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How is the SAT Essay Scored?

How is the SAT Essay Scored?

How is the SAT Essay Scored?

Even though the essay in the new SAT is optional, I highly recommend having your child take it. Many colleges require or suggest the SAT essay.

Here is what the College Board has to say about the scoring of the SAT essay:
"SAT Essay responses are scored using a carefully designed process:

Two different people will read and score your essay.
Each scorer awards 1–4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing.
The two scores for each dimension are added.
You’ll receive three scores for the SAT Essay — one for each dimension — ranging from 2–8 points."

Here is the scoring guide. A perfect score has these characteristics:
"Reading: A successful essay shows that you understood the passage, including the interplay of central ideas and important details. It also shows an effective use of textual evidence.

Analysis: A successful essay shows your understanding of how the author builds an argument by:
Examining the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic and persuasive techniques
Supporting and developing claims with well-chosen evidence from the passage

Writing: A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English."

It makes sense that an essay with good use of evidence, reasoning, structure, and style will necessarily be longer than a essay that does NOT include those things.  I think it's too simplistic to say the essay is ONLY about length, but I also think it will have to be a fairly long, well written essay to earn a good score using these criteria. Even though the college board denies that it's about length, in order to meet their objective criteria the essay will have to be quite long. To learn more about writing such a long essay in such a short period of time, check out Writing the SAT Essay.

Are you worried about SAT essay length? Let me know in the comments!


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Please note: This post was originally published in July 2008 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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What Does the PSAT Score Really Mean? Part 2

What Does the PSAT Score Really Mean? Part 2
Parents receive the results of the PSAT in December, but what does it all mean??

If you just received your PSAT scores, you may want to know what those scores really mean. You can get more information here:
College Board.

"A score of 49 in any of these subject areas is about average. "

Which Test Should Your Child Take?
This article talks about the decision between taking the SAT and the ACT test. Which one makes your child look their best?
New York Times:  ACT vs. SAT

The HomeScholar Gold Care Club will give you the comprehensive help you need to homeschool high school.
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How Early is Too Early for the PSAT?

How Early is Too Early for the PSAT?
Michelle asked: I was wondering if there is a minimum age requirement for the PSAT.  I have students who are interested in taking it earlier than in 10th grade.

Hi Michelle,

The College Board is the company that makes the PSAT, and their website is  They would love nothing more than having you take the test as many times as possible, because that is the product they are selling.  Students usually take the test in junior year, because that's when it counts for scholarships.  You can take it in the sophomore year for fun, so that you have a better chance at scholarships the following year.  I know that in some parts of the country, a few public schools will actively encourage their students to take it in 9th grade.

Information on the PSAT is here:

Here is information about what the test contains:

The test does include some algebra and some geometry.  For that reason, taking the test early may only cause frustration.  If the student simply CAN'T score well, because they don't have the requisite math, then the test will only be an exercise in frustration.  You don't want to put your child into a situation where they will feel badly about a test they will need to take next year or the year afterward.  Taking the test very early can backfire.

Consider your goal for the test.  Do you need a cheap annual assessment?  This may fit the bill, since it's only $13.  Do you want to know how well they will score so you can choose a college?  It may not be an accurate test, because you are measuring the child against students who are much older, so their percentile grade might not represent their score in 2 more years.  Do you want it for SAT practice?  You may get more meaningful practice at home, using SAT prep books where you can TEACH the unknown concepts, instead of test them without teaching.

There may not be anything wrong with taking the PSAT earlier than junior year, but consider what your goals are for the test. What is your reason for taking the test?  Do they have enough math to avoid frustration?  Can you substitute another test that contains subjects they know?  If taking the test will meet your goals, that's fine.  If not, then skip it until 10th or 11th grade.

Taking the test in 9th grade?  Another fine example of how the parents always know best.  The parent is the only one who has ALL the information to make these decisions.  In public schools, their guidance counselor would only have *some* of the information.  In a homeschool, we can look at every side of the issue to decide!  It's very uncommon to take the test in 9th grade, but it does happen.

I hope that helps!

If you need more help with high school tests, I have an audio course that describes them all in detail.  Here is the information about "High School Testing" on audio CD. This audio course is available for free with the purchase of my e-book, "The Easy Truth About Homeschool Transcripts." It's one of the fabulous free bonuses that come with the book!
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