Looking over a SAT score sheet

How are SAT scores calculated? Behind the Scenes.

Ever wondered how the College Board determines your SAT score? With students across the nation gearing up for test day in 2023, understanding how SAT scores are calculated has never been more crucial.


The SAT, a pivotal component in the college admissions process, uses a unique scoring system. This system, managed by the College Board, operates on a scale from 400 to 1600.


Your total score is the sum of your performance in two main sections: the Math section and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section. But there’s more to it than just adding up correct answers.


From raw scores to scaled, and from section scores to the overall SAT score, this guide will act as your calculator, breaking down the intricacies of the SAT scoring process.

Key Takeaways

  • SAT Scoring System: Discover how scores from the Math and EBRW sections form the total SAT score.
  • Raw vs. Scale Scores: Understand the difference and significance of raw and scaled in the SAT.
  • SAT Score Percentiles: Learn about the two main types of SAT percentiles and their relevance in college admissions.
  • Factors in Score Calculation: Dive into elements like test difficulty and the equating process that influences your final score.
  • Importance of Test Prep: Recognize how SAT prep can significantly boost scores and test-taking confidence.

Whether you’re aiming for a good SAT score or just curious about the behind-the-scenes of SAT prep and scoring, let’s dive in!

Understanding the Basics of SAT Scores

When diving into the world of SAT prep, it’s essential to grasp the foundational elements of the SAT scoring system. The College Board, the organization behind the SAT, has designed a unique system to evaluate students’ readiness for college.


Scoring System and Its Range:


The SAT operates on a scale, with scores ranging from 400 to 1600. This total score is the sum of two section scores: the Math section and the EBRW (EBRW) section.


Each of these sections has its own scale, ranging from 200 to 800. So, when you take the test, your performance in each section contributes to your overall SAT score.

Math and EBRW Sections Breakdown:

  • Math Section: This section evaluates your proficiency in various mathematical concepts, from basic arithmetic to more advanced topics like Passport to Advanced Math. Your math test score is crucial as colleges often look at this to gauge your quantitative skills.
  • EBRW (EBRW) Section: Divided into the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test, this section assesses your ability to understand and interpret texts, as well as your command over the English language. Your reading test score and writing and language test scores are combined to give the EBRW section score.

Average SAT Scores:

For some perspective, the class of 2022 had an average SAT score of 1050. This gives you a benchmark to understand where most students land and what a good SAT score might look like for your college applications in 2023.


By understanding these basics, you’re better equipped to set targets for your SAT tests, gauge where you stand, and work towards achieving or even surpassing the scores of the previous year’s class.


Learn More About How the SAT Scores are Normally Distributed 

How to Calculate Your SAT Scores: A Step-by-Step Guide

Navigating the SAT scoring process can seem daunting, but with a clear understanding of the steps involved, you can easily determine your score.


Here’s a straightforward guide to help you calculate your SAT scores:


  1. Find Your Raw Score for Each Section:
    • Your raw score is determined by the number of questions you answer correctly in each section. For instance, if you answer 50 questions correctly in the Math section, your raw math score is 50. Incorrect answers don’t subtract from your score, so it’s beneficial to answer every question.
  2. Determine Your Math Score:
    • Once you have your raw score for the Math section, you’ll convert it to a scaled score using the College Board’s raw score conversion table. This conversion ensures that scores are standardized across different versions of the SAT. For example, a raw score of 57 might convert to a math score of 800.
  3. Determine Your Reading and Writing Scores:
    • Similarly, for the EBRW section, you’ll convert your raw scores into scaled for the reading and writing tests. These scores are then added together and multiplied by 10 to give your reading and writing score. 
  4. Add Together Your Scores:
    • Finally, to determine your total SAT score, add your Math score to your EBRW score. The sum of these two section scores gives you your overall SAT score, which will be on a scale of 400 to 1600. For instance, if you score 700 in Math and 610 in EBRW, your total score would be 1310.

You can confidently calculate your SAT scores after taking the practice tests or on the actual test day. Remember, the SAT score report provides a comprehensive view of your performance, including section scores, cross-test scores, and subscores.


This should offer a detailed insight into your strengths and areas for improvement.

Delving Deeper: Raw Scores, Equating, and Beyond

When it comes to SAT scores, the surface numbers only tell part of the story. To truly understand your performance, it’s essential to delve into the nuances of raw scores and the equating process.


Raw Scores Explained:

  • At its simplest, your raw score represents the number of questions you’ve answered correctly in a section. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so it’s always a good strategy to answer every question, even if you’re unsure.

The Equating Process:

  • Not every SAT exam is the same. There might be slight variations in difficulty across different test versions. This is where the equating process comes in. It ensures that no student is advantaged or disadvantaged by taking a slightly easier or harder version of the SAT. For instance, a raw score of 57 in one version of the SAT might equate to the same scaled score as a raw score of 58 in another version.

Why Equating Matters:

  • Equating is crucial for fairness. It ensures that every student’s score truly reflects their abilities, regardless of the specific test version they took. This standardized approach means that colleges can confidently use SAT scores to compare students from different test dates.
Man sitting infront of computer wondering how SAT Scores are Calculated

SAT Subscores and Cross-Test Scores: What They Mean

While the primary focus for many students is their total SAT score, the SAT score report provides a wealth of additional information that can offer deeper insights into a student’s academic strengths and areas for improvement.


SAT Subscores:

  • Subscores dive into specific skill areas within the Math and EBRW. For instance, within the Math section, you might receive subscores for areas like “Passport to Advanced Math.” These subscores can range from 1 to 15 and provide a granular view of your performance in individual test areas.

Cross-Test Scores:

  • These scores are a bit different. They analyze questions across both the Math and EBRW sections that are related to Science and History/Social Studies. Essentially, they gauge how well you apply your reading, writing, and math skills in these contexts. You’ll receive two cross-test scores, each ranging from 10 to 40.

Significance in the SAT Score Report:

  • While your total score gives colleges a broad overview of your abilities, subscores and cross-test scores offer a detailed breakdown. They allow colleges to see your strengths in specific areas, which can be especially valuable for programs that emphasize particular skills. For instance, a strong “Passport to Advanced Math” subscore might stand out in engineering programs.

Students can tailor their SAT practice tests and study sessions to target areas that need improvement, ensuring they present the best possible version of themselves in their applications.

Factors Influencing SAT Score Calculation

The SAT, while a standardized test, has several underlying factors that influence the final score you see on your score report. It’s not just about how many questions you get right; there’s a sophisticated process behind the scenes ensuring fairness and consistency.


Performance in the Main Sections:

  • At its core, your SAT score is heavily influenced by how you perform in the main sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Your raw SAT score, which is the number of questions you answer correctly, serves as the starting point for score calculations.

Test Form Difficulty:

  • Not all SAT tests are created equal. Some test forms might be slightly more challenging than others. To ensure that no student is at a disadvantage due to the specific test they took, the College Board considers the difficulty level of each test form.

The Equating Process:

  • This process is closely tied to test form difficulty. Equating ensures that a score achieved on one version of the SAT is equivalent to the same score on another version. For instance, if one test is slightly harder than another, the raw score required for a particular scaled score might be a bit lower on the harder test.

Raw Score Conversion:

  • After accounting for test difficulty through equating, raw scores are converted. This conversion ensures that SAT scores are consistent across different test dates and versions. For example, a raw score of 57 might be converted to a scaled score of 800, depending on the specific test’s conversion table.

Hopefully, you can better appreciate how the SAT is scored and the meticulous efforts the College Board takes to ensure that every student’s score is a fair representation of their abilities.


The journey through the intricacies of SAT scores highlights the meticulous design of this standardized test. The Board has crafted a system that not only evaluates a student’s academic prowess but also ensures fairness and consistency across various test forms.


Understanding the nuances of how SAT scores are calculated provides clarity and perspective. It’s not just about the total score; section scores, subscores, and cross-test scores offer a comprehensive view of a student’s abilities. This knowledge is invaluable, especially when preparing for test day in 2023, 2024, and beyond.


Emphasizing the role of test prep, it’s evident that familiarity with the SAT’s structure and content can significantly boost performance. SAT prep equips students with strategies, reduces test anxiety, and provides a roadmap to tackle each section effectively.


So, as you approach the SAT, whether it’s a practice test or the real deal, remember the importance of each score, the value of preparation, and the potential within you.


With dedication and the right resources, you can navigate the SAT with confidence, aiming for the highest SAT possible and opening doors to a myriad of educational opportunities.

How many questions can you get wrong to get a 1500 on the SAT?

To achieve a score of 1500 or more on the SAT, you need to answer at least 55 out of 58 questions correctly in the Math section, 41 out of 44 in the Writing & Language section, and 48 out of 52 in the Reading section. This data emphasizes the importance of studying smartly and leveraging your strengths.

How much is each question worth on the SAT out of 1600?

The SAT comprises 154 questions and has a scoring range of 200-1600. Doing the math, each question on the SAT is worth approximately 9.09 points.

How many points is each part of the SAT worth?

The SAT’s highest composite score is 1600, which is the sum of two main sections: reading/writing and math. Each of these sections has a maximum score of 800. The average score for students taking the SAT is around 1000.

How many questions can you get wrong to get a 1200?

To achieve a score of 1200 on the SAT, you could answer up to 20 questions incorrectly in the Math section (resulting in a score of 600), miss 12 in the Writing section (yielding a score of 300), and get 18 wrong in the Reading section (also resulting in a score of 300). In total, you could miss 50 questions and still secure a commendable score of 1200.