Your SAT Score Report
The College Board gives you the breakdown of your incorrect, correct, and omitted answers on your SAT score report in addition to your final scaled scores. See below excerpts from a real new SAT score report:
Note that on this test, the raw Math score was out of 57, not 58, points. This sometimes happens when a question on the test is deemed to be unfair or unanswerable and the SAT drops it from everyone's scoring.
For the Reading and Writing and Language sections on this SAT score report, this student’s raw scores were 52 and 42. These raw SAT section scores scaled to section scores of 40 (Reading) and 39 (Writing and Language), which translated to a 790 Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Score:
(40 + 39) x 10 = 790
I'd like to emphasize that you will not be able to determine what the full table of raw to scaled scores conversion was from your score report. Instead, you will only be able to determine what your raw score was and see how it translated to your scaled score.
What This Means for You
Once you have determined your target SAT score in terms of raw score, you can use it to determine your SAT test strategy options. We have plenty of resources to help you out. Once you know what SAT score you're aiming for and how far you are from that goal score, you can begin to develop a study plan, gather study materials, and get to work on raising your score!
If You Need Help Creating a Study Plan
How to Build an SAT Study Plan
How to Cram for the SAT
How Long Should You Study for the SAT?
If You Need More Study Materials
Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
The 11 Best SAT Prep Books
The Best SAT Prep Websites You Should Be Using
If You Want to Raise Your Score
The Best Way to Review Your Mistakes for the SAT
How to Get an 800 on SAT Reading
How to Get an 800 on SAT Math
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