How to Score . . . the Writing Section
How to Score . . . the Writing Section
The best score you can get on the Writing section is a scaled score of 800. As with the Math and Critical Reading sections, this scaled score is derived by taking a raw score and placing it into a scoring curve. But that’s where the similarities end.
In addition to the scaled 200–800 score, you’ll receive two subscores: one for the multiple choice that is graded on a scale of 20 to 80, and another for the essay that is graded on a scale of 2 to 12.
The Multiple-Choice Raw Score and Subscore
The multiple-choice raw score is calculated just as you would expect. You get one point for each right answer, zero points for each answer left blank, and there’s the 1/4 point “guessing penalty” for each wrong answer. The guessing penalty really should be called a “wrong-answer penalty.” The SAT does not penalize you for making educated guesses. An educated guess is a guess you make after eliminating at least one wrong answer choice. The SAT does penalize you for totally random guessing. Your multiple-choice raw score in equation form looks like this:
This raw score is then used in two ways: (1) It’s combined with your essay raw score to calculate your overall scaled score for the Writing section; and (2) it’s used to calculate your scaled subscore for the multiple-choice section. Since there are 49 total multiple-choice Writing questions, the highest possible multiple-choice raw score is 49.
The Essay Raw Score and Subscore
The raw score and subscore for the Essay are the same thing. That makes it simple. Here’s how it works. Two human graders grade your essay. Each one gives your essay a grade between 1–6 (with 1 being the worst). They then combine the two grades so your essay as a whole receives a score anywhere between 2 and 12.
The Overall Scaled Writing Score
The overall Writing score, which ranges between 200 and 800, is determined by taking your raw scores for the multiple-choice section and the essay and combining them so that the essay counts for about 30 percent of your total and the multiple-choice questions account for 70 percent. To be perfectly honest, it’s not worth anyone’s time to get into the complicated calculations used to combine the multiple-choice writing raw score and the essay score into an overall raw score. Instead, at the end of every practice test, we provide a conversion table that will allow you to easily see your Writing scaled score. If you’d like to take a peek at one of these pages right now, turn to page 386.
Indisputable Fact: 30% Is Not 100%
Despite all the panic and pandemonium about it, the new SAT essay counts for only 30 percent of your Writing score. That means it’s worth a bit less than 10 percent of the entire SAT. A lot of people (and test-prep courses) will probably spend all their time fixated on the Essay section. But the cold, hard, factual stats prove that spending a disproportionate amount of time fixated on the essay is not the best way to structure your SAT studying time. Since the multiple-choice questions count toward more than half your writing score, and since they’re easier to practice and predict, you should spend at least as much time preparing for those as you do for the essay.
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