You’ve taken the SAT, and now the wait begins to get your SAT scores! But once you get them back, do you know how they’re calculated or how you stand compared to the national average? 

This blog walks through the details of how SAT scores are calculated, what average SAT scores are, and how to send them to colleges. 

How is the SAT scored? 

Your SAT score is a total score that is calculated based on two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. (If you took the SAT Essay, that score is calculated separately.) Scores are calculated based on your correct answers. That means you aren’t penalized for incorrect answers, so there’s no advantage to leaving any question blank.

The range for the total SAT score is 400-1600 with the ranges for each section score (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math) from 200–800.


Each of the sections (Reading, Writing and Language, and Math) all have multiple subscores to help students understand their scores in more depth. Each of the subscores range from 1-15.  These scores are generally for the student’s direct use – they are rarely, if ever, used by colleges for scholarship awarding.

There are two subscores for the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test:

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context

The Writing and Language test has two addition subscores: 

  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions

The Math Test breaks questions into three subscores: 

  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math

Cross Test Scores

The SAT also gives students two cross-test scores: Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. These scores are calculated based on questions across the sections in these subject areas and range from 10-40. These subscores also are more for the student’s benefit than for report data for colleges.

When do SAT scores come out?

The scores for the multiple-choice sections of the SAT are typically returned within 2-3 weeks of your test date. There is a schedule on The College Board website that lists out the dates scores will come out for each of the individual test dates. 

If you took the SAT essay (which won’t be offered after June 2021), those scores will usually arrive a week after your other test scores. Your score reports are sent to the colleges you selected within ten days. 

What is the SAT score range? 

SAT scores range from 400 to 1600. The SAT reported the percentage of students who scored in each score range in 2020. The highest percentage of students scored in the range of 1000-1190 and only 7% of the over two million students who took the test scored in the top range of 1400-1600. 

Only a small percentage (less than seven thousand) of students scored between 400-590.

SAT score range

What is the highest SAT score? 

The highest score is 1600. While the College Board doesn’t report on the number of students who receive a perfect SAT score, most believe it’s around a fraction of 1% each year. In past years, some reported that about one in 3,400 SAT-takers nationwide gets a perfect score.

If that number is still correct, it would mean that approximately 650 students would have achieved a perfect SAT score this last year. 

What is the average SAT score? 

According to The College Board, the average SAT score in 2020 was 1051. This average score is down eight points compared to the average score in 2019 which was 1059.

  • 2020 Average: 1051
  • 2019 Average: 1059
  • 2018 Average: 1068
  • 2017 Average: 1060

The number of students who took the SAT has also increased over the last few years:

  • 2020: almost 2.2 million test-takers
  • 2019: 2.2 million test-takers
  • 2018: 2.1 million test-takers
  • 2017:  1.7 million test-takers

How to send SAT scores to colleges

Students can send up to four score reports to colleges for free. The schools to which scores are sent are typically selected when you register for the test, but more can also be added up to nine days after the test date (but still before you receive your scores). After that, or if you need to send more than four score reports, you can send additional ones for $12 per report. 

Students with SAT fee waivers can send as many score reports as they need—for free. If you think you may be eligible for a fee waiver, work with your school counselor to submit the request. 

How do you increase your SAT score?

The right preparation and lots of practice are two ways you can work to increase your SAT score! Look for SAT prep that provides strategies as you take the test—along with lots of practice! Not all test prep is created equal, so make sure you do your research, read reviews, and look past flashy guarantees. 

OnToCollege SAT Prep is a fun, engaging video course that teaches you strategies for the test and also provides practice materials and detailed solution videos so you can constantly improve and learn from your mistakes!

And don’t forget to take the SAT multiple times—at least twice your junior year and twice your senior year. 

Knowing more about your SAT scores can help you see opportunities to improve your score. With the right preparation, you can increase your score and graduate college with minimal debt! 

Want to increase your SAT score? Take a look at our SAT prep courses or try the SAT free trial.