In March of 2016, the College Board rolled out the new SAT. At the time, these changes to the SAT were the most significant since 2005, when the College Board introduced a writing section and increased the scoring range from 1600 points to 2400 points.
Initially, many students, teachers, tutors, and guidance counselors were anxious to see what the changes would mean. In fact, changes to the scoring structure and format of the new test were of particular concern, as many students did not know exactly how their performance would be assessed.
Now, almost a whole year later, we have a much better understanding of the new SAT and how it is scored. Specifically, we now know the new scoring scale and we know that the actual scoring process is not much different than it was for the older version of the SAT.
To learn more about the format, scoring scale, and scoring process for the new SAT, read on.
What is the format of the New SAT?
At first glance, the new SAT appears significantly different from the SAT administered prior to March 2016. It contains two primary test sections, and one additional optional test section, as opposed to the three required sections on the previous version of the test.
One of the primary tests is the Math Test. This is actually comprised of two smaller test sections: the Math Test With Calculator and the Math Test – No Calculator.
The other primary test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. This is also comprised of two smaller test sections: the Critical Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.
The final component of the new exam, the SAT Essay, is now optional.
How are tests scored?
When you are finished taking the SAT, the test supervisor will collect and count the test books to make sure all materials have been turned in before dismissing you from the testing room. This is to help ensure the security of testing materials.
All test materials are then put into a sealed envelope and sent to a scoring center. At the scoring center, SAT Essays are removed for separate scoring, while the remaining answer sheets are scanned by a machine that counts the number of correct answers bubbled in on each answer sheet.
Tests are scored based on the number of answers that you got correct. With the exception of the SAT Essay, all tests have multiple-choice or grid-in answers. This means that answer sheets can be quickly scanned to tally raw scores. Because there is no scoring penalty for wrong answers, your raw score is simply the number of correct answers that you achieved on each section.
Once your raw scores have been tallied, they are converted to scaled scores through a process called equating. Equating accounts for very slight differences in test difficulty and ensures that scores are consistent across different forms of the SAT.
The exact equation used to equate your raw SAT score to a scaled score varies slightly from one test to another, and is adjusted in small increments to reflect the difficulty of the test.
You can get a better idea of the exact process by reviewing the scoring procedure for official SAT practice tests prepared by the College Board. Check out the Raw Score Conversion Tables beginning on page seven of the packet Scoring Your SAT Practice Test #1.
What is the score range for the new SAT?
Scaled scores for each required SAT test range from 200-800. You receive one score from 200-800 for the Math test, which takes into account your performance on both the Math Test With Calculator and Math Test – No Calculator sections. You receive another score from 200-800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test, which takes into account your performance on both the Writing and Language Test and the Critical Reading Test.
Your total SAT score will always range from 400-1600 and is calculated simply by adding together the scores from your Math test and your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test.
The new, optional SAT Essay is scored differently, using a different scale, and it bears no weight on your total SAT score.
To learn more about SAT scores, read CollegeVine’s What Is a Good SAT Score?
How is the new SAT essay scored?
The optional essay cannot be scored by computer since its answers are not multiple-choice or grid-in. Instead, each SAT essay is read by two qualified readers. The readers each assign a score from one to four in three different dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
If the scores assigned by the readers to any single dimension vary by more than one point, a scoring director will read the essay to resolve the discrepancy.
The points assigned in each dimension are then totaled, resulting in a score range for each dimension between two and eight. The dimension scores are added together to result in a total score ranging from 6-24.
You can read more about the SAT Essay scoring process and preview the scoring rubric on CollegeBoard’s SAT Essay Scoring site.
The New SAT Score Report presents a lot of data. The total score out of 1600 is the most important number to consider. Section scores, test scores, sub scores, and college readiness metrics all help identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. The more specific data on a Score Report can get overwhelming, however, it can be useful for making a prep plan.
The following infographic highlights the parts of the Score Report that parents and students should pay attention to as they make a plan for the future:
Total score is the big one. It’s your student’s score out of 1600 points, the sum of your scores on both Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, and Math. Colleges pay attention to total score and individual section scores for admissions. Remember, the essay score (see below) isn’t included in the total score.
If your student took both the old (pre-March 2016) SAT and the new SAT, you can compare scores with the College Board’s SAT Score Converter.
Test scores make up the two sections on the SAT. Reading, and Writing & Language make up the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Section, each one accounting for 400 out of the section’s 800 total points. The Math test makes up the entirety of the Math Section, accounting for all 800 points. Your focus should be on where each of your student’s test scores fall on the red, yellow, and green graph. Scores in the yellow and red represent areas in which a student has not yet demonstrated proficiency, a.k.a. areas to focus on for future improvement.
Subscores represent the specific test content within Reading, Writing, and Math. Subscores provide an in-depth look at your student’s performance and are especially helpful for making a test prep plan. For example, if the Heart of Algebra subscore falls in the red area your student should prioritize algebra for the next test. By focusing on the weak area of algebra, your student will significantly move the needle on his or her total score.
Percentile scores indicate what percentage of folks your student scored above. The College Board provides two percentiles. Neither are particularly important, but the SAT User Percentile gives you a look at how your student’s score relates to college-bound juniors and seniors.
The essay is broken down into three scores measuring reading, writing, and analytic proficiency respectively. Each score is measured on a scale between 2 and 8 points. Keep in mind that the essay is optional and doesn’t contribute to the total SAT score. Students should check with their target schools to determine if this section is important in each school’s admissions process.
So what’s next? After successfully interpreting the SAT Score Report, the next steps are to consider your score in relation to your target score, and make a plan for how to get there.