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How to Read Your SAT Score Report

Your SAT Score Report has a lot of useful information, but understanding what each score means and how they translate into actionable items to aid your college prep can be difficult. Our team of test prep experts has put together the following SAT Score Report guide to help families better understand their students’ SAT scores and how they can use these results to make informed decisions on how to proceed with test prep.

Reported Scores

First, it’s important to understand the different scores that you will receive on your Score Report. Those scores include:

  • Total Score (1) – The sum of the two Section Scores. This score ranges from 400 to 1600.
  • Section Scores (2) – Range from 200 to 800 and are given for the Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Sections.
  • Test Scores (3) – Provided for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math and range from 10 to 40.
  • Cross-Test Scores (2) – Ranging from 10 to 40, these score provide insight in Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science.
  • Subscores (7) – These seven scores range 1 to 15 in the following categories: Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.

Vertical Scale Score

The CollegeBoard has aligned PSAT 8/9, PSAT/NMSQT, and SAT scores, by creating a vertical score scale that offers insight in to future performance and college readiness. This new score structure provides more comparative scores across the entire suite of SAT Assessments. The vertical scale scoring system helps students to monitor growth as they progress through high school. Scores are also aligned with grade level benchmarks to better indicate areas where students need improvement.

SAT vertical scale score

Your Score Report

By logging-in to your CollegeBoard account, you’ll have access to your Total Score and Section Scores, as well as score ranges, mean (average) scores, benchmarks, and percentiles that can all be used to see if you’re college ready. The Total Score is the sum of the two Section Scores and ranges 400 to 1600. Section Scores range 200 to 800 and are given for Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing. The home screen will show your most recent scores; click View Details to access additional information on the Report Details tab.

Test Scores

Once you click View Details, you will see scores for each of the three Tests on the SAT: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. These Tests make up the two Sections of the SAT: The Evidence-based Reading and Writing Section score is a combination of the Reading Test score and the Writing and Language Test score and the Math Section score is calculated based on the Math Test score (including both no-calculator and calculator portions). Each Test Score is based on a 10-40 point scale and is color-coded to show areas of strength and weaknesses. Scores reported in green meet or exceed the benchmark, scores in yellow are approaching the benchmark, and scores in red indicate areas where you need to strengthen skills to reach the benchmark.

SAT Test Scores

Cross-Test Scores

Since there are no specific Science, History, or Social Studies tests on the SAT, the College Board provides a Cross-Test Score based on questions throughout the exam that are designated to evaluate your skills in Science and History/Social Studies. Cross-Test Scores are reported on a 10-40 scale, and will give you a similar scaling comparable to the other Test Scores.

SAT Cross Test Scores


Next, you’ll see multiple subscores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math, all ranging from 1 to 15 points. Subscores provide more detail about student achievement, and are designed to provide additional insight on which types of questions within specific tests where students are over- or under-performing. Students should use this information to better focus their test prep by identifying weaknesses within certain concepts. For example, if a student’s Math score is being driven down by poor performance on Heart of Algebra questions, students can focus their prep on those particular problems as they prepare for the next time they sit for the SAT. Once again, scores are color-coded to show areas of strength and weaknesses. Here’s a list of the different Subscores and the Tests from which they come:

  • Reading Test, Writing and Language Test
    • Command of Evidence
    • Words in Context
  • Writing and Language Test
    • Expression of Ideas
    • Standard English Conventions
  • Math Test
    • Heart of Algebra
    • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
    • Passport to Advanced Math

SAT Subscores

Essay Details

If you took the essay, the scores for Reading, Writing, and Analysis will be displayed on the Essay Details tab. Each score is on a two to eight scale.

Types of Scores

In addition to the above scores, your Skills Insights will provide score ranges, mean (average) scores, benchmarks, and percentiles which you can use to see how your scores compare to your peers and if you’re ready for college. A norm group, also called a reference population, is the group whose data your results are compared to.

Score Ranges

Score ranges show how much your score might change with repeated testing, assuming that your skill level remains the same. Typically, section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math fall in a range of 30 to 40 points above or below your true ability, so colleges receive the score ranges along with your scores to provide context.

Mean Scores

Your score report will also show you the mean, or average, scores earned by typical U.S. test-takers in your grade, as well as in other grades for comparison. These mean scores will allow you to comparatively evaluate your performance.


You’ll also see a benchmark score for each section, which represents college readiness. Scores that fall above the benchmark indicate that you’re on track to be ready for college when you graduate high school.

Percentile Ranks

You’ll receive two percentile ranks between 1 and 99 that show how you scored compared to other students. For the Total Score and Section Score, percentile ranks are provided based on two different reference populations. Each reference population represents the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below your score. The User Percentile – National compares your score to the scores of typical U.S. college-bound juniors and seniors who would typically take the SAT, whereas the Nationally Representative Sample percentile compares your score to the scores of a larger population of typical junior and senior U.S. Students — not just those who would be test takers.

Next Steps

Once you have an idea of what your scores mean, you can use this information to guide additional test prep and practice. Based on their performance on the exam, most students will choose to pursue some form of test prep before retaking the SAT in order to improve scores.

At IvyWise, we have a team of expert tutors who can help students reach their goal scores by evaluating performance, identifying weaknesses, and developing a test prep plan to ensure students make the most of their time between exams. To learn more about IvyWise’s test prep services, contact us today.


Want to see how your SAT score compares to the ACT? Check out our SAT score conversion chart here.

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