


Know the Score
This heading sounds like the title of a lame testprep
book. But you do need to know how the questions you get right and
wrong impact your overall SAT score. Let’s say you take the new
SAT. You get some questions right and some questions wrong, and then
you end up with some oddlooking score like 2150. How did you get
from there to here? Through a twostep process. First, the SAT calculates
what’s called the raw score. Then, based on everyone’s
results, the scorers work out a curve, feed your raw score into
a computer, and out pops your scaled score. Here’s
some more detail on what each score means and how the raw and scaled
scores relate to each other.
The Raw Score
There are only three ways to answer every multiplechoice
question on the SAT. Your raw score is affected differently depending
on which of the following three things you do on each question:
 Get it right: You get 1 raw point.
 Get it wrong: You lose .25 of a point.
 Leave it blank: You get 0 points.
That means your raw score for each section of
the test equals the number of questions you answer correctly minus
the one quarter of the questions you answer incorrectly.
These are the fundamentals of the raw score. There are,
however, a few quirks and exceptions to the raw score calculation
for each of the three major sections on the SAT. We cover those
quirks in the chapters dedicated to each major section: Writing,
Critical Reading, and Math.
The Scaled Score
The scaled score takes your raw score and converts it
into 200 to 800 points for each section. Since the SAT has three
sections of equal weight, 2400 is the perfect scaled score on the
SAT.
The scaled score follows a curve like the standard
bell curve, but it is shifted a little so that more students get
800s than get 200s. The average score on the three sections of the test
is a little over 500. So the average score on the SAT is about
1520.
The practice tests at the end of this book come with a
chart that shows you how to translate your raw score into a scaled
score.
SAT Scores and College Admissions
Time for a little perspective. Your SAT scores are important,
but they’re not the only part of your application
that a college considers. Colleges also look at high school grades,
course load, extracurricular activities, application essays, letters
of recommendation, SAT II tests, and Advanced Placement tests. If
you’ve got stellar grades, excellent extracurriculars, and letters
of recommendation that compare your leadership abilities to George
Washington’s, mediocre SAT scores won’t destroy your chances of
acceptance. Similarly, excellent SAT scores won’t secure
you a spot in a topranked school if you took
easy classes, wrote lame application essays, and didn’t participate
in any extracurricular activities. A college is more likely to admit
an exciting, vibrant, wellrounded student with lots of extracurriculars
than a kid who scored 50 points higher on the SAT but did no extracurriculars
and shows no leadership skills.
To sum up, there’s no question that an SAT score above
a college’s average will help your chances, while belowaverage
scores will hurt. This is especially true at larger schools, where
admissions committees have less time to devote to each individual
application. Big schools are more likely to use SAT scores as a
cutoff to whittle down their applicant pool before taking a good
hard look at entire applications.
