Every year about 500 students get a perfect score on the SAT. How many questions can you get wrong and still be among this elite group? Find out here in a complete breakdown of the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections across eight official SAT practice tests.
How Is the SAT Scored?
To understand how many questions you can get wrong and still achieve a perfect 1600, you need to understand how the test is scored. I'll give a brief summary here, but if you're interested in more details about the scoring process, check out our guide on how to calculate SAT score.
For the whole test, you receive one point for correct answers, and you receive zero points for a wrong answer and questions skipped. Since you’re not penalized for wrong answers, skipping or answering a question incorrectly results in the same score.
NOTE: The essay is not factored into your composite SAT score (400-1600 scale), so I will not discuss it further in this article. However, for more information on the new SAT essay, read our other guide.
To calculate your Math section, you start by calculating a raw score, which is simply the number of questions answered correctly (if you answered 50 correctly, your raw score is 50).
For the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, you start by calculating two raw scores: one for the Reading portion and one for the Writing and Language portion. Just as in the Math section, the raw scores are just the number of questions answered correctly.
For both sections, each raw score is then converted into a scaled score — the exact conversion varies by test date. However, the College Board provides this example chart in their SAT practice test as an estimate:
Let's go through how the scoring works for each section in a bit more depth. For Math, the raw to scaled score conversion is very simple. Let’s say you miss two questions (you got 56 correct out of 58 questions); your raw score will be a 56. You then find the corresponding scaled score for Math on the chart, which is 790. Your Math section score would be a 790.
For Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, the conversion is a little more complicated since you get two raw scores. If you missed three questions in Reading (got 49 of 52 correct), your raw score would be 49. If you missed ten questions in Writing (got 34 of 44 correct), your raw score would be 34. You then find the corresponding scaled score for each of those sections:
Reading: 49 questions right = 38 scaled score
Writing: 34 questions right = 32 scaled score
Next, you add together the two separate scaled scores and multiply by 10 to get your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score.
(38 + 32) x 10
= 70 x 10
Your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score would be 700. Now let’s get back to the original question.
Exactly How Many Questions Can You Get Wrong or Skip and Still Get a 1600?
Since the scores on the individual sections are simply added together to create your composite SAT score, you need to score 800 on the two sections (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) to get a score of 1600.
In the chart below, I have analyzed eight official SAT score charts and determined the number of questions you can get wrong or skip on each part of the test for an 800 in the section. These official practice SAT were written by the same people who write actual SATs. This means they're a great resource for analysis because you can be sure they'll be very similar to the SAT you take on exam day.
NOTE: Since you’re not penalized for wrong answers, skipping vs. answering a question incorrectly results in the same score.
Number of Questions You Can Get Wrong in Each Section and Still Get a Perfect Score
Typically, to get an 800 in Math, you cannot miss any questions because you need to get a raw score of 58 (out of 58 questions). Occasionally, an SAT will allow you to get one wrong answer in Math as you can see on Tests 4 and 8. However, I would not count on that, as it is not the norm. If you're aiming for 1600, strive for perfection in Math.
To get an 800 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you cannot get any questions wrong on the Writing and Reading portions. Occasionally, an SAT will allow you to get one wrong or to skip one as you can see on Tests 1, 3 and 5 for the Reading section, or Test 5 for the Writing section. However, as with Math, that is not the norm. If you're aiming for 1600, prepare to get zero wrong in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
Overall, on the SAT, you should aim to get no questions wrong if you want a perfect score. This is no easy feat, but it is possible. After all, about 500 students do it each year!
What Does This Mean If You're Trying to Get a 1600?
You need to make sure that you can finish the entire test in the allotted time since you cannot afford to skip or miss any questions.
For Math, you need to be basically perfect. You can see, through my analysis, on six out of eight Math sections, you cannot get any questions wrong if you want an 800.
For Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you also need to be basically perfect. On three out of eight Reading portions, you could get one wrong and still get 800, but you can’t rely on having that opportunity. On seven out of eight Writing sections, you cannot get any questions wrong if you want an 800.
Trying to get a perfect SAT score? You should check out our SAT study guide.
Taking the SAT soon and need to improve your score in a hurry? Read our SAT cramming guide.
Aiming for the Ivy League? Read our guide to getting in!
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.
Check out our 5-day free trial today:
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.