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Decoding Your New SAT Scores

If you’ve already taken the new SAT this year, or plan to, you’re aware that the scoring for the test has changed significantly. The scores from the first administration of the test are finally out – as well as the concordance tables – and we have your guide to reading, interpreting, and converting your new SAT scores.

How to Read Your Score Report
The biggest change to the SAT scoring is the scale. No longer will the test be scored out of 2400 – the test will now use the 1600 scale – which used to be the standard before 2007. Previously, ¼ of a point was deducted for wrong answers, but now there’s no penalty for incorrect responses.

For those who are awaiting their scores, there are a few different components that will make up your score report. It’s not just the total score that you – and colleges – will receive. Students will receive 18 scores: The total score with a combination of section, test, cross test, subscore, and essay scores (should you take the optional essay).

Here is a breakdown of the different scores you will receive.

Score Number of Scores You Will Receive Score Breakdown Score Range
Total score 1 Sum of the two section scores. 400–1600
Section scores 2 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math 200–800
Test scores 3 Reading, Writing and Language, and Math 10–40
SAT Essay scores (If you take the essay portion of the exam) 3 Reading, Analysis, and Writing 2–8
Cross-test scores 2 Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. 10–40
Subscores 7 Reading and Writing and Language: Command of Evidence, Words in ContextWriting and Language: Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions

Math: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math

1–15

What Your SAT Scores Mean
So you have all these new scores in addition to your composite, but what do they mean? How can you use them to gauge your college admissions chances or determine which areas need improvement?

The College Board stresses that, when evaluating your scores, not to consider the number absolute. In fact, they propose that students look at the score as “a range that extends from a few points below to a few points above the score earned.” For example, “section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math fall in a range of roughly 30 to 40 points above or below your true ability.” Colleges are given this information, and use it when evaluating applicants’ test scores. This is important information to consider when determining whether or not to retake the SAT in order to improve and reach your goal score.

The new score report will also show you where your test scores, cross-test scores, and subscores compare to averages and benchmarks, and are color coded to show you where you’ve excelled and where you need improvement. Green scores meet or exceed the benchmarks, yellow scores approach the benchmark, and red scores are below the benchmarks and are areas where you need to improve.

The essay score is also a big change – with students who take the optional essay portion receiving three scores. The essay is actually graded by two readers who each award 1-4 points in three categories– reading, writing, and analysis – and these scores are added together and reported on a 2-8 scale. A score of 2-4 shows that you need to make vast improvements to that particular area, while scores of 6-8 show that you have a good command of those components. If you are applying to colleges that request the writing portion of the SAT, it’s important to understand how the essay is scored and what’s necessary in order to receive a high mark on that section.

SAT and ACT Score Conversions
One of the most pervasive questions students and parents have about the new SAT is how the new total scores compare to the old test and the ACT. The College Board recently released its concordance tables, which you can find here.

Colleges will be looking at concordance in order to determine the median scores students need in order be considered for admission. Since the current benchmarks are based on the old scores, they’ll need to convert them in order to compare to this year’s scores, and also compare scores between students since there will likely be a mix of old and new SAT scores in this year’s applicant pools.

For example, Harvard currently states that “The 25th percentile for admitted students on the SAT is about 2100; the 75th percentile is about 2350.” Students will need to convert those scores to the new SAT scale in order to determine where their scores fall in that range. Based on the new concordance, the 25th percentile will be about 1470 and the 75th percentile will be about 1580. Of course, standardized test scores alone won’t gain a student admission – even if you score a perfect 1600 – but failing to fall within that benchmark can send your application to the “no” pile quickly.

Interpreting your SAT scores is important in order to set realistic college admission goals and build a balanced list of best-fit colleges. Again, a great SAT or ACT score isn’t the ticket into your dream college, but it is an important factor that colleges consider when evaluating applications. If you would like assistance deciphering your score report, or guidance on creating a test prep plan, IvyWise tutors are here to help. Contact us today for more information on our tutoring and test prep services.