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How is the SAT scored?

If you’re a high school student or the parent of one, chances are you have talked about the SAT at some point. The SAT is a standardized test that measures a student’s readiness for college. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the SAT isn’t as hard as it sounds, as long as you prepare first.

Importance of the SAT

As of 2019, the SAT is comprised of five sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), Math (with calculator), and Essay. The optional essay portion takes an additional 50 minutes. Most students planning to go to college should probably take the SAT. A student’s SAT score is only one of many factors that colleges look at, with some colleges not requiring applicants to take the SAT at all. However, you’ll still want to make your application stand out, and a good SAT score will do that for you. Preparing for the SAT is just a simple matter of studying and practicing, so it won’t take much effort to get the score you want. In short: taking the SAT wouldn’t hurt.

SAT Scoring Basics

The final SAT score is a scaled score in the range of 400-1600, with a national average score of about 1060. The scaled score is derived from the raw score, which is the total amount of correct answers. That raw score is then converted to a scaled score, which is the final score that gets sent to colleges. This conversion process is called “equating.” Equating exists to counterbalance environmental factors that can unfairly affect a student’s performance on the test. If the test-taker opts to take the essay portion, they receive an additional essay rating out of a possible total of 8 points. The final essay rating is the sum of the essay’s scores in three categories: reading, analysis, and writing.

Tips to Get Your Best Score

There are a few ways to “hack” the SAT to get the best score possible. The very first step is to study, which is possible via SAT prep books or courses. The most important aspect of the studying step is not memorizing facts and figures, but learning the best strategies for the format of the SAT. The next step is to take a practice exam. You can do that either in the back of your prep book, during your prep course, or online. The SAT is a timed test. In some sections, questions get more difficult as you progress. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so it’s best to make a guess on questions that have you stumped. After you receive your practice score, you can identify your weakest categories and work on improving them. While it’s possible to improve your score, the degree of improvement depends on the time available and your own determination. A testing prep book and a few tutoring sessions might be enough if you’re looking to raise your score within 100 points. Any students who want drastic improvement might need more professional help, like from an SAT prep course.