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SAT Scores FAQ

What is a good SAT score out of 1600?

What is the average sat score?

How long is the SAT?

FAQ About SAT Scores

How are the values on this website calculated?

We assume that the distribution of scores on the new SAT will be the same relative to that of the old 2400 point based SAT. We estimate the upcoming Reading and Writing score to be the average of the old Critical Reading and Writing Scores, and assume the Math section scores will approximately the same.


How important are SAT scores? Why do they matter?

SAT scores can be an important factor in college admissions. Most US colleges, and all Ivy League schools, require you to take the SAT, or a popular alternative test, the ACT. Such tests scores are valuable to universities as they provide an unbiased way of ranking a student’s performance compared to other applicants. Unlike your GPA, which may depend on the difficulty of your course load or the standards of your high school, SAT scores are directly comparable across students from different parts of the country. Given this, it’s good to keep in mind that SAT scores have the power to set a strong impression and set you apart from the crowd. In particular, exceptionally strong SAT stores can help compensate in part for a less than stellar GPA.

However, SAT scores will not necessarily make or break your application. They are always considered in a package with other elements, such as your extra-curricular involvements, letters of recommendation, essays, and grades. Besides their use for admission purposes, SAT scores are also often taken into account when students are being considered for academic scholarships.


How do US colleges use my SAT scores?

SAT scores are particularly useful to admissions officers because they provide an unbiased way of comparing you to other applicants. It is hard to compare grades and GPAs among schools across the country or different countries, as they can be affected by the difficulty of the classes taken and the grading standards of your school. SAT scores provide a level playing field, as a score of 750 indicates the same level of ability regardless or where and when the test was taken. Colleges can also look at the percentiles to directly compare your performance to other applicants to the school. If you have a percentile of 95, that means you outperformed 95% of other students, an impressive achievement.

Keep in mind, though, that test scores are always considered in light of other information. Your transcripts, recommendation letters, application essays, and extra-curricular activities can help make up for less-than-stellar test scores. Similarly, very high test scores, can compensate somewhat for other weaknesses in your application.

Can the SAT show how well I'll do in my first year of university?

Many factors affect university performance, including personal motivation and work habits. However, one of the best predictors of performance in the first year of university is a combination of high school GPA and SAT scores, so knowing these helps universities make decisions about whether you’d do well at their school. Of the three sections of the SAT (consolidated into two in the new SAT), recent research indicates the writing section is the most predictive of students’ first year grade point average. See here.

I have the same Reading/Writing and Mathematics scores but the percentiles are different. Is something wrong?

Most likely not. The scaled scores for each section stand alone, but percentiles reflect how your performance compares to those who took the test in the previous year. So if everyone who took the test last year found the Reading/Writing slightly harder than the Math section (or vice versa) the same scaled score can correspond to different percentiles.

For example, say you got a scaled score of 700 on both the Reading/Writing and Math sections of the SAT I. Your score of 700 on Math corresponds to a percentile of 92, meaning you scored better than 92% of the entire group of test-takers. But if everyone who took the test found the Reading/Writing section harder than the Math section, there would be even fewer people getting high scores on Reading/Writing. So your score of Reading/Writing score of 700 would stand out even more, and might be better than 95% of your peers, which is a percentile score of 95.

I checked my scores online and the percentile is different from when I took the test. Is this a mistake?

Most likely not. Percentiles reflect how your performance compares to other college-bound students who took the same test. As time passes from the day you took the test, more and more students will take it, so your percentile can change slightly depending on how well they do.

Question: Do Colleges Have to See All of my SAT Scores?

Currently, colleges are sent scores from each of your attempts at the SAT. Although most schools have a policy of only officially looking at your highest SAT scores, admissions counselors often admit that it sends a bad signal if they can see you have tried taking the SAT many times to improve your score.

After March 2009

Starting in March 2009, however, students will be able to send only the scores they feel best represent their ability to universities. Students will just have to indicate online which test date they want to use the scores from. This means that a student can take the SAT as many times as they want, and then only send in their best scores to a school, without worrying that the admissions office will see the other lower scores.

Unfortunately, you cannot mix and match scores from different test dates, you can’t send your Critical Reading score from your SAT test in March and your Math score from your test in May. Instead, scores from the entire SAT taken on one date can be selected and sent.

This new score reporting policy also applies to SAT Subject tests. For example, a student who took three subject tests can choose which ones to report to a college. Once it comes into effect, this new score-reporting feature will be available free to all test-takers. Even if you have taken the SAT before March 2009, you will still be able to report your scores this way.

Also note that this new policy is an optional feature. If a student doesn’t select a particular test date, scores from all test attempts will still be sent.

How is the SAT scored?

Raw Scores

Raw Scores are calculated for each correct point on the SAT. The previous SAT used to deduct 0.25pts per incorrect answer, as to penalize guessing. The New SAT does not penalize wrong answers, instead assigning them a value of 0. Therefore, the Raw Score for a taker of the New SAT would be the amount of questions that the tester answered correctly.

Scaled Scores

Raw scores for each section are then translated to ‘scaled scores’ from 200 to 800. A statistical process called equating is used to ensure that a scaled score always represents the same level of ability, even across people who took different versions of the SAT at different times and so might have slightly different raw scores. A scaled score near 500 generally means that a student is performing at average level compared to their peers. The scaled scores for each of the 2 major sections are then added together to give a total SAT score out of 1600.

The Optional Essay

The New SAT does not require students to write an essay. Some schools may require students to take the Optional Essay, which is scored independantly from the SAT. The three SAT Essay scores will be reported separately from each other (rather than combined into a single score) and from the other scores on the test. More on the optional essay of the New SAT can be found here.


As well as giving you a scaled score for each section, your SAT score report will also list your percentile for each section, which is a number between 1 and 99. The percentile indicates what percentage of students earned a score lower than you. If you get a percentile of 95 for math, this means you did exceptionally well compared to your peers, as 95% of them scored less than you on that section.

How is my essay scored?

Unlike multiple-choice questions, the essay is marked on a scale from 2 to 8. Three different readers (trained high school and college teachers) each independently read your essay and assign it a score from 2 to 8. A score of 0 is rare and only given if the essay is blank, illegible, or completely off-topic. The essay score is scored as according to the rubric provided. The essay will deal with reading a passage and explaining how the author builds an effective argument. The New SAT will have 50 minutes alloted to the essay, which is optional.

What is the New SAT?

Starting in Fall of 2016, the New SAT system will take effect. The details of this new SAT can be found here. Summary of New SAT is below:

  • New SAT has a range of 400-1600 from old SAT's 600-2400.
  • Math scoring remains consistant from old SAT
  • Total Testing Time down to 3 hours (+50m optional essay) from 3h45m of old SAT
  • New SAT combines Critical Reading and Writing to create a Reading/Writing section
  • New SAT contains an optional essay with twice the original alloted time
  • No penalties for incorrect answers - scored zero instead of negative point values
  • Vocabulary testing is more practical - less obscure terms compared to old SAT


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