understanding your SAT and ACT score reports

Posted : May 3, 2006
Last Updated : October 23, 2013
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understanding your SAT and ACT score reports

After taking the SAT and/or ACT, you should be able to access your online score reports within a month or two. Here is a guide to understanding the results of these standardized tests.

SAT

SAT Reasoning Test
SAT test results include separate scores for critical reading, math, and writing. In order to understand your test result, let's look at how the test is scored. First, your raw score is calculated:

  • Each correct answer: (+) 1 point
  • Each incorrect answer for a multiple-choice question: (-) 1/4 of a point
  • Each incorrect answer for a student-produced response: 0 points
  • Each omitted question: 0 points

This score is then converted to a scaled score by a statistical process called equating. The scaled score can range from 200 to 800. Two subscores will be given for the writing section: a multiple-choice subscore (20-80 scale) and an essay subscore (2-12 scale). Your essay is scored by two readers on a 1-6 scale, and then those two scores are combined to produce your score on the 2-12 scale. The multiple choice writing section counts for approximately 70% and the essay counts for approximately 30% of your total raw score, which is used to calculate your 200-to-800 writing section score.

SAT Subject Tests
The raw scores for SAT Subject Tests are calculated as:

  • Each correct answer: (+) 1 point
  • Each incorrect answer for a 5-choice question: (-) 1/4 of a point
  • Each incorrect answer for a 4-choice question: (-) 1/3 of a point
  • Each incorrect answer for a 3-choice question: (-) 1/2 of a point
  • Each omitted question: 0 points

Like the Reasoning Test, these scores are converted to scaled scores ranging from 200 to 800. Subject Test subscores are reported on a scale from 20 to 80.

Percentiles
Percentiles compare your scores to the scores of other students who took the test. Your percentile number (between 1 and 99) tells what percentage of students earned a lower score. For example, if your percentile number on a particular area is 85, then you scored better than 85% of the other students who took the test.

To understand the meaning behind your scores, be sure to check out My SAT Online Score Report.

ACT

ACT Multiple Choice Tests
The raw scores for ACT Subject Tests are calculated as:

  • Each correct answer: (+) 1 point
  • Each incorrect answer: 0 points (no penalty for answering a question wrong)
  • Each omitted question: 0 points

Your raw scores are then converted to scaled scores ranging from 1 to 36. From these scaled scores, your composite score is calculated, which is the average of your four Subject Test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. For example, if you got a 29 on the English test, a 31 on the math test, a 28 on the reading test, and a 32 on the science reasoning test, then your ACT Composite score would be 30. Your subscores are computed the same way, but on a 1 to 18 scale. These subscores give you more detailed information about your specific strengths and weaknesses in each of the subject areas covered on the test. Please note: the test score is not the sum of the subscores.

ACT Writing Test
The ACT writing test is optional. If you take the writing test, then your essay will be scored by two trained readers. Each reader will give a score ranging from 1 to 6. Your writing score will be the sum of those two scores. This score will range from 2 to 12 and will appear as a subscore of the English Subject Test. The combined English/writing score ranges from 1 to 36, giving a weight of 2/3 to the English test score and a weight of 1/3 to the writing subscore. Your report will also have comments from one of the readers to give you feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your essay.

National Ranks
The ACT gives rough estimates of your national ranks or percentiles (shown as dashed lines) in order to account for measurement error. The ranks show the percent of recent graduates who took the ACT and scored at or below each of your scores. Your ranks can give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses, so you can know in which area you may need to improve.

Please keep in mind when reviewing your score reports that colleges use more than your SAT/ACT scores when making admissions decisions. They also consider your high school record, essays, recommendations, interviews, involvement in extracurricular activities, etc. If you need further assistance in understanding your test results, contact your school counselor.


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