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SAT Essay Scores Explained

By March 11, 2019November 15th, 2023SAT

On January 19th, 2021, College Board announced that they will no longer administer the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. and that the Essay would be retired. Read our blog post to understand what this means in the near term and what the College Board has in store for students down the road.

Our articles on Subject Tests and the SAT Essay will remain on our site for reference purposes as colleges and students transition to a revised testing landscape.

SAT Essay scores for the new SAT are confusing to interpret, in part, because the College Board has intentionally given them little context. By combining College Board and student data, Compass has produced a way for students to judge essay performance, and we answer many of the common questions about the essay.

Why are there no percentiles for the essay on an SAT score report?

No percentiles or norms are provided in student reports. Even colleges do not receive any summary statistics. Given Compass’ concerns about the inaccuracy of essay scoring and the notable failures of the ACT on that front, the de-emphasis of norms would seem to be a good thing. The problem is that 10% of colleges are sticking with the SAT Essay as an admission requirement. While those colleges will not receive score distribution reports from the College Board, it is not difficult for them to construct their own statistics—officially or unofficially—based on thousands of applicants. Colleges can determine a “good score,” but students cannot. This asymmetry of information is harmful to students, as they are left to speculate how well they have performed and how their scores will be interpreted. Through our analysis, Compass hopes to provide students and parents more context for evaluating SAT Essay scores.

How has scoring changed? Is it still part of a student’s Total Score?

On the old SAT, the essay was a required component of the Writing section and made up approximately one-third of a student’s 200–800 score. The essay score itself was simply the sum (2–12) of two readers’ 1–6 scores. Readers were expected to grade holistically and not to focus on individual components of the writing. The SAT essay came under a great deal of criticism for being too loosely structured. Factual accuracy was not required; it was not that difficult to make pre-fabricated material fit the prompt; many colleges found the 2–12 essay scores of little use; and the conflation of the essay and “Writing” was, in some cases, blocking the use of the SAT Writing score—which included grammar and usage—entirely.

With the 2016 overhaul of the SAT came an attempt to make the essay more academically defensible while also making it optional (as the ACT essay had long been). The essay score is not a part of the 400–1600 score. Instead, a student opting to take the SAT Essay receives 2–8 scores in three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing. No equating or fancy lookup table is involved. The scores are simply the sum of two readers’ 1–4 ratings in each dimension. There is no official totaling or averaging of scores, although colleges may choose to do so.

Readers avoid extremes

What is almost universally true about grading of standardized test essays is that readers gravitate to the middle of the scale. The default instinct is to nudge a score above or below a perceived cutoff or midpoint rather than to evenly distribute scores. When the only options are 1, 2, 3, or 4, the consequence is predictable—readers give out a lot of 2s and 3s and very few 1s and 4s. In fact, our analysis shows that 80% of all reader scores are 2s or 3s. This, in turn, means that most of the dimension scores (the sum of the two readers) range from 4 to 6. Analysis scores are outliers. A third of readers give essays a 1 in Analysis. Below is the distribution of reader scores across all dimensions.

What is a good SAT Essay score?

By combining multiple data sources—including extensive College Board scoring information—Compass has estimated the mean and mode (most common) essay scores for students at various score levels. We also found that the reading and writing dimensions were similar, while analysis scores lagged by a point across all sub-groups. These figures should not be viewed as cutoffs for “good” scores. The loose correlation of essay score to Total Score and the high standard deviation of essay scores means that students at all levels see wide variation of scores. The average essay-taking student scores a 1,080 on the SAT and receives just under a 5/4/5.

We would advise students to use these results only as broad benchmarks. It would not be at all unusual to score a point below these means. Scores that are consistently 2 or more points below the means may be more of a concern.

College Board recently released essay results for the class of 2017, so score distributions are now available. From these, percentiles can also be calculated. We provide these figures with mixed feelings. On the one hand, percentile scores on such an imperfect measure can be highly misleading. On the other hand, we feel that students should understand the full workings of essay scores.

The role of luck

What is frustrating to many students on the SAT and ACT is that they can score 98th percentile in most areas and then get a “middling” score on the essay. This result is actually quite predictable. Whereas math and verbal scores are the result of dozens of objective questions, the essay is a single question graded subjectively. To replace statistical concepts with a colloquial one—far more “luck” is involved than on the multiple-choice sections. What text is used in the essay stimulus? How well will the student respond to the style and subject matter? Which of the hundreds of readers were assigned to grade the student’s essay? What other essays has the reader recently scored?

Even good writers run into the unpredictability involved and the fact that essay readers give so few high scores. A 5 means that the Readers A and B gave the essay a 2 and a 3, respectively. Which reader was “right?” If the essay had encountered two readers like Reader A, it would have received a 4. If the essay had been given two readers like Reader B, it would have received a 6. That swing makes a large difference if we judge scores exclusively by percentiles, but essay scores are simply too blurry to make such cut-and-dry distinctions. More than 80% of students receive one of three scores—4, 5, or 6 on the reading and writing dimensions and 3, 4, or 5 on analysis.

What do colleges expect?

It’s unlikely that many colleges will release a breakdown of essay scores for admitted students—especially since so few are requiring it. What we know from experience with the ACT, though, is that even at the most competitive schools in the country, the 25th–75th percentile scores of admitted students were 8–10 on the ACT’s old 2–12 score range. We expect that things will play out similarly for the SAT and that most students admitted to highly selective colleges will have domain scores in the 5–7 range (possibly closer to 4–6 for analysis). It’s even less likely for students to average a high score across all three areas than it is to obtain a single high mark. We estimate that only a fraction of a percent of students will average an 8—for example [8/8/8, 7/8/8, 8/7/8, or 8,8,7].

Update as of October 2017. The University of California system has published the 25th–75th percentile ranges for enrolled students. It has chosen to work with total scores. The highest ranges—including those at UCLA and Berkeley—are 17–20. Those scores are inline with our estimates above.

How will colleges use the domain scores?

Colleges have been given no guidance by College Board on how to use essay scores for admission. Will they sum the scores? Will they average them? Will they value certain areas over others? Chances are that if you are worrying too much about those questions, then you are likely losing sight of the bigger picture. We know of no cases where admission committees will make formulaic use of essay scores. The scores are a very small, very error-prone part of a student’s testing portfolio.

How low is too low?

Are 3s and 4s, then, low enough that an otherwise high-scoring student should retest? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. In general, it is a mistake to retest solely to improve an essay score unless a student is confident that the SAT Total Score can be maintained or improved. A student with a 1340 PSAT and 1280 SAT may feel that it is worthwhile to bring up low essay scores because she has previously shown that she can do better on the Evidence-based Reading and Writing and Math, as well. A student with a 1400 PSAT and 1540 SAT should think long and hard before committing to a retest. Admission results from the class of 2017 may give us some added insight into the use of SAT Essay scores.

Will colleges continue to require the SAT Essay?

For the class of 2017, Compass has prepared a list of the SAT Essay and ACT Writing policies for 360 of the top colleges. Several of the largest and most prestigious public university systems—California, Michigan, and Texas, for example, still require the essay, and a number of highly competitive private colleges do the same—for example, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.

The number of excellent colleges not requiring the SAT Essay, though, is long and getting longer. Compass expects even more colleges to drop the essay requirement for the classes of 2018 and 2019. Policies are typically finalized in late spring or during the summer.

Should I skip the essay entirely?

A common question regarding SAT scores is whether the whole mess can be avoided by skipping the essay. After all, if only about 10% of colleges are requiring the section, is it really that important? Despite serious misgivings about the test and the ways scores are interpreted, Compass still recommends that most students take the essay unless they are certain that they will not be applying to any of the colleges requiring or recommending it. Nationally, about 70% of students choose to take the essay on at least one SAT administration. When looking at higher scoring segments, that quickly rises to 85–90%. Almost all Compass students take the SAT Essay at least once to insure that they do not miss out on educational opportunities.

Should I prepare for the SAT Essay?

Most Compass students decide to do some preparation for the essay, because taking any part of a test “cold” can be an unpleasant experience, and students want to avoid feeling like a retake is necessary. In addition to practicing exercises and tests, most students can perform well enough on the SAT Essay after 1–2 hours of tutoring. Students taking a Compass practice SAT will also receive a scored essay. Students interested in essay writing tips for the SAT can refer to Compass blog posts on the difference between the ACT and SAT tasks and the use of first person on the essays.

Will I be able to see my essay?

Yes. ACT makes it difficult to obtain a copy of your Writing essay, but College Board includes it as part of your online report.

Will colleges have access to my essay? Even if they don’t require it?

Yes, colleges are provided with student essays. We know of very few circumstances where SAT Essay reading is regularly conducted. Colleges that do not require the SAT Essay fall into the “consider” and “do not consider” camps. Schools do not always list this policy on their website or in their application materials, so it is hard to have a comprehensive list. We recommend contacting colleges for more information. In general, the essay will have little to no impact at colleges that do not require or recommend it.

Is the SAT Essay a reason to take the ACT instead?

Almost all colleges that require the SAT Essay require Writing for ACT-takers. The essays are very different on the two tests, but neither can be said to be universally “easier” or “harder.” Compass recommends that the primary sections of the tests determine your planning. Compass’ content experts have also written a piece on how to attack the ACT essay.

Key links in this post:

ACT and SAT essay requirements
ACT Writing scores explained
Comparing ACT and SAT essay tasks
The use of first person in ACT and SAT essays
Understanding the “audience and purpose” of the ACT essay
Compass proctored practice testing for the ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests

Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.


  • Saruul says:

    Hey Art! I am an international student who is interested studying in US. I got 1100 on my SAT ( math-630, reading-470) + essay 5/3/5. And I am not able to take the test again. So, do you think there is a chance for me to get admitted? I am really interested in LMU( Loyola Marymount University).

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m not qualified to say whether or not you have a chance to be admitted. Your scores would be well below LMU’s average SAT scores (about 1250-1300 on the new SAT).

  • NS says:

    Hi! My son took his first SAT exam and got a 1020 (510M+510) score. On the essay, he scored 7-5-7. He had special provision for extended time due to his attention problems with ADHD. He will be taking the test again to improve his score and is working really hard to achieve a better score. Do you think colleges will hold it against him for taking the extra time? How likely is a student to improve SAT scores?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      College Board no longer flags non-standard administrations, so your son’s extra time is not an issue.

      Most repeat testers in your student’s score range see improvement. The size of that improvement is very much dependent on the work he is able to put in.

  • John says:

    Hello, I am a junior and just got my SAT score back. I, like everyone else in the comments, plan on applying to highly selective schools such as Princeton, Dartmouth, etc. I got 1580 (800 R/W, 780 Math) and essay 6/6/6. I have repeatedly read that the essay is good enough, so that’s not my question. I believe I am capable of an 800 math based on getting it on practice tests. The potential 1600 superscore is still not worth the risk of a significantly lower score, right? Also, is there any reason to take the ACT? I do plan on taking 2-3 subject tests at the end of junior year when my classes in those subjects are completed. Regarding AP tests, how important are they? I have 5’s in Comp sci principles (which is kind of worthless) and calc AB. I know that you specialize in testing, but any response you have is still valuable to me: my school starts high school in 10th grade, so I couldn’t take an AP classes until 10th, and even then I could only take 2. I am taking 4 (we also have block scheduling, so it was the most I could fit because 3 of them are 3 marking periods) this year, and will take about 6 next year. My GPA could only get up to around 4.55, assuming I get all A’s, which I have so far. Will colleges view this in context of my school? I know this is a lot of questions on multiple topics, so I appreciate the time it takes to respond. Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You should not repeat the SAT in a quest for 1600. No college will treat a 1600 differently than a 1580. Similarly, no reason to take the ACT — even a 36 would not improve your testing portfolio. You’ll need Subject Tests to help you there, and it sounds like you have them lined up.

      Your AP questions start to veer into college admission advising, which is not my specialty. In general, your grades in AP classes (or equivalently challenging courses at your high school) are more important than the test scores (although doing well is nice). Colleges understand that students can’t fit in an unlimited number of APs. Also, almost all colleges will immediately unweight your GPA. They prefer to look at everyone on the same 4.0 scale and then apply their own sense of the strength of the curriculum. [So, yes, they will often view this in the context of your school.]

  • John Legacy says:

    Hey Art Sawyer! I improved upon my SAT and went from a 1250 to a 1360 and I am applying to Rutgers New Brunswick. Apparently my essay score was low of a 5-3-5 on the 1360, but I scored a 6-3-6 on my 1250 one. What do you think I should do? Should I send both scores or just send the 1360? I already sent the 1360 but I am scared that they will look at the 1250 pretty badly ;/. My breakdown for 1250 was 590 Reading 660 Math. 1360 was 610 Reading 750 Math.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I believe that Rutgers superscores, so the 1250 would not necessarily cause a problem. That said, it doesn’t help your superscore, and the improvement in your essay score would not, in my opinion, merit sending the score.

  • MK says:

    Hi Art – I’m a H.S. senior who would like to attend a University of California. I took the SAT twice. First time I got 1290 (590 Reading / 700 Math) and Essay Scores 6/4/5. Second time I got 1310 (620 Reading / 690 Math) and Essay Scores 5/2/6.

    The UCs do not superscore and only ask me to list the highest scores at 1 sitting. I’m interested in pre-med/math fields.

    Which set of scores should I use for the application? The First with lower overall @ 1290 BUT higher Math 700 and higher Essay Analysis 4
    OR the Second one with higher overall @ 1310 BUT lower Math 690 and lower Essay Analysis 2.

    And should I have both sets of scores sent or just the one I listed on the application?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The UCs do not recognize Score Choice, so they ask that you send both sets of scores. I would report your higher score (1310) on the application.

  • MK says:

    Thank you so much for replying to my questions. I appreciate your help very much.

  • Dongyu says:

    I’m a junior in Texas, and I just received my December SAT scores today. I’m happy with my scores, except for my essay- I got a 1560(780+780) and a 6-6-6 essay. I’m normally a decent essay writer, and I thought I had written at least a 20 essay, but I guess I wasn’t used to the SAT essay scoring because this was my first SAT. I plan on applying to UT Austin, and being 6th percentile, I qualify for auto admission, but I want to major in Engineering and that might be hard to do. What do you think about my chances? I’m planning on taking the physics subject SAT, as well as math. I take a lot of AP classes and will have finished physics i and ii as well as calc AB and BC with AP stats. Also, what do you think my chances are for A&M College station for engineering? Any out of state colleges that might take me with scholarships? I love New England, particularly.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I consider myself an expert on admission testing, but not an expert on admission evaluation. I can’t tell you your chances at UT or A&M.I can tell you that your scores will help your chances and that your 6-6-6 will not be a problem. Many colleges provide academic scholarships, although some focus financial aid based on need. You should research the specific schools of interest.

  • Colin says:

    Hi Art!

    I just received my SAT score, and got a 1540 (740 ERBW and 800 M), with a 6/6/7 Essay. Is this score good enough to make me competitive at Ivy League schools (I’m thinking Harvard)? I’m aware that they care more about Extracurriculars and GPA, but what score gives me “enough” for the colleges to pass it off and move on to the rest of my application?


    • Art Sawyer says:

      I would generally recommend a 1540 move along from the SAT and focus on Subject Tests. Adding some strong Subject Test scores will do more for your testing portfolio than will going from a 1540 to a 1570.

  • David S says:

    Hi Art — Appreciate all of your blogs and have enjoyed reading our comments/responses to the many inquiries. My daughter has done extremely well from a testing standpoint, but seems to be right on the cusp of critical decisions (e.g, should she test again). Not a bad problem to have, but certainly heightens the intensity of teenage-parent discussions around the house. We live in PA, my daughter is a Junior, just took the SAT for the first time and scored 1490 (750 R&W, 740 Math), with 6-5-7 on essay. She is interested in some top schools all of which super-score, would you advice re-taking? Is there anything “magical” about raising score (or super-score) to 1500. She was crazy happy with her Math scores, but surprisingly disappointed in R&W. Seems like other than a self-centered marketing ego of hitting a nice round number that 1490 is basically the same as 1510 or 1520, especially if you super-score. On the other hand, if the only downside is a few extra bucks and some testing stress than why not give it a try? Based on some of your other blogs, she also finds herself right on the inflection point with NMSQ as her PSAT was 1460 with 219 index. (again, we are in PA). Still waiting for ACT scores as she took them recently as well. Obviously, we are awaiting those before making any decisions, but what would you advise in terms of retaking? Thanks much.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      In test preparation, we’re used to dealing with a good amount of intense teenage-parent discussions. 🙂 As you say, she has testing problems/decisions that most students would love to have. Her interpretation of my National Merit blog is spot on. I think it is a toss-up as to whether 219 will qualify this year. If it does, her SAT score is already sufficient as the “confirming” score required to continue as a Finalist.

      There is nothing magical about 1500. Rules of thumb have a way of a) being oversimplified and b) outlasting their usefulness. For many years, I heard that “you’re good with anything over 1500,” which roughly translated to the accurate statement that “adding another 20-30 points to a 1500+ score won’t make a difference.” It was often misinterpreted as setting 1500 as a specific hurdle (in my day — prior to the recentering of SAT scores in the 90s — we used to hear 1400 as the magic number). The new SAT scoring has given scores an inflationary boost the last couple of years. We are now seeing average scores creep well into the 1500s at the top schools.

      You don’t mention specific colleges. If she wants to keep all of her options open, I would recommend that she retest. She still has room — on her calendar and on the scale — for score growth. I do think that a 1550, for example, would look better for her. The beauty of superscoring means that she will be able to mix-and-match scores. Juniors are incredibly overloaded. She did well and probably would like to worry about something else. That’s natural. She has a number of options, though, including ones that won’t even impact her junior year. The July ACT and August SAT provide summer dates that don’t conflict with school calendars. She’ll have time to evaluate her about-to-be-here ACT score (a 34-36 would tempt me to call it quits), take a breather, and still have room for prep. [Oh, she should think about fitting in Subject Tests unless she knows that known of her top schools will expect them.]

      I hope that I haven’t confused matters. She is in great shape right now. I think she could be in even better shape come application time.

  • David S says:

    Thanks. Appreciate your feedback. Hoping the ACT scores make this moot. If not, agree a summer SAT may be the best option, especially since it would provide the time to prep (side note — she did not take any test prep courses, just did practice exams on her own). She has already taken BIO subject (780) and has plans for Math and English. As of now, she is interested in: Brown, Wesleyan, Colgate, Georgetown, Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon,…and few others. Would also like her to look at Dartmouth (her mom attended) and a few others, mainly small/medium sized liberal arts schools in the Northeast. We think her current scores won’t exclude her, but agree adding 50 points could certainly improve the application. Thanks again.

    • David says:

      Art — Again thanks for you insight. Update, earned a 34 composite on the ACT (10 writing) and based on previous comments (and other Blog about whether to use ACT/SAT) we are thinking to just use the ACT and focus on a few more subject tests. Recall, already took BIO (780) and has plans for English and Math to cover all bases. Don’t think her 1490 will be detrimental, but feel the ACT of 34 is “better.” What are your thoughts?

  • Leah says:

    Thanks so much for this helpful article.
    I would love some advice as I am a little stressed about test scores. I took ACT w/ Writing the summer before my junior year and received a composite score of 32 and Writing score of 8/12. I took the new Sat w/ Essay December of my Junior year and received a 1470 (790 R, 680 M) and essay score of 6/5/7. My dream school (and the most selective school to which I plan to apply) is Brown. I believe I could increase my ACT score to at least a 33 and possibly even a 34. (I’m from Alabama, by the way, so the ACT is stressed waaaay more than the SAT). I believe I could get my SAT score to a 1500 maximum. I am very skilled at reading and English, which is another reason I believe I would have less trouble raising my ACT score, which in my opinion is 3/4 reading skills as opposed to the SAT’s 1/2 reading skills. I plan to apply mostly to colleges in the Northeast and maybe a few in California.
    So, should I bother taking the SAT w/ Essay again or focus on improving my ACT so that I can send a really good ACT score along with my pretty good SAT score? If if matters, I have lots of EC’s, 4.0 GPA, AP classes, etc.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      We generally recommend focusing on your strongest test rather than trying to juggle both SAT and ACT. I would recommend doing your best to raise your ACT score. Good luck.

  • Leah says:

    I know that most colleges claim to view the SAT and ACT equally, but would you say that some actually still prefer the SAT? And if I get a very good ACT score, should I send this SAT score as well? I know this is a lot, but I’m also stressed about Subject Tests. Brown claims to recommend but not require 2 Subject Tests. I am worried about my options for Subject Tests based on my skills. It seems like STEM kids get all the Subjects. I’m not sure which tests I would take or how well I would score; so for schools that recommend but don’t require two Subject Tests, how much of a disadvantage do you think I would be at if I did not take any? Or if I took just one and scored well?

    Thanks so much for your time.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I edited your comment here to include only the additional questions (comments don’t post until we have a chance to review them, and the holidays slowed things down). Colleges no longer have a preference. You should submit your best score as determined by a concordance. It is not useful to send an SAT score if it is not as strong as your ACT score. I would recommend that you take practice Subject Tests (several books of actual tests are published by College Board). Keep in mind that you do not have to submit even actual Subject Test results if you are disappointed by your scores. I generally encourage students to give them a try. It’s not so much disadvantaging you if you don’t do them, it’s potentially missing out on an advantage. Yes, you can choose to submit a single Subject Test.

  • Marsha says:

    Hi! My son scored a 1560 (800M+760) as a junior (took the SAT) on Dec 2. His essay score came back today at 8-6-8. No other hooks, i.e., no varsity sports (no sports whatsoever), or instruments (yeah, no band), no minority classification, etc… He is very entrepreneurial and began running a business at 12… In addition, he will soon be a boy scout… Should we dare hoping for an Ivy League admission? Also, he is thinking about taking the ACT and the at least two subject SATs. Does he really have any chances to even hope to be considered on his current SAT/essay test results? BTW, he is also a National Merit Scholar based on his test scores. Your input is greatly appreciated.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It sounds like he has done just about everything right from a testing standpoint. I would recommend for Subject Tests and against the ACT (not enough potential benefit — practically speaking, none). He has an excellent Essay score. The most important factors will be his GPA and academic rigor. There is no reason to think that he doesn’t have a chance at Ivy League admission. I can assure you that they accept plenty of no-sport and no-band playing students every year.

  • Drew says:

    Hi Art,
    I’m a junior from CT. I have solid grades and take all honors/AP classes. I took the SAT in December for the first time and got a 1500 (800 M 700 ERBW). Essay scores were good (7-7-7) I’m interested in studying finance/accounting in college. I’m looking at schools such as Georgetown, Michigan, BC, Lehigh, Richmond and Villanova. Is there any benefit in taking the SAT again in the hopes of improving the EBRW score? What about preparing for/taking the ACT? For schools that superscore the SAT, is there really a benefit to showing one test with 800M – 700 EBRW and another with ,say, 760 M 740 EBRW? Or is super scoring mostly for the school’s benefit in terms of reporting scores for admitted or enrolled students? Thanks for your guidance.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Excellent questions. Factors I look at when making retake decisions with students are 1) how much time do you have? (plenty, in your case) 2) are you willing to put in some work? and 3) is there enough room for improvement beyond the level of standard error. On that last one, I mean that going from a 1500 to a 1520 has no real benefit. Similarly, a student at a 1560 is likely to see a different outcome from a similar student at 1600. Your 1500, though, still has enough room for improvement to make a difference. If you are up for it, I’d recommend a retake. Yes, colleges that superscore are — for the most part — being honest about their intentions. A 700/800 + 740/760 is going to be better than the 700/800 alone. Your case is a little unique because your Math score is pinned at the limit. Still, there is enough upside on the EBRW to give it a shot. Just don’t forget about Subject Tests (although technically not required, Georgetown really wants them).

      • Drew says:

        Thanks Art. For schools that allow “score choice” will the admissions staff be able to see that I took the SAT multiple times (even if they can’t see the scores I don’t choose to send)?

  • M Shoaib says:

    I do have a 580 in EBRW and 800 in Math. My essay score is 7/7/7. Will this help my EBRW score or to prove that I am proficient in English and it is just the EBRW section that I’m not comfortable with. I will be applying to NYU, Trinity, Skidmore, Colgate and Vassar.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      M Shoaib,
      While the EBRW score is more important than the Essay, I think the 7/7/7 will definitely help convince an admission officer of your proficiency.

  • Santi says:

    Hello Art,
    Just wanted to show my appreciation for your blog post. It’s highly informative and answered all the questions I had. Thank you so much!

  • Aaron says:

    Hi, Our daughter got a 7 on reading, an 8 on writing, and a 2 on analysis. This seems really strange. We understand that analysis scores sometimes lag a bit, but would they lag by this much? Is it possible that a mistake was made? As a point of comparison, she got a 34 out of 36 on the ACT.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s best to accept it and move on since there is no way — at least none that I am aware of — of getting College Board to admit a mistake. She may have just received a bad luck of the draw and had two readers who are tough scorers on Analysis. In almost all cases of large discrepancies, we’ve seen it occur in the Analysis domain. I don’t think her score will hurt her chances for admission.

  • Aryan says:

    I am a sophomore in high school from Nepal, and took the SAT on March 10th. I am satisfied with my composite score – 1540, but my essay score was dismal – 5, 4, 5. Is it worth retaking the SAT to improve my essay score?
    I plan to apply to selective institutions in the US.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I would not recommend retaking the SAT in order to improve your essay score — it is simply not an important component in admissions.

  • Angel says:

    Hello Art,
    My son scored a 650 EBRW and 780 Math with a 6/6/7 essay. He is planning on retaking the SAT but without the essay. Will colleges superscore his SAT sections even though he didn’t take the essay the second time around?
    Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I am not aware of any superscoring colleges that will ignore the second exam. The University of California system will look at a student’s highest score from a single test date (i.e. no superscoring) but will not look at dates without an essay.

  • George says:

    Wow, my 4,2,3 essay is pretty rare then. I had a 1450 on the main test and got into UC Berkeley in the end anyways.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I think that it is incredibly helpful for folks to concentrate on the second part of your post. A low essay score did not keep you out of Berkeley! Congratulations.

  • Bill says:

    Good morning Art-
    Thank you for the incredibly informative article! My son is a junior and took the SAT for the first time a couple of months ago – he did well in Math with a 750, but not quite as well in EBRW with a 660. However, he seemed to do quite well in the essay, with an 8/6/8 (22?) score. He obviously wants to take the SAT again with the hope of improving his EBRW score, but is pretty pleased with his Essay score. My question is this: Can he take the SAT again without the Essay portion, and have his 22 Essay score used with any combination of Math/EBRW scores that colleges may use in superscoring? Or, must he (shoud he?) retake the SAT with the Essay and hope that he holds/improves (not likely) his Essay score?
    Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The list of colleges requiring the essay gets shorter every day, it seems, so this may not even be a concern much longer. Keep in mind that the retake does not only matter for superscoring. For now, the most problematic situation is the University of California system. If your son scored a 790/720 on his next SAT, the UCs would ignore it unless he also took the essay. I believe that this is the only major exception, but you may want to confirm policies with your son’s top colleges. The safest — albeit, the most annoying — solution is for your son to repeat the essay. His actual essay score will have little consequence, but the fact that he took it would mean that the overall score would not be excluded. In the past, I’ve recommended this “safe” path. If your son is planning on steering clear of the UCs, then he would probably be OK skipping the essay entirely.

  • Laurie says:

    I’ve read through all of these comments and I acknowledge that you’ve addressed my concern already but I’ll give you my son’s statistics anyway. He is a Junior and took the SAT in March and scored 1540 with essay score of 8/2/8, He is very unhappy with that “2”. He is in the top 3 of his class, weighted GPA of 4.7, will have competed 6 APs by the end of this year with 4 more on his schedule for next year, Eagle Scout, etc. His top choice is MIT which does NOT require the essay but other schools on his list do (Caltech, Stanford). I think he should be done with testing but he is still worried about that essay score and is also considering taking the ACT. I think that Analysis score of a “2” is the outlier in his stats and reflects more on the test than him.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      What an odd score, although we have seen some whacky results with Analysis. I can’t imagine a scenario where a decision hinges on that 2. “We love his grades, his extracurriculars, his application, and his SAT and Subject Test scores, but we can’t get over than Analysis subscore.” Could I say that a young Art would not have felt the need to take the SAT again in your son’s situation? No. So I understand that some students simply need to feel confident in their scores. It’s not necessarily aligned with the reality. I hope that he focuses on his junior year and his applications, but I’d stand by his decision if he felt compelled to retest.

  • Liam C. says:

    Good Afternoon Mr. Sawyer

    I just received my SAT scores today from my April 10th test day. I scored a 1510 with a 770 on the Math section and a 740 on the Evidence Based Read and Writing section. However, on my essay, I scored 6/4/6.

    I currently have a 4.0 unweighted GPA and 4.3 weighted GPA, with 3 AP classes this year and most other classes honors and/or dual credit.

    I have right around 250 hours of community service and am expecting to earn over 130 hours this summer.

    I am in a plethora of extracurriculars. I am on the Academic Decathlon Team, Academic Superbowl Math and Science Teams, Theater, Fencing, STAND Committee (Anti-Bullying Organization), National Honors Society, Improv Club, and Freshman Mentoring.

    I am a summer camp volunteer for the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp for kids with Muscular Dystrophy. I also coach the Special Olympics Basketball Team in my town.

    I am wanting to major in nursing in college. The schools I am looking to apply to are not extremely competitive schools, with most of them not requiring an essay.
    I am looking to earn as much as I can in the way of scholarships as possible.
    I feel like with a 1510, I don’t have much room that I can improve on my score.
    But I do feel like I can improve on the essay score.

    I have three possible situations and would like your advice on what the best course of action would be.

    1) Do not retake the SAT
    2) Retake the SAT, but don’t take the essay
    3) Retake the SAT and essay.

    In order to obtain the highest chance for scholarship money, what would you advise? Would it be worth it to retest?

    Thank you so much,

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It seems crazy to tell a 1510 student to repeat the SAT, but the inflation on the new SAT and the competitiveness of top colleges finds me recommending it to more and more students (especially given the prevalence of superscoring). If you are going to the effort to repeat, I would probably recommend option 3. Give yourself the maximum opportunity to post higher scores.

  • Jezreel says:

    So I got a 6 5 6 on my first essay and a 1130 on my first SAT test. How good is this? I had taken it again recently and I had received the same score but with an essay of 6 2 6.
    I have a 4.0 GPA weighted. I do not plan to go to any competitive universities but will this affect my chance of getting accepted into a private university?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Your first essay score is excellent, of course, and your second score will not hurt you. A good SAT score is entirely about context. I would recommend looking at one of our other posts on the score ranges among popular colleges, although keep in mind that the list is heavy on “competitive” colleges. You’ll find that many opportunities will be available to you with your GPA and SAT scores.

  • JD says:

    Art, my daughter scored a 1590 on the SAT but did not take the essay. Should she test again and take the essay? Thanks.