In March of 2016, the College Board rolled out the new SAT. At the time, these changes to the SAT were the most significant since 2005, when the College Board introduced a writing section and increased the scoring range from 1600 points to 2400 points.
Initially, many students, teachers, tutors, and guidance counselors were anxious to see what the changes would mean. In fact, changes to the scoring structure and format of the new test were of particular concern, as many students did not know exactly how their performance would be assessed.
Now, almost a whole year later, we have a much better understanding of the new SAT and how it is scored. Specifically, we now know the new scoring scale and we know that the actual scoring process is not much different than it was for the older version of the SAT.
To learn more about the format, scoring scale, and scoring process for the new SAT, read on.
What is the format of the New SAT?
At first glance, the new SAT appears significantly different from the SAT administered prior to March 2016. It contains two primary test sections, and one additional optional test section, as opposed to the three required sections on the previous version of the test.
One of the primary tests is the Math Test. This is actually comprised of two smaller test sections: the Math Test With Calculator and the Math Test – No Calculator.
The other primary test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. This is also comprised of two smaller test sections: the Critical Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.
The final component of the new exam, the SAT Essay, is now optional.
How are tests scored?
When you are finished taking the SAT, the test supervisor will collect and count the test books to make sure all materials have been turned in before dismissing you from the testing room. This is to help ensure the security of testing materials.
All test materials are then put into a sealed envelope and sent to a scoring center. At the scoring center, SAT Essays are removed for separate scoring, while the remaining answer sheets are scanned by a machine that counts the number of correct answers bubbled in on each answer sheet.
Tests are scored based on the number of answers that you got correct. With the exception of the SAT Essay, all tests have multiple-choice or grid-in answers. This means that answer sheets can be quickly scanned to tally raw scores. Because there is no scoring penalty for wrong answers, your raw score is simply the number of correct answers that you achieved on each section.
Once your raw scores have been tallied, they are converted to scaled scores through a process called equating. Equating accounts for very slight differences in test difficulty and ensures that scores are consistent across different forms of the SAT.
The exact equation used to equate your raw SAT score to a scaled score varies slightly from one test to another, and is adjusted in small increments to reflect the difficulty of the test.
You can get a better idea of the exact process by reviewing the scoring procedure for official SAT practice tests prepared by the College Board. Check out the Raw Score Conversion Tables beginning on page seven of the packet Scoring Your SAT Practice Test #1.
What is the score range for the new SAT?
Scaled scores for each required SAT test range from 200-800. You receive one score from 200-800 for the Math test, which takes into account your performance on both the Math Test With Calculator and Math Test – No Calculator sections. You receive another score from 200-800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test, which takes into account your performance on both the Writing and Language Test and the Critical Reading Test.
Your total SAT score will always range from 400-1600 and is calculated simply by adding together the scores from your Math test and your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test.
The new, optional SAT Essay is scored differently, using a different scale, and it bears no weight on your total SAT score.
To learn more about SAT scores, read CollegeVine’s What Is a Good SAT Score?
How is the new SAT essay scored?
The optional essay cannot be scored by computer since its answers are not multiple-choice or grid-in. Instead, each SAT essay is read by two qualified readers. The readers each assign a score from one to four in three different dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
If the scores assigned by the readers to any single dimension vary by more than one point, a scoring director will read the essay to resolve the discrepancy.
The points assigned in each dimension are then totaled, resulting in a score range for each dimension between two and eight. The dimension scores are added together to result in a total score ranging from 6-24.
You can read more about the SAT Essay scoring process and preview the scoring rubric on CollegeBoard’s SAT Essay Scoring site.
A lot happens after test day to ensure that your test is scored fairly and accurately.
After you turn in your answer sheet, it is carefully tracked until it's delivered to our processing center.
Scanning and Analysis
Your answer sheet is scanned and the resulting file of answers is analyzed by our system. The system takes the circles that you filled in and calculates your raw score. Because there’s no penalty for guessing, your raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly.
We monitor the scanning accuracy of SAT answer sheets through several quality assurance checks, including alignment checks and double scanning of documents.
Here’s what you can do to make sure your answer sheet is scanned accurately:
- Use a No. 2 pencil and a soft eraser. Do not use a pen or mechanical pencil.
- Make sure you fill in the entire circle darkly and completely.
- If you change your response, erase as completely as possible.
SAT Essay Scoring
Essays are scanned and then scored independently by two qualified scorers. We ensure consistent, high-quality evaluation through ongoing training of essay scorers and the use of uniform standards. This means that:
- The training process for readers continues even after they initially qualify.
- The accuracy and fairness of the readers are evaluated regularly and frequently.
- Scoring leaders review readers' scoring of selected essays, and provide feedback via phone and the web when appropriate.
- Web-based scoring enables leaders to monitor readers in real time, informed by reports on inter-rater reliability and other statistics.
Learn how readers score the new SAT Essay or find out about essay scoring before March 2016.
Conversion to Scaled Score
Your raw score is converted to a scaled score of 200 to 800 points, the score you see on your score report. We use a process that adjusts for slight differences in difficulty between various versions of the test (such as versions taken on different days).
We do this to make sure there’s no advantage in taking the test on a particular day. A score of 400, for instance, on one day’s test means the same thing as a 400 on a test taken on a different day—even though the questions are different.
If you registered for the SAT online or you registered by mail and set up a College Board account, you’ll get an email telling you how to sign into your online score report when scores are ready.
Your score report includes a detailed breakdown of your scores, information about what your scores mean, and how your scores compare to those of other test-takers. You'll be able to see your essay online if you took the SAT with Essay.
Find out when to expect scores.
Learn how to interpret scores.
Scores Delivered to Schools and Colleges
If you chose score recipients before scores were released, those colleges and scholarship programs will get your score report shortly after you do. Your high school, district, and state will be able to see your scores online, too.
Learn how to send scores.