Are you embarrassed of your SAT score, or think it’s pretty low? Chances are it isn’t even close to the lowest possible SAT score.
In this post, we’ll reveal how rare the lowest possible SAT score is, the lowest scores we have seen, and how to improve on the test, regardless of what your current score is.
What Is the Lowest SAT Score?
On the Redesigned SAT, the lowest possible score is a 400: 200 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 200 on Math. The lowest possible SAT score on the old SAT was a 600 composite, which could only be earned with scores of 200 on the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing sections.
While there is no data yet on the Redesigned SAT, we know from data on the old SAT that the lowest possible score is extremely rare. Only 374 people got a 600 on the SAT in 2014 – even fewer than a perfect 2400!
The SAT is scaled so that the average score is about a 1500 old/1000 redesigned, or 500 per section. The bottom 25% of scorers have about a 1270 old/850 redesigned or lower. Any score below an 1100 old/750 redesigned is rare – only 10% of test-takers score that low.
So odds are, even if you have a low score, it’s not the very lowest possible! In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get a 600 old/400 redesigned SAT composite score.
How Do You Get the Lowest Score on the SAT?
It’s harder to get a 600 old/400 redesigned than you might think. Even if you guess on every question, you’ll probably get higher than the lowest possible score. Why?
Assuming you really don’t know anything and guess on each question, odds are you will guess correctly 25% of the time, since there are four answer choices. And it turns out that getting 25% of SAT questions right gets you a score above the lowest possible!
Even Jon Snow, who knows nothing, would probably score higher than a 400 on the SAT.
The SAT is scored by translating your raw score (the total amount of questions you get right) into a scaled score. For more on this process, check out our scoring guide.
On the Redesigned SAT, a Reading raw score with 25% of the questions correct is a 13. A Writing raw score with 25% of the questions correct is an 11. After combining these, your final Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score would be around 350 -- low, but far from the lowest possible score of 200. A Math 25% raw score is about a 14, which would net approximately a 380 final score.
If you add up these two scores, you would get a 730 composite – low, but far from the lowest! So you would have to have very bad luck or be deliberately trying to get a low score to get a 200 on each section for a 400 composite on the Redesigned SAT.
You need a raw score of 1 or lower on each section to get a scaled score of 200 on the Redesigned SAT, which means you basically have to get every single question wrong. So even if you just give up on the test and fill in every answer bubble with a "C," you'll definitely get more than 1 raw point on each section, and thus get a higher score than a 400.
On the old SAT, getting the lowest possible score was actually pretty complicated. Since the old SAT had a guessing penalty, you needed a negative raw score on each section to get the lowest possible score. That meant you could sleep through the test, leave all of the answers blank, get a raw score of 0, and still get about 210-220 per section, which was higher than the lowest possible score.
On the Redesigned SAT, however, leaving the test blank and taking a nap will result in the lowest possible score, since you would get a raw score of 0.
This means getting a 200 on each section of the old SAT was surprisingly tricky. You could have skipped most of the questions but answered 8 incorrectly to get a -2 raw score. Or, of course, you could have gotten every single problem wrong and gotten a raw score below a -2, and thus received a 200 section score. You can actually read about one man’s attempt to get the lowest possible score on the old SAT here. Note that he had to know the SAT quite well to accomplish this “feat.”
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What Are the Lowest Scores You’ve Seen?
At PrepScholar, we work with everyone from high-scorers, trying to close the last 100-point gap to a perfect score, to students who struggle with standardized tests and want lots of extra help.
On the old SAT, we’ve seen scores as low as 900 (around 300 in each section), but gotten them up to the 1300 range, which gets them into the top 75% of scorers.
How do we do this? There are two main ways to improve a low score: fill content gaps and improve test-taking strategy.
If you’re scoring in the 300s, there is probably content on the SAT you simply don’t know. Whether you struggle with vocabulary, geometry, grammar rules, or all of the above, not knowing major concepts can seriously hamper you on the SAT.
That said, even if you know the content, struggling with test-taking can lower your score, too.
Just because it's multiple choice doesn't mean it's easy.
Time management, process of elimination, smart guessing, and familiarity with the test are all factors that can make or break your score. A student who is able to manage their time and answer 40 out of 58 math questions will get a better score than a student who gets stuck on a single problem, loses time, and only answers 30 math questions by the end of the test.
Also, knowing how to eliminate wrong answers can raise your odds of getting a question right from 25% to 50%. Process of elimination is an important strategy!
Sound like there’s a lot to learn? There is, but it’s very manageable to make big SAT score leaps, especially if you have the best resources.
How Can I Improve My Score?
The key to a higher SAT score is fixing your weaknesses, practicing with quality questions, and learning test-taking strategy.
With PrepScholar, we will create a custom program for you based on your weaknesses. We will fill your content gaps and get you on track for a higher score. Basically, we take the hard part out of SAT studying – analyzing your weak spots – and give you more time to practice.
You can also study on your own with prep books and a study schedule. Remember to block your SAT prep time into your schedule like it’s a class or a sport – you have to put in the time to see a difference.
Finally, you can see if your school has an SAT prep class, study sessions, or other free resources to take advantage of. This can help you make time for SAT studying each week.
If you commit dedicated time to studying, and use the best resources, you are guaranteed to see an improvement in your score.
Even you, Jon Snow.
Learn more about average SAT scores by state to learn just how good or bad your score is.
So what’s a good SAT score? An amazing one? See our guide to the best SAT scores, based on which colleges you are aiming for.
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:
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Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.