By Jasmin Figueroa

The SAT and ACT scoring systems may seem a little confusing and elusive to the general public. Most students try to understand their scores but at the end of the day, there might still be lingering questions. We wanted to create a reference for you to help you understand your test scores and have a general breakdown of what these scores might mean. 

Interpreting SAT Reports 

The SAT is scored on a 1600-point scale and is the sum of 2 section scores: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Each section has the ability to be from 200-280 points and is based first on the 2 reading and writing test sections on the SAT. The Math section has a calculator portion and a non-calculator portion, which are graded individually. The Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section of the SAT is graded based off of both the Reading and Writing & Language tests.

Each of these sections is scored, and an additional score will be given on a scale from 10-40. This specific score comes from Writing & Language, and Math. The SAT also has an additional SAT essay that is optional. This specific portion of the test has an essay that is graded into 3 separate scores. Each out of 8 points for reading, analysis, and writing which don’t impact your overall score of the SAT, but are usually taken by students who take the SAT.

Cross Test and Subscores

The SAT score report also has cross-test and subscores that specifically highlight the scores that you received in each of the subsections within the exam. An example of this would be receiving a subscore for the History/Social Studies section in the Reading and Writing & Language part of the SAT where there is a historical passage that asks you questions related to history. This score is on a scale of 10-40 and determines how accurate you are at answering those specific questions.

Your score report will also include a total of 7 subscores broken down and can range from 1-15. There are 4 subscores for the Reading and 3 subscores for the Math, each measuring a specific area within the subject. You might be wondering why so many different scores for one standardized test? Here’s why, the method is by breaking down each of these scores, colleges are able to see how well you perform in certain subjects. If you were applying as an engineering major, then the math section score could be more important than the English.

What Your SAT Score Tells You 

It’s desirable to want to know whether your SAT score is worthy of competing with other applicants. As well as determining if it meets the standards of most schools you are applying to. The truth is, it’s smarter to not compare scores with those around you and focus on achieving your personal college goals. A competitive SAT score is typically seen as being on the upper end of the 25th-75th percentile. This can range depending on the university but what this means is that your score should range on about the 25-75 range. This being said, for full confidence in your score, it is encouraged that you score above the 75th percentile because it will make you a competitive applicant. 

Taking the SAT More Than Once

Remember that the SAT does not have to be a one-time thing. There is always the opportunity to take it more than once and receive a better score. In fact, if you aren’t happy with your first score, it is highly encouraged that you take it again so that you can increase your chances of getting into the colleges you are applying to. The SAT offers students to send in their highest scores to be reviewed by college admission officers. Don’t add extra pressure on yourself when taking the exam, know that you can take it again if need be, but still perform your best because it shows your standardized testing skills. 

Interpreting ACT Reports 

The ACT has a score known as the composite score that gives you a range of 1-36 for each of the 4 tests within the exam and takes the average of those 4 scores. This score is rounded to the nearest whole number from each of the sections. Each of the categories includes the total number of questions, as well as the percentage of questions you got correct. 

Reporting Categories and Questions 

As mentioned, the ACT is divided into four parts: Reading, Math, English, and Science. Each containing its own subcategories like geometry for math and interpretation of data for science. Your scores will let you know which of those questions you received correctly and how many of those questions were given. College administration officers will look at these numbers and depending on the major you choose, they could evaluate further on one specific subject within the exam. 

What Else Do the Scores Tell?

The ACT subject-area tests provide Benchmark scores that represent the level at which students should be placed in the institution they decide to attend. It is a gauge of how well you would do in introductory courses or more advanced courses.  These scores are to encourage you to go at your own pace and attempt to set you up for success rather than struggling during your first year of college courses. Of course, these scores are to be taken into consideration but are not a set standard of how well of a student you are. The classes you pick are ultimately up to you to choose and decide how much of a load you are able to do.

Taking the ACT More Than Once

You can take ACT more than once. This is again to give you multiple chances of improving your score. If you are not happy with your score, then it is highly encouraged to take the exam again and send the highest score to the colleges you plan to apply to. Know that wanting to receive a better score on the ACT is a good way of letting colleges know you are desiring improvement and value the opportunity of increasing your competitiveness for your application.

If you still have questions about the SAT/ACT scores or your own scores, feel free to reach out to us. Our experts know how to read your score report and find out where you might need improvement. You can contact us at 858-617-8615 or email us at