SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

SAT Score Error? Use Hand Score Verification to Correct the Mistake


Did you make a weird error in filling out your multiple choice answer sheet that led to a dramatically reduced score? Was your essay scanned incorrectly? Hand Score Verification is a way for you to address and correct these mistakes without having to retake the test.

In this guide, I'll describe what SAT Hand Score Verification is, how it can help you, and how it might hurt.


What Is Hand Score Verification?

Normally, the College Board grades its hundreds of thousands of test answer sheets through automated scanning machines. This is why the SAT instructs you to fill in answers using only No. 2 pencils.

If you order Hand Score Verification, the College Board reviews your multiple choice answer sheet or essay again manually (by a human) for a fee. It's $55 for either multiple choice or the essay ($110 for both). If you used a fee waiver for the SAT, the fee is reduced to $27.50 each.

If you marked the answer sheet correctly but there was a problem in the scanning or scoring process, your score may change, and the fee you paid for score verification will be refunded.

If you made an obvious error in filling in the information on the answer sheet (putting your answers in the wrong section of the answer sheet, improperly recording the test identifying code), your score may change, but you won’t get a fee refund.

For the essay, the College Board will determine whether there was an error made in the scanning of the essay or the processing of scores assigned by essay readers. In this situation, your adjusted score will be automatically reported and your fee will be refunded.

This is not a way to appeal your essay score if your essay was already reviewed and scanned in correctly. Your essay doesn't get reread and re-scored in the process of Hand Score Verification unless it didn't scan properly. If your essay was written in pen (which messes with the scanning process), your score may change, but you won't get a fee refund.

Note that your whole answer sheet will be reviewed, even if you only think there was a mistake on one section. I'll explain why this is important next.


When Should You Use Hand Score Verification?

Because SAT Hand Score Verification costs quite a bit of money, and your score could potentially change for the worse, there are only a few specific situations where it's a good idea.


Scenario #1: Your Overall Score Was Very Different from What You Expected 

If you ended up with consistently high scores on practice tests but you scored fairly low, you could have reason to question your results. You might have bubbled in an entire section incorrectly, or there might have been a mistake with the scanning. Score verification would fix both of these and raise your score.


Scenario #2: You Missed Many Questions That You Would Normally Ace 

Look at your detailed score report to see which types of questions you missed on the test. The College Board splits questions up into easy, medium, and hard categories on the score report and tells you how many of each you got wrong within each section. If you find you missed a lot of easy questions in your strongest subject areas, there might have been a mistake in the scoring process.


Scenario #3: Your Essay Is Blank or Unreadable in the Online Score Report

This could indicate a scanning error (especially if you remember writing your essay in pen). In this case your essay will be rescored.


Scenario #4: You Can't Find Answers with Other Means of Score Verification 

The College Board also offers Score Verification services in the form of the Student Answer Service and the Question-and-Answer Service. The Student Answer Service just provides you with the types of questions on your test; their levels of difficulty; and whether you answered correctly, incorrectly, or not at all.

The Question-and-Answer Service provides you with a booklet copy of the questions on the test and your answers, the correct answers (including how the questions were scored), and information about the types and difficulty levels of all questions on the test. If your scores still don't make sense to you after wading through all this information, Hand Score Verification may be the way to go.


body_questionandanswer.jpgThat's deep, bro.


When Should You NOT Use Hand Score Verification?

In these situations, you should consider against SAT Score Verification, because it's unlikely to improve your score.


Scenario #1: Your Score Is Only Marginally Lower Than Expected

Some students will freak out because they got a 700 instead of an 800 on one section of the SAT, thinking there must have been some sort of terrible mistake. I'd say that if your score is 0-100 points lower in a section that you expected it to be (or up to 300 points lower overall), you shouldn't order Hand Score Verification unless you look at your score report and the questions you got wrong make no sense to you at all. Hand Score Verification could actually hurt you in this situation because your scores might go down, and you would lose the $55 fee.


Scenario #2: You Aren't Happy with Your Essay Score, but Your Essay Shows up Clearly in the Online Score Report

Score Verification doesn’t involve the review or rescoring of essays that were scanned in properly. Even if you're convinced your essay was destined to be a defining literary classic for your generation and couldn't possibly have gotten the score it did, don't order Hand Score Verification in this situation.


Scenario #3: You Didn’t Fill in Your Answer Sheet Properly  

Examples of this include circling bubbles instead of filling them in or making tiny unicorn drawings in the bubbles to indicate your answers. If this is the case your score won't be changed, but you might just get a magical imaginary 800 for creativity (not accepted by colleges).


How Do You Order Score Verification?

After reviewing the pros and cons of hand score verification, you might decide it's the right choice for you. 

Here's a link to the form you need to fill out to order Hand Score Verification. You can request Hand Score Verification for up to five months after your original test date. 

As I mentioned in the first section, there is a fee of $55 for Hand Score Verification for either multiple choice or the essay. However, that fee can be reduced by half if you used a fee waiver to pay for SAT registration. If you have information that you think could affect the results of the verification process, you should report it to Customer Service (contact info listed on the form) at the same time that you submit the form.


body_giantcheck.jpgThe exact check you will receive in the event of a fee refund for Hand Score Verification.


A Final Word About Hand Score Verification

If you aren’t 100% sure that you want to order Hand Score Verification, don’t do it until you have exhausted all other score verification measures. These include Student Question-and-Answer Services or Student Answer Services depending on when you took the SAT. 

If you order Hand Score Verification, you won't have access to the Student Answer Service or Question-and-Answer Service for your hand scored answer sheet. You also won't see the full online score report for this new round of scoring. This time you'll only receive your score report in the mail, just like teenage cavemen did when they took their first SATs. 

Hand Score Verification is the most rigorous score verification process the College Board offers, so there are no score appeals beyond it. Once Hand Score Verification results are reported, they are final for that version of the test. Don't worry though, you can still take the SAT again if you are unhappy with your results. 

You should get a letter back within five weeks with your new scores and, depending on whether there was an irregularity in the scanning and scoring process, cold hard cash in the form of a fee refund. Well, it'll probably be a check, but you get the idea. 


What's Next?

If you're reading this article, chances are you're not too happy with your score. We're here to help.

Read our in depth guides on earning a perfect score on the SAT, along with strategy guides for reading, math, and writing.

Maybe you don't need to aim as high as you think. To come up with the ideal target score for you, and you alone, this article will help you figure out what you should be aiming for based on your top choice schools.

If you're unhappy with your score, you can still take the test again! Check out our article on how many times you should take the SAT. You can also take a look at test dates for 2016-2017.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points


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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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