How To Read SAT Scores - The Complete Guide

Reading SAT scores
April 26, 2024
9 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Are you thinking of college and hearing more and more about the infamous “SATs”? This article covers everything you need to know about the ever-important SAT scores and how they affect your college application process.

Scribbling on paper in an empty, half-lit room where the clock is the only sound to be heard from a mile away is what may come to mind when thinking about the SAT. It can be pressure-inducing, but this is more than just some exam. SAT scores influence college admission, and learning how to read them is essential and beneficial.

How to Read Your SAT Score Report 

SAT scores are considered one of the most significant factors determining successful college admission. Understanding how to read SAT scores, including score ranges, mean scores, benchmarks, and percentile ranks, can help determine if you are ready to apply to college.

Here are the different scores that you will receive on your Score Report:

  • Total Score: Your SAT score is the sum of the two Section Scores. The score will range from 400 to 1600.
  • Section Scores: The ​​Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section's scores range from 200 to 800.
  • Test Scores: The test scores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math range from 10 to 40.
  • Cross-Test Scores: The cross-test scores range from 10 to 40, and provide insight in Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science.
  • Subscores: The subscores consist of seven scores ranging from one to 15 in these categories:
  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions
  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math.

You can also take a look at this example of a score report provided by College Board:

Source: College Board

This report shows the student’s score using the SAT scoring system, where it ranks amongst other scores nationally, what it is composed of, and how its breakdown looks within each section and subsection. This example report shows a student's SAT score of 1010 on March 13, 2021. 

This example is a breakdown of the SAT score report in a chart that separates the elements of SAT Summary of Scores and SAT Subject Test Scores into two categories. Full SAT Score Reports can be obtained online.

Score Ranges

Score ranges show how repeated testing can change your score, assuming the same skill level. Section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math typically fall in a range of 30 to 40 points above or below your actual ability, providing colleges with more context about your scores. 

These score ranges might be used when two or more students have the same score, and colleges must determine which students they would like to admit with limited space left.

Mean Scores

Mean scores allow colleges to evaluate your performance comparatively. This means that a score that you get on the SAT can be filtered out or into a list that an admissions officer could potentially make while looking for the highest scores. 

On the other hand, students can use mean scores to compare their scores to a mean score and see how they are doing compared to other students.


Benchmark scores represent college readiness. Scores above the benchmark are the ones that indicate readiness. 

An admissions officer can use benchmark scores to organize all scores to find certain information, such as filtering for scores that meet scholarship requirements. Knowing what benchmarks your school of choice may be using will be helpful to know what kind of score you need to achieve on your SAT to stand out.

Percentile Ranks

Percentile ranks are based on two reference populations, each representing the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below your score. Percentile ranks measure your rank compared to other students also taking SAT exams. 

For example, if a student scored in the 90th percentile, it means they scored higher than 90% of students. College and university admission officers take these percentiles into account.

About SAT Scores 

Your total SAT score, ranging from 400 to 1600, culminates the two Section Scores. The actual SAT score from 400 to 1600 comprises two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math, each ranging from 200 to 800. 

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score is derived from the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test, while the Math score is derived from only the Math Test. The possible highest and lowest scores you can achieve are 1600 and 400.

To find the specifics of your scores, access the online score report within your College Board account. This detailed breakdown not only showcases your achievements but also aids in identifying areas for improvement. SAT reading score levels are crucial in understanding your performance in this key section.

SAT Score Release Dates

Score release dates are the important dates that the College Board uses to distribute yearly SAT scores for all students. SAT Score release dates vary from year to year. Educators can download data files and run reports in the K-12 reporting portal within a week of each score release.

SAT Test Dates Score Release Date
March 9, 2024 March 22, 2024
May 4, 2024 May 17, 2024
June 1, 2024 June 14, 2024

Source: College Board

Before scheduling your exam, be sure to keep a close eye on these SAT test dates and deadlines

How the SAT Is Scored

It can be difficult to understand how SAT Exams are scored; two people can get two different total correct answers but end up with the same score. 

The SAT score combines the section scores based on the total questions answered correctly. The Reading Test comprises 52 questions, the Writing and Language Test comprises 44 questions, and the Math Test is always composed of 58 questions.

The raw scores of each of these tests are then converted into scaled scores that range from 10 to 40. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score is taken by multiplying the Reading Test and Writing and Language Test by ten and then adding those totals together. The Math score is taken by multiplying the Math Test score by 20. 

Your raw score will determine what your final score and percentile will look like.

Person using small green calculator

SAT Subscores

Subscores are more specific breakdowns of an overall SAT score. They show how a student performed in certain categories of both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test and the Math Test. In the latest version of SAT, seven subscores can be derived from the seven subsections found within the two sections:

EBRW subsections

  • Evidence of Ideas (24 questions)
  • Standard English (20 questions)
  • Command of Evidence (8 questions)
  • Words in Context (8 questions)

Math subsections

  • Heart of Algebra (19 questions)
  • Problem-Solving & Data Analysis (17 questions)
  • Advanced Math (16 questions)

The subscores of these subsections are scaled from 1 to 15. The subscores are intended to help students identify weak areas to improve on. Depending on the college or program, certain subscores might be given more importance than others. The amount of space a college has left might also affect the weight of subscores when determining admissions.

Cross-Test Scores

Cross-test scores are derived from more than one of the three tests. There are two cross-test scores: Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. 

Cross-test scores comprise 21 questions from the Reading test, six from the Writing and Language Test, and eight on the Math Test. The raw total from these tests is then converted to a scaled score ranging from 1 to 40.

How to Access Your SAT Score Report

Your SAT score report will be available approximately 14 days after you’ve completed the test. Once your score is ready to be viewed, you can access it through your College Board account. 

Here is how you can access your SAT score report:

  1. Log in to your College Board account to access your score report. Once signed in, your latest score will be displayed at the top of the page, followed by all your previous SAT and PSAT-related assessment scores.
  2. To see your detailed score report, click My Score Reports in the top-of-page navigation and choose a specific score report from the drop-down menu.

Overall, it’s pretty simple to access your SAT score online. Remember that although it can take 14 days to access this score, it can take longer for other reasons. Your SAT score is also valid forever and has no expiry date. So you won’t need to redo it in the future unless you want to. 

Who Will See Your SAT Score?

SAT scores can be viewed by any student who has an account on the College Board website. After a year, SAT scores are archived in College Board, but will still be viewable. Admissions officers (and even college professors) can also view your SAT scores if they ask to see them as part of the recruiting process. 

Female student using laptop

Sending SAT Scores To Colleges

Sending SAT scores to colleges is a process that is completed through the College Board website. By signing in to your College Board account, you can use the “Send scores” option, search for your desired college, and then add them to your list of recipients. 

Once you send your score, you will be given notice by the colleges that you applied for as to the status of your application. If you are admitted - congratulations! You will be able to accept your invitation through College Board as well.

If you've completed the SAT exam and find yourself in need of an SAT to ACT score conversion, check out our automatic SAT to ACT score converter.

Final Thoughts

If there is one thing most people understand about SAT scores, it is that they are important. Students can understandably feel a significant amount of pressure from having to do well in SAT exams. 

Since there is a possibility that certain career choices cannot have students avoiding taking the SAT exam, it is best to go into them with understanding and preparation. The SAT score will put a number on your college readiness, but the real indicator of how ready you are for your next phase in life is how you lead up to your next move.

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