The old SAT was scored on a 2400 point scale, and the new SAT is scored on a 1600 point scale, but you don’t answer 2400 or 1600 questions on these tests (or a number remotely close). So, how does your score get calculated? I'll show the steps to calculating your final SAT score for both the old (pre-March 2016) and new (March 2016 and on) SAT.
First, Determine Your Raw Scores
For the Old SAT:
Your raw score would have been calculated using the number of questions you answered correctly and the number of questions you answered incorrectly.
- For every question you answered correctly on the SAT, you received one point.
- For every question you answered incorrectly on the SAT, you received minus ¼ point, with the exception of grid-ins in the Math section, for which you would have received zero points for wrong answers.
- For every question you skipped on the SAT, you receive zero points.
The maximum possible raw score varies by section (and depends on the total number of questions asked). For example, for the Critical Reading, there were 67 questions, so the maximum raw score wa 67. If you answered all 67 questions correctly, you would have a raw score of 67. For Math, there were 54 questions. For Writing, there were 49 multiple-choice questions and 1 essay (which is given a score between 0 and 12).
For the New 2016 SAT:
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 nor 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.
Next, Convert the Raw Scores to Scaled Scores
For the Old SAT:
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 53 in Math might translate to an 800 on one test date and 780 on another.
You cannot know what this 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 the SAT Preparation Booklet:
|-2 or below||200||200||49|
You may be wondering why the Writing is listed out of 80 for the scaled score instead of 800. The reason for this discrepancy is that the multiple-choice portion of the Writing only counts for approximately ⅔ of your Writing scaled score. The other ⅓ comes from your SAT essay score. The essay is graded on a scale of 0 to 12. For further explanation of the old SAT essay and grading, read this article on SAT Essay Scoring: The Real Story.
The College Board provides this chart as an example of how your final Writing scaled score is calculated from your essay score and multiple-choice raw score:
Again, the exact conversion varies by test date.
For the New 2016 SAT:
Similar to the old SAT, the raw score is converted into a scale score using a table, and the tables vary 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:
Note: this is just an example. The exact conversion chart will vary by test date.
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 2 raw scores and convert them into 2 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
Finally, Take the Scaled Scores and Add Them Together
For both the new and old SAT, once you have your scaled score for each section, you just add them together to get your overall SAT composite score.
For the old SAT, you add together three section scaled scores: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. For example, if you scored a 500 in Math, 670 in Critical Reading, and 580 in Writing, your composite score would simply be 500+670+580 = 1750.
For the new SAT, you'll only be adding together two section scaled scores: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. 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
For the New SAT, 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 new 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
On this particular test date for the old SAT, a raw score of 52 in Critical Reading translated to an 40, and a raw score of 42 in Writing and Language translated to a 39. However, 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 new SAT score in terms of raw score, you can use it to determine your SAT test strategy options. If you are finishing but are getting too many wrong to meet your score goal, skipping the hardest questions and spending more time on others may be a better strategy for you.
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.