Why Is The SAT Scored From 600 To 2400?

Download your copy of: Preparing for college in high school: A to-do list for 11th gradeThere are only a few times in your life when you’ll look at test scores and see a number like 1200 or 2000. Wait, wait—there’s only one time, really: that’s the SAT. Ninety-nine percent of the tests you take are scored as a fraction or a percentage, so what gives? What’s the point of putting SAT scores in this bizarro range of 600 to 2400?

There are a few reasons:

1. The Wrong Answer Penalty:  The SAT isn’t scored just by counting how many correct answers you got; your incorrect answers also count to your total score. That’s right—you’re punished for your mistakes. In theory, it’s better to leave an answer blank than it is to get it wrong. In practice, that ends up not really being the case; you’ll definitely want to guess if you’re stumped on the test, especially if you can rule out one of the wrong answer choices.

Anyway, the system is pretty simple. A wrong answer is worth -¼ of a right answer. So if you get 1 question right, then 4 wrong, the correct answer is completely canceled out. Now, imagine you had a really hard time on the test and got more than four times as many incorrect answers as you did correct answers. That would lead to a negative score, right? But that’s nonsense. Test scores don’t go negative. So the raw score, calculated by the number of correct and incorrect answers you got, has to be converted into a different scale, a scale that is only positive.

2. Standardization:  If you take the SAT in May, then again in October, there’s a chance you’ll see harder questions on one test or the other. It’s not a pattern, though—it’s not as though SAT Math is always harder in the spring (that’s a common myth, but it is just a myth). Instead, there are just normal variations in the test difficulty. It’s pretty much impossible to create two tests with the exact same difficulty level. So if you answer 70% of the questions correctly on SAT critical reading one month, but only 65% correctly four months later, it’s likely the second test was just a bit harder by chance. To deal with that, the College Board, who makes the SAT, scales scores according to how hard the test was—you could end up with the exact same score on the 200 to 800 scale for that section from both test dates.

3. Distinction: This is the biggest reason, really. A high score on your algebra final might be a 95% or even 100%. The average score in the class might be closer to 80%. But if the SAT were on a 1 to 100 scale, the average score would be more like 50 (the average SAT score is near 1500, which is halfway between the minimum 600 and the maximum 2400). It would give the wrong impression of how well you actually did on the test, because people would immediately associate that 50 with a 50%, a failing grade, which an average SAT score absolutely is not.

So taking the score out of the 1 to 100 scale is necessary. But why 600 to 2400? The truth is that it’s pretty arbitrary. If you’ve taken or studied the ACT, you know that test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The PSAT, meanwhile, is from 60 to 240. The GRE is scored from 260 to 340, the LSAT from 120 to 180, and the TOEFL paper test from 310 to 677 (just to screw with people, I’m sure). Any standardized test has to pick a range of numbers to use. Test makers don’t want the scores of their test to be easily confused with the scores of another test, so they choose number ranges that don’t look like those of other tests’.

Get calibrated: If you’re not sure how to read your score, then forget about the actual number: just look at the percentiles. That shows you what percentage of people you scored higher than. If you’re in the 60th percentile, for instance, you scored higher than 60% of the other SAT takers. That gives a much better picture of where you stand and exactly how good your score is.

Find out what you can do NOW to make applying to college go as smoothly as possible!

This post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep. You can learn more about Magoosh on our SAT blog.

Related Resources:

• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays
• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep
• College Application Tips for Parents

Interpreting Your SAT Scores [Infographic]

Getting ready for your SAT? Check out our podcast episode GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep!If you already took the SAT test, then the next challenge you have to face is enduring through the 3 long weeks it takes to receive your SAT score. But by the time you’ve made it through those drawn-out weeks and can finally log into your College Board account, you might find this to be the beginning of yet another challenge–how on earth am I supposed to understand what this score report means?

The good news: this is actually not as difficult as it may seem at first glance! You will just need to know a few key pieces of information to successfully dominate the SAT score report challenge, and our friends at Magoosh SAT have made this even easier with their new Interpreting Your SAT Scores infographic.

Take a look at that infographic below and learn–once and for all–how to understand your SAT score report:

Interpreting Your SAT Score

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Related Resources:

GMAT, GRE, SAT and All Things Test Prep
• Preparing for College in High School
• College Application Tips for Parents

The Test Prep Guru Speaks

In honor of Thanksgiving, we’ve decided to repost one of the podcast episodes that our listeners have been most grateful for.

If you didn’t hear it the first time or you just want to review, now is the perfect time to listen to our highly informative (and super-popular) interview with Bhavin Parikh, CEO and founder of Magoosh, the leading online test prep company for the SAT, GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL. 

Click here to listen to the show!

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

• Magoosh
• The Hansoo Lee Fellowship
• How to Put Your Best Foot Forward on Test Day
How to Get Accepted to B-School with a Low GMAT Score

Related Shows:

• The GMAT Score Preview and Application Boxes
• The GMAT, the GRE, and the Guy Who Knows them Well
• Which Graduate Schools Should You Apply To? 

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What You Need to Know for SAT Writing

Applying to college? Check out our College Admissions 101 Pages!

Get to know the SAT’s favorite grammar topics.

When the SAT was first changed to the format it’s in now, back in 2005, many schools didn’t pay any attention to the writing section; they only looked at students’ reading and math scores. Since then, there’s been a slow change, although not a universal one. It depends on what school you’re applying to, of course, but in general, gone are the days when you can just dismiss a third of the test completely.

Nowadays, it’s wise to brush up on your grammar before taking the test, because that’s what SAT writing is largely about. That’s not going to change with the 2016 redesign, either: a large chunk of the “reading and writing” section (a hybrid of today’s critical reading and writing sections) will be made up of the same types of questions that are on the SAT now. That means grammar, grammar, grammar.

Here are a few examples of the SAT’s favorite grammar topics:

1. Misplaced modifiers

2. Parallelism

3. Subject-verb agreement

4. Pronoun agreement

5. Verb tenses

6. Passive voice

That’s not exactly an ordered top six, but it’s roughly in order of importance—the test-makers love misplaced modifiers, for example—and it’s all stuff you should be familiar with before that fateful Saturday morning. If you don’t know what any one of those means, look it up!

But I’d be lying if I said grammar was the only important part. The SAT essay counts for nearly a third of your writing score, and grammar is only a piece of that puzzle. You can write an outstanding SAT essay with a number of grammar errors; it mostly just has to be long enough, include some high-level vocabulary, and have clear examples that relate back to the topic. What you learn when studying for the multiple choice part of the test can help, of course, but that knowledge alone won’t bring you to a perfect score. You’ve also got to be able to write like a madman—to put ideas down on paper fast, and work in some good examples while you’re at it. That takes practice and preparation outside the grammar. One of the most helpful things you can do is come up with a list of sources for your examples: stories from history, literature, or even pop culture that you know particularly well. Use old essay prompts to then practice coming up with examples from that pool of resources.

If you know the grammar rules, which are relatively easy to learn, given a bit of time, and you get yourself comfortable writing a 2-page, 25-minute essay with concrete examples, then you’re on your way to nailing SAT writing (time to focus on one of the other sections!).

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

magooshThis post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep. You can learn more about Magoosh on our SAT blog, and you can get $50 off 1 month of prep here!

Related Resources:

• Preparing for College in High School
• GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep (podcast)
• Writing an Interesting SAT Essay in 25 Minutes

Magoosh’s New eBook: Lightening the SAT Math Load

Magoosh_SAT MathFor some high school students, SAT math is the bane of their existence. You need to learn all these foreign strings of numbers and letters, and then magically recall them once you’re sitting in a hot room for hours with your entire future weighing down on your tired shoulders. Yeah – SAT math…not the funnest thing in the world.

Our friends at Magoosh SAT have released a new ebook, Magoosh’s SAT Formula eBook, loaded with all you need to know to lighten the load and ace the math section on the SATs. The book is free with interactive elements, and comes complete with all the math formulas, study strategies, time-saving tips, and practice problems you’ll need for the SAT.

Here’s an excerpt from the intro of the book:

While formulas can be really helpful on the SAT, there are very, very few that you absolutely need to have memorized to score well. That might come as a surprise, but it’s true, and it leads us to an important thought: understanding how and why a formula works is as useful as rote memorization. In fact, it’s much better. You’ll have a better sense of when to use a formula and be more accurate in executing it if you understand the math behind it. Let’s look at a concrete case to illustrate. The distance formula is a prime example. It’s ugly…


…but it actually represents a pretty simple idea. If you have any two points on a graph (on the coordinate plane), you can make a right triangle that connects those two points as the ends of the hypotenuse. That is, you draw a diagonal line between the two points, then a straight horizontal line and a straight vertical line going through each point to make the legs of the triangle.


Then, since you’re trying to find the length of the hypotenuse, you just use the Pythagorean theorem:


(Notice that a couple very basic formulas like this one do need to be memorized.) The lengths of those legs are a and b, and the length of the hypotenuse is c.

So let’s find the length of c:


And if you’re trying to find the length of the legs (the shorter sides), you just need to know the horizontal distance between the two points, [more math], and the vertical distance between the two points, [more math]. If you replace a and b with those values, voilà: you have the distance formula.

Check out the Book!

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