Wait, wait – not so fast! Let’s break this down a little. After all, understanding how a test is scored is absolutely vital to, well, getting the highest SAT score possible on it.
Furthermore, some of you may still be thinking: “Uh…isn’t it 2400?”
The Quick Answer
It used to be. Up until January 2016, the highest possible score on the SAT was 2400. As of March 2016, however, the highest possible score is now 1600, as it was for most of the twentieth century. So what gives? Were parents just protesting that they wanted to know how well they’d done in comparison to their kids?
Not exactly. Here’s what happened:
The Long Answer
On the “old” (pre-March 2016) SAT, there were three sections: reading, writing, and math. Each section had a possible score of between 200 and 800, for a total composite (overall) score of between 600 and 2400. However, that writing section presented a problem. A significant amount of the score was made up of the grade students received on an essay. Anecdotal evidences indicates that many colleges reasoned that because the essay grading was subjective, the writing score was not so useful for admissions—and so they’d ignore it, making the actual score they were looking at between 400 and 1600.
The College Board, the company that makes the SAT, caught on to this (they’re pretty bright over there). They began a redesign of the test that not only made the essay a score separate from the composite score, but also reworked the test in other areas to make it more relevant to what students were learning in school and to what they’d be learning in college.
Highest SAT Score: Section Scores
So! Now, the multiple-choice section of the test is broken down into two categories: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (which includes both reading passages and English grammar and usage questions), and Math. Within each of these sections, you can score between 200 and 800 (“section scores”), for a total score of 400 to 1600 (“total score”).
SAT Subscores and Cross-Test Scores
However, you’ll also receive subscores in the Reading/Writing section: in two separate categories (Reading/Writing & Language), you’ll receive a subscore out of a possible 40 points. This also holds true for Math, though that section doesn’t have subscores.
But wait, there’s more! Now, there’ll also be “cross-test” scores, also out of 40 points. These subscores, as their name implies, cross the tests and apply to Reading, Writing, and Math—basically, any question that has a Science, History, or Social Studies context.
New SAT Essay Score
Whew! After all that, the new essay scoring is pretty simple: three scores between 2-8 in the categories of Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The good news, though? It’s now optional, as it is on the ACT. Heads up, though: some colleges may continue to require it.
Head spinning? We don’t blame you! Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember this:
The highest SAT score on the new test is 1600. End of story.
P.S…Go here for updated information on SAT Score Ranges for the Top 100 Colleges and Universities!
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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. Follow Rachel on Twitter, or learn more about her writing here!
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