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College Board

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Essay Scores

This information refers to the current SAT and is in effect through the January 2016 test date. Get information about the redesigned SAT, which starts March 2016.

How SAT essays are scored

SAT essays are scored in a holistic manner by qualified educators. Each essay is considered as a total work, the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts. Rather than judge a work on its separate traits, a qualified reader evaluates the total impression the essay creates.

Readers take into account such aspects of essay analysis as:

  • Complexity of thought
  • Substantiality of development
  • Facility with language

Essay scoring procedures

Each SAT essay is scored:

  • Independently by two qualified readers
  • On a scale of 1 to 6 by each reader, with the combined score for both readers ranging from 2 to 12 (Essays not written on the essay assignment receive a score of 0.)

If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, a third reader scores the essay. Fewer than 5 percent of all scored essays call for a third reader.

Essays for the SAT writing section are scanned and distributed to readers via the Web.

Readers are supervised online by scoring leaders, who are experienced essay readers with special training in online scoring. By working with the readers via the Web, the College Board is able to attract a larger reader pool from across the country.

Readers are trained to be mindful of the conditions under which students write the essays.

Essay scoring criteria

Readers are required to keep a number of criteria in mind when scoring essays, including:

  • Using the Essay Scoring Guide in conjunction with the sample essays selected for training
  • Reading quickly to gain an impression of the whole essay
  • Reading the entire essay before scoring, and then scoring immediately
  • Reading supportively, looking for and rewarding what is done well rather than what is done badly or omitted
  • Disregarding the quality of handwriting
  • Judging an essay by its quality, not by its length
  • Understanding that no one aspect of writing (coherence, diction, grammar, and so forth) is more important than another, and that no aspect of writing is to be ignored

Learn more about SAT scoring

Customized Entry Pages

Related Materials

Go to the SAT Downloads and Materials Ordering page to view and print these and other related materials:

  • Guidelines for the Release of Data
  • Score Reporting Options for High Schools
  • Electronic Data Layout for High Schools
  • Score Reporting Options for Higher Ed Institutions
  • Electronic Data Layout for Higher Ed Institutions

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