What is a Good SAT® Exam Score?

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SAT exam scores are important when you start down the college admissions path. Before taking that big exam step, it is important to know what type of score you will need to go from high school to your dream school. A great way of doing that is understanding how the scoring system works.

The SAT Scoring System

When you are looking for the score you will need, it's important to know how the system scores the SAT test. The SAT scores range from 200 to 800 for each of the two sections and a total score between 400 and 1600. The first section of the test is a Math section. The second part of the test is a Reading and Writing section (also known as Evidence-Based Reading and Writing or EBRW). As you can guess, the higher your score, the better your chances of getting into your dream school.

How the SAT Exam is Scored

Each SAT test is individually scanned through a grading machine to produce your score. The machine’s job is to add up correctly marked answers. Because the grading machine uses your bubbled marks to grade your SAT exam, your selected answers must be precise and complete. The scanned results are called your raw score.

What Is a Raw Score?

Your initial score is called a raw score, which is converted into a scaled score. The raw score is calculated by adding up your correctly marked answers, then converting them into 200 to 800 points for each section. The two raw scores for Math and Reading and Writing are combined for your total SAT score. It is important to know that correct answers produce your final score, so an educated guess will not negatively affect your total. Remember that each correct answer gives you a point towards your raw score.

How Is the SAT Essay Scored?

Two specially trained readers score the SAT essay. You should know that the people grading your essay have been trained to do so fairly and accurately. You are graded on your skills in reading, analysis, and writing. Each reader will give you a score between 2 and 8. These scores are combined to produce your score on the Essay portion of the exam.

National SAT Scores

The SAT scoring system also gives you a percentile ranking. What the percentile ranking tells you is how you scored compared to your peers. If you receive a 70th percentile score, then you scored better than 70% of those who took the test. According to the College Board, the average total score on the SAT in 2019 was 1059. The average total for the Math section is 528 and the EBRW section is 531.

What SAT Score Do I Need?

The score you need on the SAT is relative to the colleges to which you are applying. The score minimums needed for many schools are listed online. An average score needed for schools like Temple University that are moderately competitive is around 1230. Other schools that are extremely selective like Harvard and Princeton might require 1500 or better. There are other great schools such as Baylor and BYU who require an 1190 or higher score to get in. Make sure to consider where you plan on applying before setting your SAT goals.

Once you have met your goals, it is time to start sending your SAT scores to colleges. The most important thing to remember is that most colleges asking for an SAT score require that your results come through an official score report from the College Board. The College Board gives you two options for sending scores to colleges: you may have your scores sent to schools before your score report is released, or you may have your scores sent after your score report is released. You should know that there is a fee for sending scores before your score report is released.

Some schools will allow you to superscore your results by submitting only your highest scores for each section across multiple test dates. Learn more about applying to schools that superscore the SAT exam.

Setting Goals for the SAT

Determining your goal score is easy. The first thing to do is to make a chart. Start by making three columns on the chart. In the first column, write the names of the schools that interest you. Try to find at least 5-10 schools that you would be happy attending. More schools mean a better understanding of your needed score. This list should include all the schools that you have applied to.

Your second column should be the top 25th percentile. Label the last column the 75th percentile. When researching your schools, you will get both these numbers. This will give you an idea of the range of scores at the school. It will also tell you what the average is for students. When you look at the number at the 25th percentile, it means that 25% of students had that score or higher. The number under the 75th percentile means that 75% of students had that score and above.

Your next step is to look up the required scores for each school. You can do research on each school's website to find the most accurate information.

The last step is to write down the 25th and 75th percentile for each of your schools. After you have recorded all the numbers, look at them. You will want to find the school that has the largest number in the 75th percentile column. This number is going to be your goal for your SAT score. Now you know what score you need to set your goal at, and you have a reference guide. After taking your test, you can see which schools you qualify for by comparing it to your spreadsheet.

How to Get Your SAT Scores

Getting a hold of your SAT test results is easy and can be done online, by the phone, or by mail. You should expect your scores to be released two to three weeks after your test date. To get an official score report, you can log in to your College Board account. If you registered by mail, you will receive your scores automatically in the mail. To receive your scores by phone, you can call and pay a fee.

What If I Score Lower Than I Need?

If your heart is set on a school that you tested too low for, there are things you can do. You can take the SAT exam again. This time you will know what you need to work on. You can focus more on the things that you need to know and on things that were a little foggy before. You can invest more time into studying using a SAT practice resource like UWorld.

If you are just under your target, then look at your spreadsheet. There are still options on your spreadsheet to choose from. There is a good chance that you scored well enough for some of your schools.

Preparation is key to getting the score you need. There are steps to find out the goal you should set for yourself. Set that goal and post it in places such as your desk. This will encourage you to do what you must to reach that score you need.

Verifying Scores

If you would like to verify your scores, you may request access to score verification tools from the College Board. While the scoring process is designed to be as fair as possible and extremely accurate, some students qualify to have their performance explained and verified if their performance was not what they expected or if a substantial error was made while marking answers. You should know that some score verification options come with fees. If an error is found in the process of verifying your scores, the College Board will refund your fee, and your results may change.

Canceling Scores

If you are unhappy with your performance or experienced technological issues during your exam, you have until the Thursday after your testing date to cancel your scores. To submit a request to cancel your scores you may either download the form from the College Board website or request the form immediately after testing at your test location. You should know that your SAT test results cannot be recovered once you have requested to cancel your scores.

How Your SAT Score Impacts Your College Admissions

The impact of SAT test scores varies from school to school. Based on the applicant pool size and the level of competition to get in, different colleges have different uses for viewing your SAT test scores. Some schools use the scores in a screening process for admissions and others use them to collect academic data across a large applicant pool. SAT scores can also impact your scholarship opportunities. Overall, the SAT scores are used as a standardized way to evaluate your academic performance, alongside your GPA and class rankings.

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