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How to Read SAT Exam Scores

by Elizabeth Sullivan, Demand Media

    The College Board SAT exams can become a huge part of your life during your junior and senior years of high school. Colleges and universities use SAT scores to compare students and to filter the huge pools of applications they get every year. Getting a good score on the SAT tests can make the difference between attending your first choice school and moving farther down your list. The SAT score report is simple, once you understand its parts.

    Items you will need

    • SAT score report
    • Reference book of colleges
    Step 1

    Calculate your composite score. Add up the three sub-scores -- Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing. Each of these is a scaled score between 200 and 800, so the lowest possible composite score is 600 points and the highest possible composite is 2400, which is a perfect score.

    Step 2

    Look at the score for each of the three sections. The average scaled score for each of these three parts, Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics, is close to 500, but varies slightly with each test date. According to FairTest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, in 2010, the average SAT sub-test scores were 501 in Reading, 510 in Math and 492 in Writing. Compare these scores to the score requirements of the colleges you are interested in.

    Step 3

    Examine the sub-score breakdown for the Writing section. It is made up of two parts. The multiple choice questions have a scaled score between 20 and 80 and make up about 70 percent of the Writing score. The essay has a score between 2 and 12 and makes up the other 30 percent of the Writing score.

    Step 4

    Look at the score range provided for each of the sub-tests. Because your SAT score varies somewhat from test-to-test, depending on many factors, the score range estimates the lowest and highest SAT scores you would likely get if you took it multiple times. This information is shared with colleges as well.

    Step 5

    Look at your percentile score for each sub-test. This number compares your performance to other students who took the SAT on the same date. A score in the 50th percentile means that 50 percent of students received the same or a lower score than you.

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    Tips

    • The College Board, which administers and scores the SAT, allows you to choose the SAT test dates for which you want schools to see your scores.
    • Some colleges do not require SAT scores for admissions. Consult college websites or your school's guidance office for information on school testing requirements.

    Warning

    • Your SAT scores is available between two to three weeks after the test. Consider college admissions deadlines when you choose which date to take the SAT.

    About the Author

    Elizabeth Sullivan has been teaching special education since 2001, specializing in classroom management and behavior. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Education in special education from Lesley University.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

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