Interpreting SAT Scores

Help your students learn how to interpret their SAT score report and find out what the numbers mean. To view scores, students can sign in to their online score report.

SAT Score Structure

  • Total SAT score: 400–1600
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section: 200–800
  • Math Section: 200–800
  • SAT Essay: Three scores ranging from 2–8
SAT Score Reported Details Score Range
Total score Sum of the 2 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 (3) Reading, Analysis, and Writing. 2–8
Cross-test scores (2) Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. Based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests.

These scores show how well you use your skills to analyze texts and solve problems in these subject areas.
Subscores (7) Reading and Writing and Language: Command of Evidence and Words in Context. Writing and Language: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. Math: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. 1–15

Putting Scores into Perspective

Score reports provide substantial feedback. Mean scores, percentiles, and benchmarks can help your students put their scores in perspective. Subscores and cross-test scores can help identify strengths and weaknesses and see what skills need more practice. However, score reports won't reveal if students passed because there's no such thing as a passing score.

What the Numbers Mean

Score ranges, mean (average) scores, benchmarks, and percentiles can be used to see if your students are on track for college readiness.

Score Ranges

Score ranges show how much a student's score might change with repeated testing, assuming their skill level remains the same.

Usually, section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math fall in a range of roughly 30 to 40 points above or below their true ability. Colleges know this, and they receive the score ranges along with scores to consider that single snapshot in context.

Mean (Average) Scores

Score reports show you the mean, or average, scores earned by typical U.S. test takers per grade. Unless a score is much lower than average, your students are developing the kinds of reading, writing and language, and math skills they'll need in college.

College and Career Readiness Benchmarks

The SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmarks reflect benchmark scores for both Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math sections. Students whose scores meet each section's benchmarks are considered college and career ready. That means if a score is at or above the benchmark, they're on track to be ready for college after high school.

Students can use the detailed feedback in their online score report or speak with a school counselor about their scores to see which skills need the most improvement.

Percentile Ranks

A percentile rank is a number between 1 and 99 that shows how your students scored compared to other students. It represents the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below their score. For example, a test taker in the 57th percentile scored higher than or equal to 57% of test takers.

You'll see two percentiles:

  1. The Nationally Representative Sample percentile compares your students' scores to the scores of typical 11th- and 12th-grade U.S. students.
  2. The User Percentile compares their scores to the actual scores of recent graduates who took the SAT during high school.

Retaking the SAT Takes Practice

As you and your students learn more about scores, let them know that many students take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year. Students usually do better the second time.

Inform your students that they can use their SAT scores to get free practice recommendations and a personalized study plan by linking their College Board and Khan Academy® accounts.




Learn how benchmarks work together to help students and educators assess student progress toward college readiness from year to year.