Can Chat GPT Write your College Essay?

Can ChatGPT Write your College Essay?

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s 30 College Essays that Worked

If you’re getting ready to start the college application process, you might already be dreading all the admissions essays you’ll have to write. Between the Common App essay and additional supplementals, college essay writing ends up being a lot of work. 

Naturally, some students wonder whether ChatGPT can help them write their college admissions essay. But there are a lot of questions: is it plagiarism? Can admissions committees tell if you use ChatGPT? Is ChatGPT actually helpful?

At PrepMaven, we’ve coached students in test prep, academics, and college applications for over two decades, and we know what works to get students into selective universities. In fact, our co-founder Kevin Wong was actually interviewed by Business Insider about ChatGPT-generated application essays!

In this guide, we’ll use those decades of experience to break down the benefits and risks of using ChatGPT to help with your college application essays. Plus, we had ChatGPT draft a sample college essay that we then break down. 

Below, you can download our collection of 30 College Essays That Worked, getting students into top schools like Princeton. In the meantime, read on to learn about what ChatGPT can do in the college application process. 

Jump to section:
Is Having ChatGPT Write Your College Essays Plagiarism?
Can Colleges Detect If You Used ChatGPT?
Sample ChatGPT Common App Essay and Analysis
4 Good Uses of Chat GPT
Next steps

First thing’s first: if you submit a finished product that you didn’t write yourself, then that would typically be considered plagiarism. 

So, if you simply go into ChatGPT and have it write you an essay that you then submit, you’d be passing off something you didn’t write as your original work. 

The lines can get a bit blurry (more on that below), but generally here’s a good rule of thumb: if entire sentences in your college application essay weren’t written by you, you’ve probably crossed the line into plagiarism. 

Admissions departments can indeed tell when AI is used in writing assignments–to some extent. If you want to read more about the science of AI-detection, you can check out a detailed analysis from PC-Guide here, but we’ll give you the key information you need to know below. 

Different tools exist to analyze text and suggest the likelihood that it was generated by AI. Even though ChatGPT is fairly new technology, universities already have the technology to detect ChatGPT-generated text. The most prominent of these is probably GPTZero, a tool specifically created to detect ChatGPT. 

For the most part, these tools can’t give a 100% certain determination that your essay was written by AI, especially if you’ve made your own edits and changes to it. But it is certainly the case that if you have large AI-generated sections of text in your college application essays, university admissions committees will be able to tell

Ultimately, this is as good a reason as any to avoid having ChatGPT write your entire college application essay for you. It might save you some work, but it also risks immediately flagging your application as plagiarized, sinking your chances of admission. 

For examples of real–non-ChatGPT–college essays, click the button below. These are the kinds of essays that helped get students into top colleges like Ivies. Take a look, and then compare them with the AI-generated essay we analyze in the next section. 

I asked ChatGPT to write a 600-word essay in response to the first Common App Prompt. To make it more specific, I gave GPT directions about style and content. Below, you can read the essay in its entirety–lower down, we’ll briefly analyze whether this essay would work and what the drawbacks of ChatGPT are. 

In the vast tapestry of my life, one thread stands out prominently – the intricate game of chess. From the moment I first laid eyes on the checkered board, I was captivated by its allure. Little did I know that this simple board game would evolve into a profound journey, shaping my identity and character in profound ways.

Chess is more than just a game; it is a reflection of life itself. Each piece represents a facet of human existence – the king, a symbol of power and vulnerability; the queen, embodying strength and versatility; the pawns, the foot soldiers of our ambitions; the knights, rooks, and bishops, the allies and adversaries we encounter on our path. Every move carries consequences, every decision a ripple effect that reverberates throughout the game.

My journey with chess began at a young age, in the quiet corners of my childhood home. I remember the first time my father introduced me to the game, his eyes alight with anticipation as he laid out the pieces on the board. With each match, he imparted not only the rules of the game but also valuable lessons about strategy, foresight, and perseverance.

As I delved deeper into the world of chess, I discovered that it was not just about outmaneuvering my opponent on the board but also about understanding the subtle nuances of human psychology. The game taught me to anticipate my opponent's moves, to think several steps ahead, and to remain calm under pressure – skills that have proven invaluable both on and off the chessboard.

Playing chess became my sanctuary, a place where I could escape the chaos of the world and immerse myself in a realm of logic and order. It taught me the importance of discipline and dedication, as mastering the game required countless hours of practice and study. But more than that, it instilled in me a sense of humility, as I learned to accept defeat graciously and to glean wisdom from my mistakes.

One of the most profound lessons I learned from chess is the concept of sacrifice. In order to gain an advantage on the board, one must sometimes be willing to sacrifice a piece – a pawn, a knight, even the queen – for the greater good. This principle extends beyond the confines of the game, teaching me to prioritize long-term goals over short-term gains and to make difficult decisions with courage and conviction.

But perhaps the most meaningful aspect of my journey with chess has been the sense of community it has provided. Through local tournaments and online forums, I have connected with fellow enthusiasts from all walks of life, forging friendships that transcend language and cultural barriers. In the company of fellow chess players, I have found a sense of belonging and camaraderie that has enriched my life in countless ways.

In the end, chess is not just a game; it is a metaphor for life itself – a complex tapestry of choices, challenges, and triumphs. It has taught me to approach every situation with a strategic mind and a resilient spirit, to embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth, and to always strive for excellence in all that I do. As I embark on the next chapter of my journey, I carry with me the lessons of the chessboard – a timeless reminder of the beauty and complexity of the human experience.

We’ve already talked about why using ChatGPT to write your college application essays is so risky, but here we’d like to briefly break down why it’s just not going to get you very good writing. Let’s take a look at the problems with this AI-generated essay. 

  1. Language

We can give ChatGPT points for grammar and spelling, but certainly not for style! While AI, naturally, does well with the mechanics of the English language, it struggles to sound like a real, believable person–especially a high schooler! 

One key aspect of the college admissions essay is that it needs to be written in your own voice. This gives the admissions committee a sense of your personality, which is a major factor in admissions! But the language here is stiff, formal, and–well–robotic!

Real high schoolers don’t use phrases like “the vast tapestry of my life” or “the foot soldiers of our ambitions.” At best, this essay makes you sound like you’re pretending to be older than you are. At worst, like you’ve gotten someone else to write your essay for you. 

  1. Emotion

Another main aspect of your Common App essay should be that it conveys your emotions and feelings. That’s what makes a personal statement personal! 

In this sample AI essay, we get a lot of discussion of the chessboard and its lessons, but we never see what the writer actually feels. This will always be a major failing of AI-generated essays: at best, they can mimic some of the emotional language used by real people, but they can’t get at the raw feelings the way a person can. 

  1. Generic Takeaways

Although this essay isn’t bad and uses some specific language, its lessons are generic. A great college essay combines personal experiences with unique insights that show how you’ve learned and grown as a person.

This essay mimics that: it talks about “the lessons of the chessboard” and “shaping my identity in profound ways.” But these lessons remain generic, the kind of things that anyone could say: “striving for excellence” and “embracing adversity” are the exact kinds of phrases a good college essay tutor would tell you to avoid.

Why? Because university admissions committees have read these phrases again and again and again! They’re cliche, they’re boring, and they’ll make it seem like you’re both of those things as well.

It’s the last thing you want, especially if your college application is getting sent to competitive schools!

Take a look at this collection of real sample essays written by successful college applicants and notice the differences: they have a distinct voice, passion, and unique lessons!

Although you absolutely shouldn’t use ChatGPT to write the actual substance of your essay, there are ways you can use ChatGPt to aid in the writing process. 

Below, we’ll list some good ways to use ChatGPT–ones that won’t run the risk of being flagged as plagiarism. 

  • Generating large lists of topics.

    • Of course, a Common App personal statement should be personal: it should draw on the things from your life that matter to you. Still, using ChatGPT to generate a large list of possible college essay topics isn’t a terrible idea, so long as you make sure to pick a topic that actually connects with your life. (You can read more about good college essay topics here!)

  • Providing free-writing or brainstorming exercises.

    • Starting is often the hardest part of writing a college essay–that’s why we have a whole guide on it here. In addition to the advice we offer in that guide, you can use ChatGPT to draft up some free writing exercises to get you started. 

  • Researching topics.

    • While most college application essays are all about you, some–like the “Why us?” essay–require you to do research. ChatGPT can be quite helpful when it comes to finding specific information on a university you’re applying to. Just be sure to always double check what you find–ChatGPT can make mistakes.

  • Checking your college essay for errors.

    • ChatGPT might not be able to understand the emotional stakes of your essay, but it’s excellent at catching grammar, spelling, and other mistakes. You can also ask ChatGPT to analyze your essay for any unclear or confusing sentences. 

Of course, while ChatGPT can help you with all of the above when it comes to your college application essays, it’ll never really be personal. If you think you need help writing your college essays–and our experience has shown us that most students do–then there’s nothing better than personalized essay help from a real human being. 

We’ve done the research (ourselves, without AI) to rank the 14 best college essay services for students applying to college, depending on exactly what kind of support you need. 

Our own tutors–most of whom come from Ivy League colleges–bring an unmatched dedication and expertise. They’ll get to know you, help you brainstorm, and walk you through every step of the college essay writing process. All you have to do is contact us to get started. 

Writing your college application essays can be tough, and it can be hard to know where to start. Sadly, ChatGPT isn’t going to be the solution if you want compelling college essays. 

But, fortunately, we’ve put together all the information you could need to get started. Below, check out our related college essay posts, covering everything from college essay formats to winning application essay conclusions to real sample essays. 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for inspiration, there’s no better resource than PrepMaven’s 30 College Essays that Worked: a real collection of 30 Common App essays that got students admitted to schools like Princeton. 

When you’re ready to start writing, contact us to get paired with a college essay coach and see why we have a perfect track record of 5-star reviews!

PSAT to digital SAT Score Conversion

PSAT to SAT Score Conversion

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Your PSAT score doesn’t get sent to colleges, but it can still be a crucial tool in your long-term test-prep plan. Getting a top SAT score means prepping effectively, and your PSAT score is one of the best resources you have to do that. 

Are you taking the PSAT soon through your school? Or have you already taken it and gotten your score back? In any case, what you’ll want to do is understand how that PSAT score translates into a prediction of your SAT score. 

Unfortunately, this information isn’t always readily available, or accurate! At PrepMaven, we’ve set aside the time to digging through the College Board’s data on PSAT and digital SAT percentiles to bring you the most updated information on how to use your PSAT score to predict your SAT score. 

For the past couple decades, PrepMaven has been dedicated to providing personalized test-prep tutoring to students for all the major standardized tests, and we’ve seen our students achieve truly incredible results. 

We’re always happy to provide free resources and information for students looking to self-study, but we’ll be honest: there’s no substitute for an expert tutor. When you decide you’re ready to start prepping for the PSAT or SAT, contact us so that we can pair you with a tutor selected based on your specific needs. 

There are few things as important as standardized test scores in the college admissions process. Below, we’ve collected the median SAT scores at 500 top US universities so that you have a better sense of what it might take to get into your dream school. 

Jump to section:
PSAT-SAT Score Conversion Table
How Is the PSAT Scored?
Does your PSAT Score Matter?
Next steps

Because the most important aspect of a standardized test score is your percentile, we’ve used those to calculate estimated SAT scores for your PSAT scores! All of our data is based on the most recently updated statistics released by College Board. 

Because most students are required to take the PSAT in 11th grade, we’ve used the College Board’s statistics for composite scores from 11th grade test takers to develop this conversion chart. 

Digital PSAT Score Range Digital SAT Score Range (estimated)
1490-1520 1570-1600
1450-1480 1530-1560
1420-1440 1500-1520
1390-1410 1480-1490
1360-1380 1450-1470
1340-1350 1430-1440
1320-1330 1410-1420
1310 1400
1290-1300 1380-1390
1280 1370
1270 1350-1360
1260 1340
1250 1330
1240 1310-1320
1230 1300
1220 1290
1210 1280
1200 1270
1190 1250-1260
1180 1240
1170 1230
1160 1220
1150 1210
1100-1140 1150-1200
1080-1090 1120-1140
1070 1110
1060 1100
1050 1090
1040 1080
1020-1030 1060-1070
990-1010 1020-1050
980 1010
970 1000
960 990
950 980
930-940 950-970
900-920 920-940
890 910
880 900
870 890
850-860 870-880
830-840 850-860
810-820 830-840
790-800 810
780 800
760-770 780
750 770
740 760
730 740-750
710-720 730
700 720
690 710
670-680 690-700
640-660 670-680
560-630 620-660
320-550 400-610

This score concordance table is based on the College Board’s percentiles for the digital PSAT and digital SAT. While you can’t predict for certain what you’ll get on test day, you can use this chart to better understand what your SAT score potential is. 

Want to know what SAT score it’ll actually take to get into an Ivy or your state university? Check out the link below: it’s a free spreadsheet containing the median SAT scores for 500 US universities. 

Like the digital SAT, the PSAT has two sections: Math and Reading & Writing. In essence, the PSAT is designed to be a “preliminary” SAT (that’s what the P is for!), so its content mimics that of the actual SAT. You can read our breakdown of the SAT sections here, but remember that the SAT will be a bit shorter!

Each of the two PSAT sections has a score range of 160-760. That means the absolute minimum possible composite score is a 320, and the maximum score is a 1520. 

If you want to start getting a sense of what it’ll take to get close to that max PSAT score, check out 25 PSAT tips from a top scorer, courtesy of our founders and test-prep experts Greg and Kevin. 

It may not matter for college admissions, but your PSAT score does matter for the National Merit Scholarship. 

The National Merit Scholarship is a yearly program that awards scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to students based on their PSAT performance. 

In addition to the cash, being a National Merit Finalist or Recipient can be a nice award to include on your college applications! You can read more about how the National Merit Scholarship works in our post on it here. 

Bear in mind that receiving one of these scholarships is very rare. The National Merit Scholarship is awarded to roughly 200 students in each state, based on the highest PSAT scores within that state. That means you’re only competing against students from your own state, so the score you’ll need to be considered for a scholarship varies based on where you live. 

The calculation here is actually a little bit complicated: for the purposes of the National Merit Scholarship, each student is given a “Selection Index,” which is calculated by 

  1. Doubling your Reading and Writing Score
  2. Adding that to your Math score
  3. Dividing that sum by 10

In other words, your verbal score is weighed double for consideration for the National Merit Scholarship. 

While the exact score cutoff varies from year to year and state by state, typically you’ll need something close to a perfect score to have a shot at one of these prestigious scholarships!

That’s why more and more students are actually starting SAT prep early by prepping for the PSAT with a tutor as well: the skills you develop doing PSAT prep will help you improve your score for the SAT, plus give you a shot at these scholarships! 

Reach out to us today to get paired with a tutor who can help you maximize your chance of a PSAT score competitive enough for the National Merit Scholarship! Or, if you want to do a bit more research first, check out this list of the 15 best PSAT Tutoring Services around. 

Beyond that, however, the PSAT score is important because it helps you understand what your score potential for the SAT is. In the next section, we’ll explain how to convert your PSAT score to an SAT score, 

If you’ve just taken the PSAT or haven’t taken it yet, you’re at the perfect place to start seriously prepping for the SAT. There are few things that can immediately boost your chances of admission to selective universities like a top-tier SAT score. 

But you can’t cram your way to a 1500 or higher on the SAT: a top score takes consistent work over a prolonged period of time (we usually recommend at least 3 months of weekly lessons). While it might sound like a lot of work, we’re dedicated to making that work as easy as possible for you. 

That’s why we’ve written comprehensive guides on prepping for the digital SAT. On our blog, you can find everything from an overall guide to the test’s format, to dedicated breakdowns of the Math, Reading, and Writing questions, to information on how the SAT is scored. All these resources are invaluable if you’re starting out on your test prep journey. 

But while self-study can be effective, more than 20 years of test prep experience has shown us one thing to be universally true: however well you might do on the SAT on your own, you’ll do better with guidance from an expert SAT coach. 

There’s no reason to leave points on the table–especially when it can make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection. Contact us now to learn more about our PSAT and SAT tutoring options, all of which involve a test prep expert chosen for you based on your specific needs. 

Your Guide to Writing a Letter of Continued Interest to Colleges

How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest to Colleges

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s NYU Letter of Continued Interest Sample

Deferred from an Early application to your dream school? Or waitlisted in the regular decision round? It’s not the result you want from your college applications, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up hope!

At elite universities, deferrals are becoming more and more common in the Early Decision and Early Action rounds. So, if you were deferred, you’re probably like the vast majority of early applicants. Statistically, most deferred applicants will be rejected in the spring. 

So, how do you maximize your chances of an acceptance after deferral? At PrepMaven, we’ve got decades of experience helping thousands of students earn admissions into their dream schools. And one thing that can make a difference is writing what’s called “a letter of continued interest.” 

In this guide, we’ll break down what a letter of continued interest is, when you should write one, and how you should write one to increase your chances of admission. 

Jump to section:
What’s a letter of continued interest?
Should you always write a letter of continued interest?
How to write a letter of continued interest
When should you send your letter of continued interest?
Whom to send the letter of continued interest to
Things NOT to do in your letter of continued interest
Next steps

Well, it’s basically what it sounds like: a letter of continued interest tells a college that you are still interested in attending. It might sound silly (after all, you did apply for admission there), but it’s tremendously important for the college. 

Let’s say you applied Early Action to MIT and were (like the vast majority of applicants) deferred. The admissions committee at MIT knows that you’ve applied to multiple schools: for all they know, you’ve already been accepted by some other university. If that’s the case, then they wouldn’t want to “waste” an admission on you!

The letter of continued interest is a way of telling MIT that you’re still on the market. In other words, that they should give you an acceptance because you’d definitely accept. 

But the letter of continued interest also does something even more important: it can let you increase the strength of your application by highlighting new accomplishments or achievements. 

Take a look at the sample letter here and make note of how the writer uses most of the letter to highlight new achievements and updates, without rehashing what was in his previous application!

Read on further to see how to use the letter to most effectively include new information that might help push admissions committees toward accepting your application over other students’. 

First thing’s first: make sure the university doesn’t have a policy against these letters. While it’s very rare, some colleges don’t want letters of continued interest. If you send a letter to one of these schools, you’ll really be damaging your application, since you’ll be showing that you didn’t follow their policies. 

That policy is incredibly rare, however: most schools don’t have a stated policy about letters of continued interest. Some schools, in fact, specifically ask that you confirm you’re still interested if you’ve been deferred or waitlisted. If that’s the case, you definitely want to follow those instructions. 

In reality, the answer to this question is basically yes: you should always send a letter of continued interest to any schools that you still want to attend after a deferral/wait-list (again, so long as they don’t prohibit it). It might seem annoying to do extra work after everything you already did, but now’s not the time to be lazy: maximizing your odds of admission means taking every chance to improve your application. 

We’ll be honest: getting an admission off a waitlist or deferral is incredibly rare at elite universities. But it does happen! Out of Harvard’s nearly 2000 admitted students for the class of 2027, only 27 were admitted from the waitlist. Whether that’s encouraging or not is a question of perspective, since it means there is a chance, however slim. What it really means is that you can’t afford to pass up anything that might improve your odds!

If you’ve decided on writing one to a school, you’ll want to look at any specific guidelines or instructions they offer. 

But, unless they give you specific instructions, here is what you need to include in your letter of continued interest: 

  1. Confirm your interest! This is one of the most important things, and can be done in a sentence. Make it clear that, while you were naturally disappointed by the deferral, you are excited to still be considered, and that you would attend if given the chance
  2. Provide any new information that makes you a better candidate. This is the second-most important thing to include in a letter of continued interest, and should make up the bulk of your letter. What kind of new information? Ideally, updates on things already in your application: if you’ve finished a research project, won recognition in a competition, or wrapped up an internship, these are great things to include. You should not include minor developments: a slightly increased grade, a new club you’ve joined, or a new hobby are not worth writing a letter about.
  3. Do reference any additional engagement you’ve had with the college! If you’ve done a campus visit, had a meaningful interaction with a professor, or gotten involved with any kind of initiative associated with the college, you should mention it. 
  4. Finally, end with a brief statement thanking the reader for their time, and making it clear you’re available if they ever want to follow up with more questions. Chances are, they won’t, but it’s still nice to leave that door open. 

Most importantly: look at a sample! It’s always easiest to write something when you have an example. We’ve provided a free sample letter of interest for NYU that you can download by clicking the link below!

Again, rule number 1 is to follow any specific instructions provided by the admissions office when they waitlisted or deferred you. 

But, outside of that, you should primarily consider when you’ll get the most bang for your buck! It may be tempting to send your letter the moment you get deferred, but you should wait, for two reasons. 

First, because you want to give yourself time to add any new achievements or accomplishments to the letter, as well as potentially visiting the college itself or reaching out to faculty. This will depend on your schedule, but if you know you might win an award or finish an internship within the next month or two, it’s a good idea to wait until then to write and send your letter. 

The second consideration is also important: you want to send only one letter, and you want that letter to make it clear that you’re still interested when it counts. Sending the letter as soon as you get your decision doesn’t tell them much, since you’re likely to still be interested so close to the initial application. 

You don’t want to wait too long, but give it at least a month after you get your deferral/waitlist notification. The idea is to keep your candidacy on the admissions committee’s mind as they review new, regular decision applications. 

Often, a university will have a place in your application portal for you to upload additional materials or updates. If so, then that’s the place to upload your letter of continued interest as well. 

If there’s no option to do so, you can simply reach out to the admissions office of the school over email (or, better yet, phone) and ask them whom you could send a letter of continued interest to. 

Don’t get freaked out by the prospect of calling the admissions office! It’s completely normal, and they’ll be happy to make sure you get your letter to the right place. 

If you follow the advice above, you’ll write a great letter of continued interest. But we also thought we’d flag a couple things you definitely don’t want to do! 


  • Talk about the acceptances or scholarships you’ve received from other schools: it won’t impress your target school, and will make you seem less committed. 
  • Come off too desperate. It’s fine to make it clear that this school is your top choice, but you don’t want to beg or imply that this is “the perfect school” or the “only school” for you. 
  • Argue about how good your application is or explain away existing deficiencies. If your grades were lower than they should’ve been, or your test scores were sub-optimal, or your essay was sloppy, don’t worry about it. It’ll come off as insecure, and will only draw the admissions officer’s attention to the problems.
  • Send multiple letters (unless they ask you to)!

If you look at our Sample Letter of Continued Interest for NYU , you’ll see that the author carefully avoids making any of those mistakes, but is still able to convey lots of helpful information and passion!

With college admissions more selective than ever, you’ll want to do everything you can to make your application stand out. A letter of continued interest is one way of doing just that if you’ve been deferred or waitlisted. 

If, on the other hand, you’re still in the early stages of applying to colleges, there are lots of things you can do to maximize your chances. We recommend starting with our guide to writing the college essay. There, you’ll find everything you need to know about the college application essay, plus links to other posts designed to help you as you apply to your dream schools. 

In the meantime, you can also contact us for help with anything academic, test prep, or college app related: our tutors can help you bring your grades up, perfect your college application essays, and, yes, even work on your letters of continued interest. 

SAT Math_ What to Expect (1)

SAT Math: What You Need to Know

What Math is on the Digital SAT?

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Getting ready to take the digital SAT for college admissions in 2024 or later? Many students initially find the digital SAT Math section confusing at first, and with good reason: the math on the SAT might be the same as what you lean in high school, but it’s often tested with questions you're not used to seeing. 

The digital SAT only has one Math section, which is divided into two modules of equal length. The Math section makes up half of your total SAT score, allowing you to get a maximum of 800 points. Getting a top SAT score absolutely depends on you learning exactly what to expect on the SAT Math section. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve got decades of experience helping students do just that! Our SAT tutors hail from the best colleges in the country and have astounding SAT scores themselves. Maybe even more importantly, they’ve got access to our proprietary SAT curriculum, designed by our co-founder and test prep expert Kevin. 

We’ve collected some of those key digital SAT Math tips in this guide to the math concepts you’ll see tested. Step one of preparing for the SAT Math section is familiarizing yourself with this content: from there, you can start preparing through a mix of review, practice tests, and personalized tutoring. 

One key factor in SAT Prep is your goal score, which depends on what colleges you plan to apply to. Below, we’ve compiled the median SAT score ranges for the top 500 US universities–download it for free and start planning!

Jump to section:
Digital SAT Math Overview
Algebra Concepts and Examples
Advanced Math Concepts and Examples
Problem-solving/Data concepts and examples
Geometry concepts and examples
Digital SAT Math Tips
Next steps

The digital SAT Math section consists of two identical-length “modules,” with the difficulty of the second module depending on your performance on the first. Here’s a breakdown of the timing and number of questions: 

Math Module 1 35 22
Math Module 2 35 22

The new Digital SAT (for 2024 and beyond) tests exactly the same math concepts as the old SAT. The College Board offers a broad breakdown of what skills are tested and how often, and we’ve organized that information for you below. Later in this section, we’ll dig into more specifics about question types and content: what exactly will you need to know for the Digital SAT Math?

If you’re wondering how this section fits into the rest of the digital SAT, you can check out our post on the digital SAT’s sections and structure here. And, if you want to prepare for the tricky timing of the SAT Math sections, check out our post on SAT timing here!

In the meantime, here is the breakdown of what concepts are tested and how often on the Digital SAT: 

Category Skills tested Questions per test Percentage 
Algebra Linear equationsSystems of linear equationsLinear word problemsLinear inequalities 13-15 ~35%
Advanced Math Quadratic expressionsNonlinear functionsEquivalent expressions 13-15 ~35%
Problem-Solving and Data Ratios and proportions PercentagesData distribution and measures of center and spreadProbability Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design 5-7 ~15%
Geometry Area and volumeLines, anglesRight triangles, trigonometryCircles 5-7 ~15

The College Board defines the first category of SAT Math questions as “Algebra,” which might sound like an overly broad categorization. But have no fear: here, we’ll break down what specific concepts and question types are covered by the SAT’s Algebra questions. 

Algebra questions make up roughly 35% of the SAT Math section, meaning that mastering this concept is absolutely essential for a good SAT score. 

Let’s take a look at the “skills tested” by College Board when it comes to Algebra: 

  • Linear equations
  • Systems of linear equations
  • Linear word problems
  • Linear inequalities

You probably noticed a pattern there: Algebra questions on the SAT primarily test linear equations. 

Your first step to mastering the SAT’s Algebra questions is simple: understand y=mx+b. We can’t stress this enough: memorize it or tattoo it on your forearm, but do whatever it takes to ensure that you completely understand everything about y=mx+b. 

Here, we’ll give you a short primer that covers the key things you need to know about linear equations, then move on to show you how to apply that knowledge to a set of real sample digital SAT Algebra problems. 

What you need to know about linear equations for the SAT

So, what is y=mx+b? It’s simply a way of articulating a linear relationship between two variables (x and y). 

What’s a linear relationship? It’s a way of saying that as x changes, y changes in a fixed proportion to it. Put another way, if you were to graph the relationship between x and y, it would always look like a straight line (hence the name). 

A basic breakdown of the y=mx+b formula is that: 

  • X is your input 
  • Y is your output
  • M is your slope
  • B is your y-intercept (or, in other words, the value of Y when X is 0. 

Memorizing this formula is only the very first step to getting a top SAT Math score, however. You’ll be expected to use this basic equation/knowledge to do much more: 

  • Turn word problems into linear equations
  • Turn graphs into equations and vice versa
  • Solve systems of equations 
  • Graph and solve linear inequalities

Below, we’ll show you a few real sample SAT Math questions from the College Board so that you can see examples of how these concepts are tested. 

Example 1: Solving a linear equation with one variable

First thing first: notice that this is a linear equation! We’ve got one “unknown” variable, and one number we’re trying to solve for. This problem actually ends up being fairly simple–as long as you know what it means for an equation to have “infinitely many solutions!” 

In this case, we’re happy to give you the hint: it just means that you should end up with the same exact equation on each side of the equals sign. If you want to think about it graphically, two equations have “infinitely many solutions” when they are literally the same exact line. 

Example 2: Linear equation with 2 variables

Okay, let’s complicate things a bit: 

Now, you should clearly be able to see how this is a (messy) version of a y=mx+b equation. 

The key to this question is simple: what is the rule for lines with perpendicular slopes? Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you’ll need to memorize for the SAT. Every SAT will ask you about perpendicular lines, so make sure you memorize that “perpendicular lines have slopes that are opposite and reciprocal.” 

In this case, the slope of the perpendicular line would be positive 3/17. All you need to do is flip the fraction and change the sign. 

Example 3: System of Equations with 2 variables

Often, the SAT will test your ability to work with two equations at the same time, like in the example below. 

This word problem can only be solved by creating two linear equations, and then using one to solve the other. This is a more complex concept: if you’re not sure how to go about it, then you’ll definitely want to dedicate time to reviewing Algebra and how to manipulate linear equations, since these are essential for succeeding on the SAT. 

In the meantime, here are our 5 SAT Math tips specifically for algebra: 

  1. Understand everything about y=mx+b.
  2. Get good at using a graphing calculator for linear equations–it can be a lifesaver!
  3. Practice translating word problems into equations. 
  4. Practice moving between the equation of a line and its graphical form.
  5. Don’t forget about inequalities: they’re tricky, and require a lot of practice to master.

If you find any of these concepts even a little shaky, you need to study up before the SAT! And, if you want a top score, there’s nothing like live help: our expert tutors specialize in helping students identify their weaknesses and overcome them on the journey to a top SAT Math score. 

A smart first step is deciding what SAT score you’re aiming for. Take a look at the free resource below, which contains the median SAT score ranges for 500 top US colleges, and set a target score for yourself!

“Advanced Math” is just as important as Algebra on the digital SAT, accounting for another 35% of total questions. What the College Board calls “Advanced Math” can really be simplified to “non-linear expressions.” 

What this means is that these questions test expressions and equations that don’t fall into the y=mx+b format. For the Advanced Math questions, you’re going to have to master:

  • Quadratic expressions
  • Exponential growth/decay
  • Power equations
  • Equation of a circle

Unlike the Algebra section, there isn’t just one crucial formula to memorize. The questions in this section test a few different kinds of equations. Still, the most fundamental thing to master is the quadratic. 

The standard form of a quadratic looks like this: y=ax2+bx+c.

Look familiar? If not, then you’ve got a lot of catching up to do before you’re ready to take the digital SAT. Even if it does look familiar, however, there are a lot of nuances that you need to get comfortable with before you know what you need to succeed on the Advanced Math questions. 

Here is what you must know when it comes to quadratics on the digital SAT:

  • Different forms of quadratics

    • Standard form
    • Vertex form
    • Factored form

  • Factoring quadratics

    • Regular factoring
    • Factoring by grouping
    • Completing the square
    • Quadratic formula
    • Differences of perfect squares

  • Finding the vertex 
  • Graphing quadratics 
  • Using the discriminant to identify the number of solutions 

Our main advice when it comes to digital SAT Math strategy is to prepare for each of these concepts well in advance. We can guarantee you that you’ll be tested on all of them, which means you should set aside time before test day to master them. 

While quadratics make up most of the “Advanced Math” questions, there are other crucial concepts to study: 

  • Exponential growth and decay equations

    • Setting them up from word problems
    • Solving them 

  • Power equations

    • Graphing them 
    • Solving them 

  • Equation of a circle

    • Interpreting graphs of circles
    • Using completing the square to solve circle equations
    • Finding the center and radius of a circle from its equation

These math concepts aren’t easy, but they are 100% concepts you can study and prepare for. There’s really no excuse for getting surprised on test day: you know what will be on the test, and you can prepare for all of it. The main thing to focus on is ensuring you have enough time and the right resources to study up. 

Below, we’ve pulled a few of the more difficult SAT Advanced Math questions for you to take a look at. Do you know how to solve each of these? Do you understand what concepts they’re testing? Can you spot the shortcuts? If any of these problems give you trouble, it’s probably a good idea to at least check in with an SAT tutor. Often, a great tutor can help you improve your knowledge and score potential in just a few sessions. 

Example 1: Quadratic functions

Example 2: Power functions

Example 3: Exponential growth/decay

Each of the above examples–pulled from real digital SAT Math tests–explores non-linear functions. You need to not only memorize the formulas for quadratic, exponential, and power functions, but also learn how to apply all of those formulas when it counts!

When it comes to actually putting what you know into practice on the SAT, the best place to start is with preparation! Check out our post on how to prepare for the digital SAT here, where you’ll find strategies, tips, and links to the best prep resources!

While the College Board’s “Problem-solving/Data” questions only make up 15% of your total SAT Math score, they’re still worth studying well in advance of your test date. 

We do have some great news on these concepts: while many students struggle with them, data analysis questions actually tend to be fairly easy–if you know what you’re looking for. 

If Algebra tests your knowledge of linear equations and Advanced Math tests your knowledge of quadratics and other nonlinear equations, you can think of this section as basically testing statistical concepts. 

Broadly, these include: 

  • Ratios and proportions 
  • Percentages
  • Data distribution and measures of center and spread
  • Probability 
  • Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design

Practically speaking, however, this section really means you need to get good at understanding ratios/percentages, charts/tables, and statistics. 

Now, you don’t need to take AP Stats or anything like that: the statistical concepts on the digital SAT are fairly limited and basic. But that doesn’t mean you can just wing it either. Even the simplest statistical concepts can trip you up if you’re unprepared on test day. 

SAT Ratios and Percentages Examples

As a first step, make sure you are 100% comfortable with percentages and ratios. Students often struggle with both of these concepts, but the math involved (once you’ve learned the concepts) is quite simple. 

Take a look at the example question below: believe it or not, the vast majority of students get this (simple-looking) question wrong. 

The key to this question–and every percentage question–is just careful set-up! Do you know how to turn this word problem into an equation? If not, it’s time to do a bit of review, or contact one of our tutors. 

The same is true of ratios: the math is easy, but the concept can be super difficult. Do you know how to set up the equation for the example below?

If you’re really good with ratios, you might even be able to do this problem in your head in a few seconds. But if you find yourself struggling to get to the correct answer (which should be D), you’ll want to review ratios before you take the test. 

SAT Charts and Tables examples

Although questions on charts and tables can be tricky, they’re not usually difficult–so long as you know how to read the chart/table, of course!

While most students are comfortable with standard charts and tables like bar graphs, line graphs, and circle graphs, the digital SAT does include a few graphical representations of data that students can find difficult. 

Here are all the kinds of data visualizations you need to be comfortable with on the SAT:

  • Bar graphs
  • Line graphs
  • Circle/pie graphs
  • Scatter plots 
  • Probability tables
  • Histograms
  • Box and whisker plots
  • Stem and leaf plots

Some of these might seem only vaguely familiar, but that’s just a signal that you need to study up. None of these are difficult or complicated: they’re just new concepts you need to familiarize yourself with. Take a look below at a few sample questions. Can you answer each one confidently? 

This is the classic box and whisker plot, which lots of people aren’t familiar with (since it’s not terribly common). At the same time, notice how this question also tests statistical concepts like mean and median, on which we’ll write more in the section below. 

The next example tests your understanding of scatter plots and lines of best fit. You can be 100% sure you’ll see this kind of question on your SAT Math section, since this is one of the most important concepts covered by the test. 

Can you see why the answer should be A? Although this isn’t the hardest scatter plot question we’ve seen (the College Board likes to be tricky with these) it’s a good indicator of the kind of thing you should be comfortable with well in advance of the test. 

SAT Statistics Examples

Many of the SAT Problem-solving/data questions really come down to basic statistics. There are a lot of concepts that fall under this category, but we don’t want you going crazy trying to learn every statistics concept under the sun. Below, we’ll break down the specific concepts you need to master. 

Here’s what you absolutely must know when it comes to statistics on the SAT Math:

  • Measures of center: Mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation
  • Probability and conditional probability
  • Proper design of experiments and observational studies  
  • Margin of error

It’s not enough to just recognize the terms: you need to be able to apply them to a variety of different questions. Take a look below for some examples from College Board that eat these concepts in different ways. 

SAT Measures of Center example question:

This is a pretty classic question testing three basic measures of center: to answer this one, you’ll need to understand how to find each one, and (if you want to save yourself some time) how to quickly determine which will be the highest and which will be the lowest. 

SAT Probability example question:

This one’s an open-ended question, which adds to the difficulty. Beware information overload: there’s tons of info in this probability chart (a classic SAT Math trick), but only focus on what you need: contestants who scored a 5. In other words, almost all of this chart past the first column is irrelevant! 

The answer here, if you’re wondering, is 5/7: you simply take the number of students with 5s on Day 2 and Day 3, and divide that by the total number of students who scored 5s. The key is being comfortable enough with probability that you know exactly where to look. 

SAT Experimental/Observational Design sample question

You will always see at least one question that looks like this and tests your understanding of proper experimental/observational design. 

At heart, these questions ask you to comment on a study and decide what kinds of results can be drawn from it. 

This one is a really nasty, tricky question: the answer here is actually A, neither! 

As you might have noticed with all of the above examples, Problem-Solving/Data questions on the SAT often require very little calculation or actual math. But they can be tricky if you don’t know the concepts behind the questions. 

While it’s only 15% of your score, these questions are crucial to master. They can become easy ways to bank up points if you study–or brutal head-scratchers if you don’t. 

Wondering how your SAT score stacks up against other applicants to your dream school? Check out the median SAT scores of admitted students with our free resource, PrepMaven’s SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools.

Accounting for the last 15% of your SAT Math score are Geometry questions. If you’re already dreading these, you’re not alone: many test-takers find geometry questions on the SAT difficult or confusing. But, like all the other question types, you can prepare for these questions!

We’ve actually written a guide just on SAT Geometry questions here because of how notoriously difficult they are, and we’d encourage you to check out that guide if you know geometry is a problem for you. 

In this post, we’ll run through the geometry concepts you need to know, plus show you a few College Board sample questions so you can see exactly what you’re up against. 

The key concepts covered are these: 

  • Area and volume
  • Lines, angles
  • Right triangles, trigonometry
  • Circles

It might not seem like much, but there are a lot of concepts that go into each of these skills (especially when it comes to triangles). 

If we want to expand this list out to think about the specific skills you need to master, you’ll want to be able to check off each of these specific content areas: 

  • Solving for the area of any triangle
  • Trig identities 
  • Inverse trig identities
  • Similar triangles
  • Interior angles of regular polygons
  • Circumference, area, and angle measure of circles
  • Transversals 
  • Volume of regular 3D figures
  • Area of 2D figures like trapezoids, rectangles, parallelograms, squares, and other polygons.
  • Special right triangles

Mastering SAT Geometry means having not only a comprehensive understanding of all these concepts, but also knowing how these concepts get tested by the SAT’s specific question types. Take a look at the examples below: even if you understand the concepts at play, some of these might not be immediately obvious. 

SAT Area and Volume example question

Even if you know how to find the area of a square (which you really should), this kind of problem presents additional difficulties. It’s what we want to get you thinking about in advance of your SAT test date: College Board will always complicate how they test seemingly simple concepts. 

In this case, the key isn’t just crunching the numbers out. What they’re really testing is if you understand the relationship between side length and area for a square. You could do the math on this, creating two squares and plugging in numbers. 

But if you want to beat this question faster, you should do what the SAT wants you to: understand that the ratio of areas will just be the square of the ratio of the sides!

SAT Lines and Angles example question

Again, while this question really just tests transversals, the SAT throws an extra wrench into the works by adding in another equation to work through. 

Still, if you stay cool and just remember your transversal rules (which should tell you that y=122), the rest of the problem should be some straightforward algebra. 

SAT Triangles example question

Another moderately evil geometry question from the SAT Math section. Even if you’re a triangle expert, you might have to read this one a couple times to figure out what exactly is going on. 

The key to this one–and to any SAT Geometry question that doesn’t have an image–is to draw it out! 

Try sketching this triangle out, labeling all of the information, and making sure you’ve transcribed all of the info they’ve given you. Once you’ve done that, think about your basic concepts: what equations do you know about triangles that have to do with a triangle’s height?

It’s a tricky one, but if you’re able to think about this as a 30-60-90 triangle, you’ll be more than halfway there. 

SAT Circles example question

Wouldn’t it be nice if the SAT just asked you to calculate area or circumference? Alas, those days are mostly gone: the digital SAT Math section will make you do a bit more work when it comes to geometry. 

Still, the key will always be going back to your fundamental equations: if you know a circle’s circumference, you should also be able to find its area. If you know the relationship between these arc lengths, you should also be able to figure out the measures of the central angles here (as long as you remember that every circle has 360 degrees.

It’s still a tricky problem, but this one’s a great indicator of what you need to know about circles to ace the SAT Math section.

Finding this one a bit challenging? Check out our post on SAT Geometry here, or get connected with a SAT tutor who can teach you everything you need to know to score a perfect 800 on SAT Math by contacting us! 

While the best strategy to lock in a top SAT Math score is to diligently learn and drill all of the possible question types across the four categories of Math questions, there are still some universally useful tips that can help boost your score on test day. 

SAT Math Tip 1: Master the DESMOS calculator

Because the SAT is digital from 2024 on, you’ll have access to an integrated graphing calculator (called DESMOS) that’s part of your testing app. While you can also bring your own calculator, we recommend getting familiar with DESMOS: it’s an incredibly powerful and versatile tool that can help you quickly answer many of the SAT’s toughest questions. 

The last thing you want is to be trying desperately to figure out how DESMOS works as the timer counts down on test day. The good news is that you can practice with DESMOS well ahead of time: this link takes you to the exact same version of the calculator you’ll see on test day. 

Not only that, but DESMOS actually has a detailed guide on how to familiarize yourself with the calculator. That guide is freely available here, and we recommend taking some time to read through it. 

SAT Math Tip 2: Memorize these tie-saving formulas

The digital SAT will provide you with some of the formulas you need to know on an information page, but you should not be relying on it. The SAT time crunch is real, and if you don’t memorize these formulas, you better believe it’ll slow you down. 

Plus, there are some formulas which, while not technically “necessary,” can make difficult questions a breeze. Below, we’ve bullet pointed the most important formulas for you to memorize and understand before your digital SAT test date. 

Must-know SAT Math formulas:

  • Area of a circle
  • Circumference of a circle
  • Equation of a circle
  • Volume of cylinders, cones, pyramids, and spheres
  • The number of radians and degrees in a circle
  • The formula for the interior angle measures of any regular polygon
  • Area of a triangle
  • 30-60-90 right triangles
  • 45-45-90 right triangles
  • Quadratic formula
  • Formula for the vertex of a parabola
  • Discriminant of a quadratic
  • Sine, cosine, and tangent

SAT Math Tip 3: Double-check what the question wants

Pretty much everyone will tell you to do this, and with good reason: just about every student will miss at least one SAT Math question because they didn’t double check what the question was asking for. 

Sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing which variable the question wants you to solve for. Do they want x, or y, or z? Or (as the digital SAT often does) do they throw a curveball and ask you to solve for something like (2x) instead? 

Other times, the SAT is even trickier about this. They may present information in one unit (like minutes) but then ask for your answer in another unit (like hours). If you don’t double check that, you’re bound to get the question wrong even if you do all the math perfectly. 

In the past, on the paper version of the SAT, we’d tell you to circle or highlight or underline the key part of the question. Now, on the digital SAT, we’d advise you to just make sure that you work in a “double-check” step at the end of each question before you pick an answer and move on. 

It’ll only take a second, but it’ll mean the difference between being right and being wrong. 

Knowing what you need to know is the first step to excelling on the SAT Math. But it’s not just about having a list of concepts to study: you want to make sure you’re comfortable with the digital SAT’s structure, timing, and scoring. 

Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you: we have guides written on the digital SAT’s format, on the timing of the test’s sections, and on how to best prep for the digital SAT

Check out those posts to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the test. Because the SAT is standardized, there should be no surprises for you on test day; it’s all a matter of giving yourself enough time to do high-quality, consistent SAT prep. 

But if you’re really targeting a top SAT score and find yourself stuck below that 1500 mark, the best way to break through that plateau is with one of our SAT Prep coaches. They’re not just stellar test-takers themselves: they’re trained to help you master the test, relying on a cutting-edge curriculum and resources developed by our co-founder Kevin Wong. 

Good luck, and happy prepping!

As you start your test prep journey, be sure to keep your end goal in mind: what’s a good SAT score for your target schools? There’s no easier way to find out than by downloading the free resource below, which contains the median SAT scores for 500 top US universities!

SAT Reading_PrepMaven

5 Digital SAT Reading Tips for a Top Score

5 Digital SAT Reading Tips for a Top Score

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

If you’re one of the many students taking the Digital SAT in order to apply for college admissions, you likely already know how important it is to achieve a high score. It can often mean the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection!

The Digital SAT’s Reading and Writing section may seem like it’s subjective, or like it’s the kind of test that you can’t really prepare for. But that’s not true: acing the SAT’s Reading questions doesn’t require you to be an amazing reader (or a lucky one). It’s all about understanding how the Digital SAT’s questions and answers are designed, and knowing in advance what to look out for. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve guided thousands of students to top SAT scores, and we’ve developed a winning approach to cracking the SAT Reading questions. The SAT Reading tips contained in this guide aren’t just helpful hints: they’ll teach you exactly what the SAT test-makers want and how you can use that information to lock in a top SAT Reading and Writing score. 

One key factor in SAT Prep is your goal score, which depends on what colleges you plan to apply to. Below, we’ve compiled the median SAT score ranges for the top 500 US universities–download it for free and start planning!

Jump to section:
Digital SAT Reading and Writing Overview
SAT Reading tip 1: Find evidence
SAT Reading tip 2: Don’t infer
SAT Reading tip 3: Use clues for words in context questions
SAT Reading tip 4: Prepare for Logical Reasoning questions
SAT Reading Tip 5: Familiarize yourself with the types of SAT Reading passages
Next steps

The SAT Reading tips below are specifically designed to help you answer the Reading questions on the Reading and Writing section of the SAT. Although the whole section tests your verbal skills, only half of the questions test reading ability specifically: the other half test your grammar knowledge, on which we have a guide here

Although we have a full break-down of the SAT Reading and Writing section’s format and question types here, we’ll recap the main types of questions you’ll be asked below. Later in this guide, we’ll work through the specific ways to approach the Reading questions. 

So, what does the digital SAT Reading and Writing section test?

According to the College Board, the questions on the SAT Reading and Writing fall into four broad categories: 

  1. Information and Ideas
  2. Craft and Structure
  3. Expression of Ideas
  4. Standard English Conventions

But to tell you the truth, these categories are not the most helpful way to understand the test. (I mean, what doesn’t count as “information and ideas?) 

Instead, we recommend thinking about the SAT Reading and Writing section as being half-Reading, half-Writing, each of which with two broad question types. 

When it comes to the Reading questions, it’s much easier to think of them as testing two key skills: 

  1. Literal comprehension
  2. Evaluating logical/scientific reasoning

That’s it, really! While there are specific question types (more on that below!), these are the two fundamental skills tested by the Digital SAT’s Reading questions. 

Bear that in mind as we walk you through a comprehensive SAT Reading approach below. 

And, if you want to know what SAT score you should be targeting, feel free to download the free resource below: in it, we’ve compiled the median SAT scores at the top 500 US universities!

It’s good advice for a detective, but it’s absolutely crucial advice for the SAT Reading questions. 

If you’ve ever felt that an SAT Reading question was subjective or up to interpretation, the problem is likely that you weren’t thinking about it through the lens of evidence.

For every single SAT Reading question, there is only one answer that is supported by evidence from the text or passage. What do we mean when we say “supported by?” Well, it basically means that the answer is literally within the text of the passage. 

Doing SAT Reading questions is really like being a detective: identify what the question wants you to find, and then search for it within the passage. Once you find what you’re being asked about, read it literally and look back to your answer options: the correct answer is the one for which every single word can be supported with specific evidence from the passage. 

When practicing, try the following exercise–you’ll be surprised at how much clearer these questions become. 

For every SAT Reading answer option that you select, identify and note down the place in the passage that each part of your answer comes from. It’s all about the evidence: can you prove that the text says exactly what the answer option does? If so, you’ve got the right answer. 

This tip is so important we’ll really double down here: never assume, infer, or deduce. This is where students get themselves in trouble: they think about what might be true or what would make sense or what is reasonable

Thinking this way is a recipe for getting SAT Reading questions wrong. Remember Tip 1: find evidence! The only answer that is correct is the one that is literally stated within the passage (the one that you can point to evidence for). 

The moment you start thinking about what might make sense or what could be true, you’re already stepping away from how the College Board wants you to answer these questions. When you do so, you’re making it nearly impossible for yourself to get the right answer. 

You might be thinking: well, what about those questions that ask “It can most reasonably be inferred that…” or “The author would most likely agree with…”? Don’t these questions want you to do a little inferring? 

Nope! They’re phrased this way to trick you, plain and simple. No matter how the question is phrased, your answer is in the passage. That’s it! 

The moment you find yourself thinking about what could or would or should be true, stop yourself. Go back to the passage, and ask yourself: what does it literally say? 

Let’s keep the detective theme going here and talk about those pesky “Words in Context'' questions. You’ll see a healthy serving of these questions at the very beginning of each module of the Digital SAT’s Reading and Writing section, so it’s crucial to have a strategy. 

While it’s important to know what each of your answer options means, these aren’t really vocabulary questions! They’re not asking you for the definitions for these words. What matters is whether the word in the answer option fits within the sentence they’ve selected. 

So, what decides what the right word is for the context? It’s not about what “sounds right,” it is, once again, all about evidence! For these questions, the sentence or sentences will always contain specific clues that indicate what the missing word is supposed to mean. Let’s take a look an example from a real Digital SAT practice test: 

Note: if you just plug these answer options into the sentence, they all sound fine. Grammatically, they all work. 

So, how do we decide which is correct? Look for clues: what else in this paragraph connects to our missing word?  

Well, we know that, whatever these particle physicists are doing in the first half of the sentence, it’s synonymous with “closely examine” in the second half of the sentence. That’s our clue: whatever our missing word is, it should mean the same thing as “closely examine,” since we know that both are descriptions of what the particle physicists are doing. 

As soon as you identify this clue, the question becomes much easier. Which of the four words is closest in meaning to “closely examine?” Well, that would have to be B, “inspecting,” which is the correct answer. 

This question is an easier one, but every words in context question operates exactly the same way. Mastering these is a great way to set yourself up for success on the SAT Reading and Writing section, and it’s a skill that takes time to learn. 

A great way to give yourself a headstart? Work with one of our tutors. They’re not just SAT experts: they’re experts at helping others ace the SAT. Over the course of a few sessions they can help you develop skills that you can use throughout the rest of your test prep journey. 

This is a totally new question type on the digital SAT Reading and Writing section, and one that is very difficult for most students. What does an SAT Logical Reasoning question look like? Check out the real example below: 

It is, unfortunately, a very wordy question, which is typical of this question type. So, what does this question test? Fundamentally, it’s asking you to identify the link between evidence and a conclusion

In this specific question, they want you to pick an option that would support the team’s hypothesis. The first thing to do is identify the hypothesis: “fork-tailed flycatcher females are attracted to the specific sound made by the males of their own subspecies, and that over time the females’ preference will drive further genetic and anatomical divergence between the subspecies.” 

That’s the easy part: the hard part of this question is to identify what answer options would support this hypothesis! Again, the key is evidence. Remember the exact language of the hypothesis, and refer back to it often. 

The first half of the hypothesis was specifically about the sounds male birds make, right? So, we can eliminate A and D, which don’t deal with sound. The second half of the hypothesis was about how there would be eventual divergence between subspecies, so we can eliminate C (which is about “communication,” an idea not present in the hypothesis). The correct answer here is B, since it’s the only one that connects to the conclusion. 

That was an easy example of the SAT’s new Logical Reasoning questions. Not only are many of these questions harder than the one above, but you’ll have to work through a lot of them–they make up almost a quarter of the SAT Reading and Writing test. 

A strong SAT Reading strategy absolutely depends on you getting lots of practice with these new, difficult Logical Reasoning questions. If you have any doubt about your ability with this question type, then you’d really benefit by connecting with one of PrepMaven’s expert SAT tutors, all of whom have been studying the new digital SAT to ensure they’re well-versed in every question type. 

Are you a lover of 19th and 20th century poetry? If so, the SAT Reading and Writing section has some treats for you. If not, on the other hand, you might find yourself dismayed: while not a huge portion of the test, you will see at least a couple SAT Reading passages that take the form of poetry excerpts. 

In general, you need to go into the  SAT Reading and Writing section with a clear strategy for different kinds of passages. Although the SAT Reading passages vary in content and form, they have one thing in common: they’re short!

How long are SAT Reading passages? On the digital SAT, they’re extremely short: SAT Reading passages are 25-150 words long. In other words, about a paragraph. You will only ever have to answer one question per digital SAT reading passage. 

So, what are the types of digital SAT Reading passages?

You should expect to see all of the following:

  1. Fictional/Literary
  2. Poetry
  3. Humanities/cultural
  4. Scientific 
  5. Political/historical

You’ll see all of these on each digital SAT you take. If you’re serious about locking in a top SAT Reading score, you’ll need to develop a reading strategy for each type of passage! Are you weaker with one area than others? Do you have a lot of experience reading one kind of text, but not another? You’ll need to compensate for that before test day. 

If you walk into the digital SAT without having read any poetry or any scientific articles for the past three years, those passages are going to take up more of your time, and you’ll struggle much more to understand their form and content. 

Fortunately, this isn’t hard to fix: get lots of reading practice in for each of these short passage types! We’re not saying you need to read whole books. But you should incorporate short reading passages from all of these fields into your SAT Reading practice routine. 

Not sure if your SAT Reading & Writing score is good enough? Well, it all depends on what college you want to go to! Take a look at the median SAT scores for the top US schools below, and you’ll have a better idea of where you stand. 

You might be wondering why we only put 5 SAT Reading tips here, but the truth is that these aren’t just tips: these 5 rules should be the backbone of your SAT Reading strategy. If you master these and incorporate them into your practice, you’ll see your score and understanding of the digital SAT improve rapidly. 

Of course, it’s not always easy to just implement new strategies by reading them. That’s why we strongly recommend any students targeting a digital SAT score above 1500 spend at least a little time with a top-tier test prep expert, like one of our tutors. 

Unlike some other companies’, our tutors don’t just have you drill countless problems. They help you dive deep into the fundamental concepts and strategies you need to understand to ace the SAT, ensuring that you have an edge on test day. 

In the meantime, feel free to keep reading our other guides on the digital SAT below: the test has changed, and you want to make sure you’ve got the latest information!

As you start your test prep journey, be sure to keep your end goal in mind: what’s a good SAT score for your target schools? There’s no easier way to find out than by downloading the free resource below, which contains the median SAT scores for 500 top US universities!

Digital SAT Score Range Breakdown

Digital SAT Score Range Breakdown

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Applying to competitive universities means having a competitive SAT score. But how do you decide whether your SAT score is competitive for the schools on your list? What’s really the difference between a 1300 and a 1350 SAT? Or a 1490 and a 1500?

In this post, we’ll cover how to interpret the SAT Score Range, as well as how to put your scores into a meaningful context so that you can better understand how you compare to other applicants to your dream school. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve specialized for the past two decades in helping students reach their academic goals in school, boost their SAT and ACT scores for admissions, and craft compelling essays for college applications. Over that time, we’ve developed a winning approach to test prep that we’re happy to share with our readers. 

That also includes the spreadsheet linked below: we’ve dug into the most recent data on median SAT scores at the top 500 universities, organizing that information into one place so that you can better plan your application strategy. Download for free below!

Jump to section:
What’s the SAT Score Range?
What are SAT Score Percentiles?
What’s an Average SAT Score?
What are “High” SAT Scores?
What are “Low” SAT Scores?
Next steps

This post will focus specifically on how you can understand your SAT score and percentile as compared to other scores. If you have other questions on SAT scoring–like the new adaptive digital test, SAT score benchmarks, or Super Scoring–you should check out our master guide on SAT Scoring policies here. 

The SAT has changed starting in 2024, but the overall score range remains the same. Your total score is the sum of your scores for the Math section and the Reading & Writing section. The theoretical minimum score for each section is 200, and the maximum is 800. Naturally, this means the full SAT score range is from 400 to 1600. 

While that’s the full theoretical range of scores, very, very few people score at either extreme. According to College Board percentiles (which you can find here), only 1% of test-takers score a 660 or below, and only 1% score a 1530 or above. So, while either could happen, they’re both outliers. 

In fact, 90% of test-takers score between a 720 and 1440 composite on the SAT. Only 5% of students score above a 1440, and only 5% score below a 720. 

While everyone has different goals, our experience at PrepMaven has shown us that students aiming to get above that 1440 mark especially benefit from personalized SAT prep tutoring. At the higher ends of the score range, small strategies and changes in test-taking approach make all the difference. 

You can read our reviews of the top 15 SAT prep services here, or you can just contact our team to get paired with one of our expert tutors, each of whom is trained to help you develop those high-level strategies and approaches to the SAT. 

Since this post is just about SAT scoring, we won’t go too deep into what each of these sections actually involves here. If you want to know what the SAT Math and SAT Reading & Writing sections test or how they’re organized, you can check out a guide to the sections of the SAT here. 

Because the College Board uses percentiles and Score Equating to keep scores consistent across different tests and dates, every SAT score corresponds to a specific percentile. That “percentile” number tells you how many people you’ve outscored. If you see that your overall percentile is 75, for example, it’s saying that you scored higher than 75 percent of SAT test takers from the last 3 years. 

Because of that, the College Board offers a very helpful chart that connects every SAT score with a percentile rank. This is your best tool for putting your own score in context. The higher your percentile, the better your score! 

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of College Board’s information on the new Digital SAT Scoring policies: 

We can use this chart to put all score information into context. Notice that the percentiles are not the same across the Reading & Writing and Math sections! To really understand the SAT Score Range, you should look at each section separately, breaking down your Reading & Writing and Math scores according to their respective percentiles. 

Most important, look at what SAT scores the average admitted students have at your target colleges–that’s what matters most of all! To help save you time, we’ve actually provided a free spreadsheet of the average SAT scores at 500 colleges that you can download free below. 

This is really just a statistical question! If we look at the SAT Percentile Chart above, we can look for the 50th percentile score in each section. 

For Reading & Writing, a score of 520 means that you’re right in the middle of the pack: you scored higher than one half of test-takers, and lower than the other half. 

For Math, it’s almost the same: a score of around 510-520 means that you’ve performed better than roughly half of other students, and worse than the other half. 

We’ve also got a special breakdown of average SAT scores at different colleges (including Ivy League schools and top-ranked public universities) here, in case you want to take a look at some recent trends in average SAT scores at top schools. 

These are all helpful benchmarks, but don’t forget why you’re taking the SAT in the first place: unless you’re doing it for fun (unlikely!), the goal is to get into the college that you want to attend. 

As a result, “Average” SAT Scores aren’t that helpful to know: what really matters are the average SAT scores at the universities you want to attend. We know what you’re thinking: If only there were some really convenient spreadsheet that organized all that information for you! 

Great news: our test prep experts here at PrepMaven have put together exactly that. Follow the link below and you’ll get access to a spreadsheet that has the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile SAT Scores for 500 of the top US colleges! 

As you can perhaps tell by the scare quotes around “high,” this question doesn’t have a simple answer. That’s just because it’s so personal: what counts as “high” for a student who wants to attend Princeton isn’t going to be the same as for a student who wants to apply to the local state college. 

We’ve written a more detailed, nuanced post on what counts as a “good” SAT Score here, and we strongly recommend you check it out: we use the latest data to provide specific tips on setting and reaching your target scores. 

In this post, we’ll stick with the objective statistics. A good score to target might be, for example, a 75th percentile score in each section (which would mean you’ve outperformed 75% of other SAT test-takers). Looking at our chart, that would mean roughly a 600 in each section, for a composite of 1200. 

But we’ll point out that, for most competitive or “elite” universities, that’s not going to cut it. Take a look at the table below for some more selective universities. Notice how high even the 25th percentile scores are at each of these universities! At Yale, for example, a 740 Reading and Writing score would put you below 75% of their accepted students. 

College 25th Percentile Reading and Writing Score  75th Percentile Reading and Writing Score 25th Percentile Math Section Score 75th Percentile Math Section Score
Yale University 740 780 760 800
Vanderbilt University 730 770 760 800
Amherst College 710 770 750 790
Pomona College 730 770 750 790
Princeton University 730 780 760 800
Brown University 730 780 760 800
Barnard College 720 770 720 780

That’s why we always say that, as with beauty, a “good” score is in the eye of the beholder–in this case, what matters is what your target colleges will consider “high.” There is one thing worth pointing out, if we go back to the College Board list of percentiles and scores. 

If you want to really lock in a top-tier score, you’ll want to aim for the 99th percentile. Earning a 99th percentile score in Reading & Writing means getting a 760 or above. Doing the same in Math means getting a jaw-dropping 790 or higher! 

These top scores, naturally, don’t leave a lot of room for error, but they do make you stand out as an applicant. We can tell you from decades of experience working with students taking the SAT that students targeting these top scores especially benefit from test prep tutoring. 

The difference between 99th percentile and 95th percentile might seem small, but it can mean a world of difference–and our tutors are experts in helping students overcome score plateaus and break into the highest range of SAT scores. Reach out today, and we’ll pair you with a tutor specifically based on your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. 

We’ve also written a separate guide for those brave test-takers targeting a perfect 1600. That guide is tailored for students already scoring extremely high but who want to know what it takes to lock in a perfect SAT score–something only a handful of people do each year. 

If you really want to know if your SAT score is high enough for your target schools, check out our spreadsheet of SAT score ranges below. 

Once again, “Low” SAT scores are a question of perspective: at the end of the day, a “Low” SAT score is just one that isn’t good enough for your target college. 

That being said, the College Board does offer “College and Career Readiness Benchmark” Scores. These benchmarks are markers of what College Board calls “college readiness,” meaning that anyone below these benchmarks is, theoretically, not ready for the rigors of college study. 

These SAT benchmarks are fixed: they don’t change from test to test, regardless of how people score. 

The digital SAT “college and career readiness” benchmarks are: 

  • Reading and Writing: 480
  • Math: 530

While your target SAT score is up to you, we highly recommend you aim above these benchmarks. Remember: these are really the minimum levels at which you’re considered ready for college. Any score below these is what you might want to consider a “low” score. 

When it comes to SAT prep, the first step is the same regardless of your starting point or your end goal: do some research into SAT score ranges at the universities you’re considering applying to. Then, take a diagnostic SAT to see what your score currently is! 

We’ve got our free spreadsheet of SAT score ranges for 500 top schools here and we’ve also got a post that contains links on Digital SAT Prep Resources (including practice tests) here. 

Once you get a sense of your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, there’s simply no better way to maximize your SAT score than by working with one of our expert SAT prep tutors. Not only are they top scorers themselves, but they’ve got the experiences and training to help you become a top scorer. Reach out to our team to get paired with a personal SAT prep tutor today! 

Guide to Digital SAT Scoring

Guide to Digital SAT Scoring

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Taking the SAT as part of your college application process? If you are, you know that the SAT is a competition, and understanding exactly how SAT scoring works is crucial to making sure you’re doing test prep in a way that maximizes your chances of success. 

With the transition to the digital SAT in 2024, the way the SAT is scored has changed drastically. In this post, we’re going to cover everything the College Board has revealed about how the new adaptive SAT is scored, as well as what that means for college admissions. 

Though this digital SAT format is relatively new, PrepMaven has been guiding students to top SAT scores for decades. Our test prep experts have dug into the new digital SAT practice tests and scoured the information released by College Board to compile a comprehensive guide to digital SAT scoring. Everything you need to know about SAT score ranges, adaptive testing, and “good” SAT scores, you’ll find below. 

As an additional free resource, we’ve included our breakdown of SAT score ranges for the top 500 US colleges and universities. By clicking the link below, you’ll see exactly what kind of score it takes to get into the schools you’re thinking of!

Jump to section:
Digital SAT Score Range
Understanding the Digital SAT Score Report
Official SAT Score Percentiles Table
How Does Adaptive Testing Affect Your SAT Score?
What’s a “Good” SAT Score?
What are the SAT “College Readiness” Benchmarks?
Is the SAT “curved?”
Sending SAT Scores: Superscoring vs Score Choice
Next steps

Although the SAT has changed starting in 2024, the overall score range remains the same. Your total SAT score is the sum of your scores for the Math section and the Reading & Writing section. The theoretical minimum score for each section is 200, and the maximum is 800. Naturally, this means the full SAT score range is from 400 to 1600. 

Since this post is just about SAT scoring, we won’t go too deep into what each of these sections actually involves here. If you want to know what the SAT Math and SAT Reading & Writing sections test or how they’re organized, you can check out a guide to the sections of the SAT here. 

Below, we’ll break down the sample digital SAT score report that College Board provides on their website. Take a look: 

The SAT score report provides the following information: 

  • Section scores
  • Overall score
  • Section percentiles
  • Overall percentile
  • Relative strength in the SAT “content domains”

All of this information is crucial! Your SAT scores and percentiles tell you how you stack up against other test takers. The higher your percentile, the better your performance. For example, this sample student performed better than 78% of SAT test takers on the Reading & Writing section, better than 44% of SAT test takers on the Math, and better than 63% of SAT test takers overall. 

The Knowledge and Skills section tells you how you perform in each of the SAT’s “content domains.” In other words, how strong are you across each of the content areas? While this section doesn’t give quite as much information as we’d like (more on that below!), it does tell you generally which areas are worth prioritizing.

For example, this student needs to really focus on their Algebra skills in math, while they’re relatively strong in problem solving and data analysis. 

If you find the language of these “content domains” a little unclear, you’re not alone! For a more explicit breakdown of what SAT Math actually tests, you can check out our post here, where we break down what each of these “content domains” actually means!

You’ll notice that the digital SAT doesn’t show you some key information. It is no longer possible to see which questions you missed–or even how many questions you missed! 

This can be very frustrating, and, honestly, it makes SAT prep more difficult. Improving on the SAT means using your past practice tests to identify strengths and weaknesses, so the more information you can get, the better. Because of how little information you get from the new SAT, we strongly recommend working with an experienced SAT prep tutor who can help you develop a test prep plan tailored to your performance. 

Why does College Board no longer show you how many questions you missed? Well, it has to do with the new adaptive nature of the test, which we break down below. 

And if you want to see what the median SAT scores for the two sections of the SAT look like at different universities, check out PrepMaven’s SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools here.

If you’re wondering how your section scores compare nationally, the College Board has released the following table:

While helpful, this list of SAT score percentiles is less important than the scores and percentiles at your target schools. Always keep your end goal in mind when prepping and evaluating scores.

You can also read more about how to understand the SAT score range in this post, which goes into detail on what “average,” “low,” and “high” SAT scores actually mean. 

Read on to learn more about how the digital SAT’s adaptive testing affects scoring, as well as important strategic considerations when it comes to submitting test scores to colleges!

The biggest change with the digital SAT is the incorporation of Multistage Adaptive Testing (MST)

How does multistage adaptive testing work on the SAT? Although College Board hasn’t released the algorithm responsible for the adaptive test, we do have a lot of helpful information. 

Each SAT section consists of two “modules” (you can read a breakdown of timing, question number, and more here). Your first module for each section will contain a roughly even mix of easy, medium, and difficult questions. 

The difficulty of the second module, however, is based on how many questions you miss on the first module. In other words: if you ace the first Math module, your second Math module will contain much more difficult questions. If you miss a lot of questions on the first Reading & Writing module, your second Reading & Writing module will contain easier questions. 

It’s crucial to understand that this means not all questions on the digital SAT are worth the same number of points. Again, we don’t know (and likely never will) the algorithm that calculates your scores on the digital SAT. But we know that harder questions are worth more points, and easier questions are worth fewer points on the new SAT. 

That’s why the new SAT score reports won’t tell you how many questions you missed: the raw number of missed questions can’t actually tell you much about your SAT score. 

We want to make something very, very clear: even though missing more questions in the first module leads to an easier second module, you will never improve your overall score by missing more questions on the first module. 

Remember that harder questions are worth more, so your number one strategy for a high SAT score is the same as it’s always been: try to answer every question correctly. 

Ultimately, this new adaptive system can either be a huge advantage or a huge challenge, depending on how effectively you approach prepping for it. That’s why we’ve made sure our tutors are trained to help you develop a winning, personalized strategy that helps you use digital SAT’s adaptive system to your advantage! Reach out here to get started. 

And, if you’re not quite ready to start SAT prep, do yourself a favor and check out our free spreadsheet of SAT score ranges at top universities–that way, you’ll be able to set your test score goals. 

It’s the classic question: what do you actually need to get on the SAT to be satisfied? But, as with all questions of happiness, it’s really a personal question: a “good” SAT score is the one that works for your goals. 

Before you really go into prepping for the SAT, you should spend some time thinking about what kind of colleges you plan to apply to. Most colleges publish the median SAT scores of their admitted students. Knowing that information can help you decide what SAT score to target: if your SAT score is below the median of your dream school, then it probably isn’t “good” enough.

Because there’s a lot of information to consider (and because we’re such nice people), we’ve done the hard work for you: if you follow this link, you can download a spreadsheet that lists the median SAT scores of admitted students to the top 500 schools in the US. 

We’ve made sure to update this spreadsheet with information from the most recent application cycle, so this is your best bet at understanding what SAT score you need to be a competitive applicant. 

Of course, there are different trends worth following (such as, for example, the ever-increasing median SAT scores at Ivy League schools). We’ve written a full post on the topic here, updated with the latest information on “good” SAT scores and the concrete steps you should take to achieve them. 

Unlike a “good” SAT score, this is more of a statistical question: the College Board sets a benchmark for both sections of the SAT, which you can read more about on their site here. 

These benchmarks are markers of what College Board calls “college readiness,” meaning that anyone below these benchmarks is, theoretically, not ready for the rigors of college study. These SAT benchmarks are fixed: they don’t change from test to test, regardless of how people score. 

The digital SAT “college and career readiness” benchmarks are: 

  • Reading and Writing: 480
  • Math: 530

While your target SAT score is up to you, we highly recommend you aim above these benchmarks. Remember: these are really the minimum levels at which you’re considered ready for college. Any score below these will be a red flag to most colleges. 

Worried about meeting these benchmarks, or just shooting to maximize your score? Our expert SAT tutors have experience working with students at every score range, and can help you create a test prep plan tailored to your goals! Reach out today, and we’ll pair you with your one-on-one tutor. 

If you’ve started SAT prepping and have spent any time reading forums or blogs about the SAT, you’ve probably seen people talking about “easier” and “harder” tests being curved differently. We’ll break down what people mean by a test curve, and what that means for your score. 

“Curving” is just a practice by which the designers of a test factor in natural variations in test difficulty, adjusting the scoring to ensure that it’s fair. Technically, the SAT-writers don’t “curve” the test, but they do use a process called “score equating” that ensures the test is scored fairly regardless of when you take it. When you see people online talking about test “curves,” they’re really talking about “score equating.” You can read College Board’s full policy here, but we break it down for you below. 

It’s impossible to make sure that every SAT test is exactly the same difficulty, of course, but College Board doesn’t want you to be disadvantaged if your test date happens to have more difficult questions than another test date. So, they use a process called “score equating” to make sure that, say, a 1500 on the April test is exactly the same as a 1500 on any other SAT. 

Take a look at the scoring pages from two past SAT tests (this is from the paper version of the test). Below are excerpts from the score sheets from Paper Test 9 and Paper Test 10. 

Notice that on test 9, you could miss 1 question on math (for a raw score of 57) and still get a perfect 800. On test 10, however, the same raw score gets you a score of 790. Why? Well, it suggests that people tended to do worse on the math section of SAT 9. So, to keep it fair, it took a lower raw score to get a higher section score. 

If you scan through both sheets, you’ll see more slight variations like this. But, at the end of the day, this doesn’t matter much: all that matters is the final section score. With the new digital SAT, you won’t even know how many questions you missed on the real test. 

Read on below to learn more about how submitting your SAT scores to colleges works. 

The College Board has two policies that often get confused when it comes to sending your SAT scores to universities: Superscoring and Score Choice. We’ll quickly break them down, since the difference is quite simple. 

SAT Score Choice is a policy offered by College Board. When submitting your SAT scores to a university, Score Choice allows you to select which test dates you want to report. For example, if you took the SAT in March, April, and September, you’ll be able to select whether you want to submit one, two, or all three of those score reports. 

Note: Score Choice doesn’t let you send the Math score from one test and the Reading and Writing score from a different test. Score choice is just about letting you exclude testing dates you don’t want to repeat. 

Most, though not all, universities allow you to use Score Choice to report only those test dates you want them to see. You should always check with each individual university’s website to make sure you’re following their policies, though these will also usually be found in your application portal. 

Superscoring isn’t a policy offered by College Board. Instead, it’s an increasingly common practice used by university admissions departments. If a college “Superscores” as part of its admissions policy, it means they only consider your highest section scores from all your test dates.

Let’s say you took the SAT in April and got the following scores: 640 Math and 550 Reading and Writing (1190 composite). Then, you take it again in August and get a 600 Math and 600 Reading and Writing (1200 composite). If a university Superscores, then they would consider your SAT score as 640 Math and 600 Reading and Writing (1240 Composite), because they’d only look at your highest section scores. 

Almost every university now Superscores. This is great news for you! If you hit your score goal for one section on a test date, you can then put all your energy into prepping for the other section if you retake the test. You don’t need to worry about doing worse the second time around, since the colleges will only consider your highest section scores. 

Few things immediately affect your chances of admission to college like your SAT scores. If you get an SAT score well below the median for your dream school, your odds of acceptance become incredibly slim; get an SAT score well above your school’s median score, and you’ve got an advantage over other applicants. 

That’s why we coach all our test prep students to first identify what their target scores are using our free, constantly up-to-date list of SAT score medians for the top 500 colleges in America, which you can download for free below. 

Once you can set a target, you’ll want to set aside time to prep. We believe students can accomplish a lot through self study, which is why we’ve written comprehensive strategy guides on all the sections of the new digital SAT, all of which you can find in the Related Posts section below. 

But we’ve also seen one undeniable fact from our decades of experience in college admissions and test prep: the students who score the best nearly always take advantage of expert coaches and tutors. As more and more students rely on expert test prep guidance, you don’t want to be left behind. Our tutors have a proven track record of remarkable score improvements, and you can contact us any time to be matched with a private SAT prep tutor. 

What’s on the SAT in 2024?

What’s on the SAT in 2024 (with real example questions!)

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Taking the SAT in 2024? Looking for a good, great, or even perfect score to boost your odds of college admissions? Then this post is for you: we’ll cover exactly what content you need to understand to ace the SAT. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve helped thousands of students earn their dream SAT scores, with many of them scoring 1500+ on the SAT. We’ve also spent countless hours researching the SAT so that we can offer you the best advice on how to prepare for it. 

This post will cover the specific content tested on the SAT, breaking it down into clearly defined concepts that you can then study on your own or with one of our top-scoring tutors. While the College Board offers a broad overview of what’s tested, our guide will go further, using our research to give you more specific (and more helpful) direction on what you need to study. 

One key factor in SAT Prep is your goal score, which depends on what colleges you plan to apply to. Below, we’ve compiled the median SAT score ranges for the top 500 US universities–download it for free and start planning!

Jump to section:
SAT Reading and Writing: what’s tested on Reading?
SAT Reading and Writing: what’s tested on Writing?
SAT Math: what’s tested?
Next steps

This post will give a broad overview of all content tested on the digital SAT, including eral sample questions! For a more granular breakdown of how each of the two sections is organized, you can check out our post here.

In the meantime, let's dive into the kinds of questions you'll see on SAT Reading and Writing! According to the College Board, the questions on the SAT Reading and Writing fall into four broad categories: 

  1. Information and Ideas
  2. Craft and Structure
  3. Expression of Ideas
  4. Standard English Conventions

But to tell you the truth, these categories are not the most helpful way to understand the test. (I mean, what doesn’t count as “information and ideas?) 

Instead, we recommend thinking about the SAT Reading and Writing section as being half-Reading, half-Writing, each of which with two broad question categories. 

When it comes to the Reading questions, it’s much easier to think of them as testing two key skills: 

  1. Literal comprehension
  2. Evaluating logical/scientific reasoning

For the “Writing” questions, the College Board categories are a bit more useful, and you can really think of the Writing questions as testing: 

  1. Expression of Ideas
  2. Grammar

Although Reading and Writing are combined into one section, there’s quite a clear divide between how the SAT tests each of these concepts. Understanding how the College Board has designed the format of the digital SAT’s sections is crucial for succeeding on the test, and you can read a full breakdown of the SAT Sections here

Roughly the first half of each Reading and Writing module tests the Reading skills, and the second half focuses on the two main Writing skills. 

When it comes to the Literal Comprehension questions, you’ll be presented with a series of short passages, each of which comes with one question. How long are the SAT Reading passages? Fortunately, only between 25-150 words! In other words, each reading passage is approximately one paragraph long. 

The first set of questions you see will specifically test Literal Comprehension, which means the following skills: 

  1. Fill in words in context:

  1. Summarize the main points of poems and short passages:

  1. Identify the meaning of specific lines within short passages

Then, you’ll encounter the next set of Reading passages, these ones testing your ability to analyze logical and scientific reasoning. These questions take two forms, generally: 

  1. Interpret charts and graphs

  1. Support, undermine, and complete logical arguments

Those are effectively all the question types you’ll see when it comes to SAT Reading! For a deep dive on how to recognize, approach, and answer each question type, you should check out our comprehensive SAT Reading guide here

Wondering how your SAT score stacks up against other applicants to your dream school? Check out the median SAT scores of admitted students with our free resource, PrepMaven’s SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools.

When it comes to SAT Writing, you’ll be tested on English Grammar and Expression of Ideas. Just like with SAT Reading, these break down into several predictable question types that you can learn to anticipate! 

For our comprehensive guide to every type of grammar question on the SAT Writing, click here. In the meantime, you should know that you’ll be tested on the following specific concepts and skills: 

  1. Subject Verb Agreement 
  2. Punctuation 
  3. Pronoun Antecedent Agreement
  4. Verb tense
  5. Dangling modifiers
  6. Logical comparisons
  7. Transitions
  8. Redundancy 
  9. Sentence construction
  10. Synthesizing information from bullet-pointed notes

Although there are more question types here, most of these are specific grammatical concepts. All you really need to do is learn the concepts (which you can do with one of our top-scoring tutors) and then learn how to recognize when the SAT is testing them. 

If you carefully read through our guides on each question type and put in the work to study, there’s really no reason you should ever miss a grammar question on SAT writing. They test objective rules, and they test them in the same way just about every time. 

The new Digital SAT (for 2024 and beyond) tests exactly the same math concepts as the old SAT. The College Board offers a broad breakdown of what skills are tested and how often, and we have a more content-focused guide to the digital SAT Math here. Later in this section, we’ll dig into more specifics about question types and content: what exactly will you need to know for the Digital SAT Math?

Here is the breakdown of what concepts are tested and how often on the Digital SAT: 

Category Skills tested Questions per test Percentage 
Algebra Linear equationsSystems of linear equationsLinear word problemsLinear inequalities 13-15 ~35%
Advanced Math Quadratic expressionsNonlinear functionsEquivalent expressions 13-15 ~35%
Problem-Solving and Data Ratios and proportions PercentagesData distribution and measures of center and spreadProbability Evaluating statistical claims and experimental design 5-7 ~15%
Geometry Area and volumeLines, angles, trianglesRight triangles, trigonometryCircles 5-7 ~15

SAT Algebra: what’s tested?

Algebra concepts make up a major portion of the Digital SAT Math section: 35%, or over one-third, of your questions will test fundamental algebra skills. What does the College Board mean when they talk about testing “Algebra?”

Fundamentally, the Algebra questions on the Digital SAT test your knowledge of linear equations and straight lines. Basically, any math question that involves two variables in a linear relationship to one another falls into the Algebra category. 

These SAT Algebra questions can take many forms! You’ll see graphs, word problems, equations, and input/output tables, all of which test the same fundamental equation: y=mx+b. Take a look at some real sample SAT Algebra questions below:

If you’re less than 100% confident on any of these concepts (especially on y=mx+b!), we’d really recommend working with a tutor to bring your math skills up to where they need to be. 

You can think of the Algebra section as your foundation for the SAT Math: if you’re struggling with any of these concepts, you probably will not be able to answer most of the questions on the SAT Math section correctly. 

Fortunately, this is a problem that’s easy to fix–if you get a head start! Building up the foundational SAT Algebra skills takes time, and you don’t want to be rushing to cram in a whole year’s worth of algebra knowledge before your test!

Our expert SAT tutors can help you identify exactly what Algebra concepts you need to work on to prepare for the SAT, ensuring that you don’t waste time learning concepts that aren’t tested. If Algebra is where you struggle, we strongly recommend starting professional math tutoring more than 3 months before your test date. 

SAT Advanced Math: what’s tested?

If you’re looking at what’s on the Digital SAT Math, you may be confused by what counts as “Advanced Math.” It’s especially important to know exactly what College Board means by this category, since “Advanced Math” SAT questions make up 35% of your total score!

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to think of what College Board calls “Advanced Math!” This section really just covers non-linear equations. What do we mean by that? It’s actually quite straightforward. The Digital SAT “Advanced Math'' questions cover the following concepts: 

  • Quadratics
  • Exponential functions
  • Equations of circles 

Here are a couple real SAT Advanced Math example questions: 

Fuzzy on any of these? You’re not the only one. Fortunately, our team of expert tutors at PrepMaven has put together a targeted guide for each of these concepts. Check out our guide to the SAT Math section here: it focuses specifically on teaching you what you need to ace the SAT Math section, as opposed to just math skills in general. 

SAT Problem-Solving and Data: what’s tested?

This category is a lot smaller than the first two but presents serious problems for many students. Many students don’t have much experience with statistics or probability, so these questions can be tricky. 

The key concepts you need to understand to succeed on this section are: 

  1. Ratios, proportions, percentages
  2. Probability
  3. Measures of center (like mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation)
  4. Interpreting charts and graphs (like stem and leaf plots, box and whisker plots, and histograms)
  5. Experiment/survey design

Take a look at the below sample questions: do you know how to do each of them?

These concepts can be very unintuitive, and this is one of the key areas where a good tutor can make all the difference–try a session with one of our SAT Math experts and see how helpful they can be!

Wondering how your SAT Math score stacks up against other applicants’? Our free spreadsheet breaks down median SAT scores at top US schools by Math and Reading & Writing subscores so that you can better plan your test prep strategy. 

SAT Geometry: what’s tested?

This section is pretty predictable, and tests your knowledge of the properties of a few basic shapes. The most important concepts tested on the SAT Math when it comes to Geometry are: 

  1. Circles (area, circumference, arcs)
  2. Triangles (special right triangles, similar triangles, Sin, Cos, and Tan)
  3. Regular polygons (these are your squares, rectangles, parallelograms, hexagons, etc.)

Many students struggle most with these questions, often because they don’t know where to start! Take a look at the questions below: all of these are from the mock tests provided by College Board for the new digital SAT, and you can bet the real SAT you take will have similar questions.


 While the SAT Geometry questions only make up 15% of the test, you still need to master the content to have a shot at a high or perfect SAT Math score. And because there are relatively few Geometry questions despite there being many possible Geometry concepts, these questions can be harder to predict than the questions on other sections!

Whether you’re just starting out SAT Prep or are aiming for a retest to lock in that 1600, your path to a great score depends on you knowing not just what’s on the digital SAT, but how it’s tested. 

This guide has been intended as a breakdown of what you need to know. If you’re ready to actually start learning it, we’ve developed comprehensive strategy and content guides for SAT Reading, Grammar, and Math questions. There, you’ll find lists of all possible question types, real SAT example problems, and step-by-step guides for each type of question. 

Of course, there’s no substitute for an expert to actually guide you through real questions and push your thinking further. Our team matches every student with their tutor through a personalized, hands-on process, ensuring that your tutor will be an expert in the specific areas you need support in. 

As you start your test prep journey, be sure to keep your end goal in mind: what’s a good SAT score for your target schools? There’s no easier way to find out than by downloading the free resource below, which contains the median SAT scores for 500 top US universities!

12 SAT Grammar Rules for a Perfect Score

The 12 SAT Grammar Rules you need to know

If you’re taking the digital SAT, you should know that the Reading and Writing section tests grammar concepts extensively. Without mastering the SAT Grammar Rules, it’s basically impossible to lock in a top SAT Reading and Writing score. 

The worst part is that many students don’t learn these grammar rules in school! Instead, most students rely on what “sounds right” or “looks right.” But that’s a sure way to get yourself in trouble and lose points on the digital SAT. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve got decades of experience coaching students to top SAT scores, and we’ve used that experience to put together this guide on every grammar concept tested on the digital SAT. If you can master every grammar concept in this blog post, you’ll be in a great spot to earn a high SAT Reading and Writing score!

Jump to section:
Overview: how is grammar on the SAT Reading and Writing?
SAT Grammar Rules: Punctuation
SAT Grammar Rules: Verbs
SAT Grammar Rules: Pronouns
SAT Grammar Rules: Sentence Construction 
Next steps

The digital SAT (2024 and on) no longer separates Reading and Writing into two different sections. Instead, both concepts will be tested in the same section. For our guide on the "Reading" half of the Digital SATs Reading and Writing section, check out our post here. According to College Board, roughly 26% of the questions on the SAT Reading and Writing section test “Standard English Conventions.” In other words: over a quarter of your digital SAT Reading and Writing questions are on grammar!

Below, we’ll break down each of the grammar concepts tested, and explain what you need to know to approach it. If you want an overview of how the SAT is structured, check out our post on the SAT sections here, and if you want an overview of all the content tested on the SAT, check out our guide here

The most important grammar rules you can learn for the digital SAT’s Reading and Writing section are about punctuation. We can’t stress this enough: if you use our grammar tips to master the SAT punctuation rules, you’ll see your Reading and Writing score jump almost immediately. 

So, what do you need to know about punctuation on the digital SAT? Well, it’s all about clauses! There are a finite number of grammar rules that determine what kind of punctuation you can use, and these rules depend on what kind of things the punctuation is separating. 

So, before you can charge headlong into the fray of SAT grammar questions, you need to know the difference between Complete and Incomplete sentences. This grammar concept is so crucial, we’ve actually got a whole post on it right here. For now, a quick summary: 

  1. A complete sentence (also known as an Independent Clause) is simply something that could stand on its own as a sentence within a longer piece of writing. It has a subject, a verb, and it’ll make sense as a complete idea if you put a period after it. 
  2. An Incomplete Sentence is, well, just something that cannot be a sentence on its own. If you put a period after it, it would not express a complete thought. 

That’s the short version: check out the blog post for more information and examples! For now, read on to learn the most important punctuation rules you need to know. 

SAT Punctuation Rule 1: A semicolon separates two complete sentences

This one is easy! In almost every instance, the semicolon is exactly the same as a period. If you have a complete sentence before it and a complete sentence after it, then the semicolon is always correct! 

If, on the other hand, the semicolon is between a complete sentence and incomplete sentence, it is wrong. All you have to do is check what’s on either side of the semicolon, and you’ll be on your way to getting the question right. 

Note: there is one super rare exception. It almost never comes up on the SAT, but we want to be thorough, so we’ll explain it here. If you have a really long, complex list within a sentence, you can use semicolons to separate the items in the list (the same way you’d normally use commas). Take a look at the example below, but remember–this grammar rule almost never comes up on the SAT Reading and Writing section!

Before getting home, I needed to pick up my dog’s medicine and drop him off at the vet; swing by the store to pick up milk, eggs, and bread; and fill up my car at the gas station.

It’s a neat exception to know, but focus on the fact that in 99% of cases on the digital SAT, the semicolon separates two complete sentences. 

SAT Punctuation Rule 2: A comma cannot separate two complete sentences. 

If you can master this SAT grammar rule, you’ll be able to eliminate tons of wrong answer options! And this one is quite straightforward, with no pesky exceptions: a comma can never separate two complete sentences. 

It’s as simple as that! Technically, this is called a “comma splice,” but all that matters is your ability to recognize it when it happens. If you know you’re dealing with an SAT punctuation question and you see a comma in your answer option, the very first thing to do is to check whether it’s separating two complete sentences. If so, it's wrong!

SAT Punctuation Rule 3: A comma with a FANBOYS separates two complete sentences

Depending on your past English teachers, you may have just done a double take: fanboys? When it comes to SAT grammar rules, FANBOYS is an acronym for the seven coordinating conjunctions: 








FANBOYS! Don’t get hung up on the grammar terms here: all you need to know is that if you have a comma and one of these seven words, you need to be combining two complete sentences. Take a look at some right and wrong examples below: 

Example 1: I like cats, and I like dogs. [Correct!]

Here, the two complete sentences are linked with a comma and a FANBOYS (“and”), so this works grammatically! 

Note: if you just had “I like cats, I like dogs,” that would be wrong! Remember: a comma by itself can’t connect two complete sentences. 

Example 2: I don’t know if we should go to the movies, or go to the mall. [Wrong!]

Even though this example might look okay, it’s wrong. Not just that: it’s a classic kind of wrong answer option you’ll see on the SAT Reading and Writing. The rule for Comma + FANBOYS is that they connect two complete sentences. In our example, the first half is a complete sentence, but the second half is just “go to the mall,” which, in this case, is not a complete sentence. 

So, the correct version of this sentence would not have the comma: “I don’t know if we should go to the movies or go to the mall.” would be correct!

Incorporating this rule into your SAT grammar strategy is absolutely critical, and will save you tons of points on the SAT Reading and Writing section!

SAT Punctuation Rule 4: Colons follow a complete sentence

Many students find colons confusing, but they’re really not so bad. The most important colon rule for the digital SAT is that the colon can only come after a complete sentence. 

What about what comes after the colon? Well, this can be either a complete sentence or an incomplete sentence! What it must do, however, is explain something that the stuff before the colon leaves unanswered. Think of it as completing a piece of the puzzle: the colon tells you that whatever comes after it will help explain whatever came before it. 

Take a look at a classic example below: 

There was only one problem with our experiment: we forgot to collect any data! 

Why does the colon work here? The first thing to check is whether it comes after a complete sentence, and it does. The second thing is to see whether the stuff after the colon helps “complete the puzzle,” which it also does: it explains the “one problem” with the experiment. 

That’s pretty much all you need to know about colon rules for the Digital SAT Reading and Writing section!

SAT Punctuation rule 5: dashes signal an interruption in a complete sentence

Dashes: what are they good for? It’s another tricky piece of punctuation, but we’ll break down the only two ways that dashes get used on the digital SAT, and you’ll have these mastered in no time. 

The easiest way to think about dashes is as a signal that we’re interrupting a complete sentence–almost like we’re changing direction. There are two ways this can happen. If you have a full complete sentence, and then want to add something else on at the end, you simply use one dash to introduce that new information. 

In this case, all you need to do to check if the dash is correct is to make sure that it follows a complete sentence

The more common way the SAT tests dashes, however, is when they introduce an interruption into the middle of a complete sentence. In this case, they work exactly like parentheses. If you use two dashes, then you should be able to remove everything between the dashes and be left with a complete sentence that still makes sense. 

Take a look at this example: 

I picked up everything–the food, the drinks, and the games–at 9 am this morning so that we’d be ready for the party tonight!

See how those dashes could be replaced with parentheses? And how, if you took out the stuff between the dashes, the sentence would still be complete and make sense? That’s all!

SAT Reading and Writing strategy tip: If you see a dash as an answer option on the digital SAT, your first move should be to see if there’s another dash already in the sentence that needs its twin!

On the digital SAT Reading and Writing section, there are two key Grammar rules when it comes to verbs. Although the rules themselves may seem simple, developing a strong SAT grammar strategy will depend on really mastering the nuances of these grammar rules!

SAT Verb Rule #1: Verb tense must remain consistent

Verb tense refers to the ‘time zone’ of a verb, indicating when this action, occurrence, or state of being is happening.

In general, the tense of the verb in question must match the tense of the surrounding context.

The surrounding context might mean the sentence itself. It could also mean a part of a sentence or the paragraph as a whole. This is why it is so important to read carefully for context when encountering any Verb question on SAT Reading and Writing!

So, if a sentence begins with the phrase “In 1989,” we can assume that the tense of that sentence will be in the past. If a paragraph is discussing an ongoing condition, such as “modern businesses’ efforts to maximize workplace efficiency,” we can assume that the tense of this paragraph will be, for the most part, in the present.

The key is to mine your context for clues that indicate what the tense standard is, and then ensure that your answer choice matches that tense. Here are some examples of common verb tense “clues” on SAT Reading and Writing:

  • Another verb in that tense in context (i.e., “studied,” “will walk,” or “breathes”)
  • A time clue (i.e., “In 1989,” “last year,” or “in the coming decade”)
  • A transition word or phrase (i.e., “meanwhile,” “lastly,” or “at first”)

SAT Verb Rule #2: Verbs must match their subjects

This is the heart of subject-verb agreement: verbs must match their subjects! (Remember: a “subject” in grammar is simply what/who is doing the verb.)

But what do we mean by “match”? All this means is that plural subjects take one form of the verb, while singular subjects take a different form. It’s so simple, you do it every time you speak without even thinking about it: would you say “He walk to the store” or “He walks to the store?” That, at its heart, is all that subject verb agreement is about. 

Here’s what that generally breaks down to:

  • A plural noun must have a plural verb
  • A singular noun must have a singular verb

A plural noun is a noun that indicates more than one of some thing, idea, or individual: horses, children, mosses. A singular noun indicates that there is only one of some thing, idea, or individual: horse, child, moss.

Now, even though we don’t always think of verbs in terms of their singularity or plurality, a verb will change form depending on whether its noun is plural or singular. Take a look at the following examples to see this in action:

  • The horses run across the field.
  • The horse runs across the field.
  • These mosses are hard to identify.
  • This moss is hard to identify.

In the first two examples, the plural noun (horses) matches the plural verb (run), while the singular noun (horse) matches the singular verb (runs). Run and runs are different verb forms.

In the second two examples, the plural noun (mosses) matches the plural verb (are), while the singular noun (moss) matches the singular verb (is). Are and is are different verb forms.

Now, our ears are pretty good at “hearing” when subject-verb agreement is off. Notice, for example, how “wrong” these phrases sound when you read them out loud or in your head:

  • Horses runs across the field.
  • The moss stick to the tree.
  • Mary deliver the book to her friend.
  • Cross-contamination are common.

These all sound “wrong” to our ears because the agreement is incorrect. You can apply the same test to verb and subject combinations on the digital SAT, and eliminate those that clearly don’t sound “right.”

SAT Reading and Writing strategy tip: The digital SAT loves to cram in a bunch of words between a subject and its verb to confuse students. That’s why it’s so essential to practice identifying a sentence’s subject and its associated verb correctly, which we discuss in our Verbs blog post

Even advanced students get tripped up by the harder versions of these questions, which is why we strongly recommend putting in at least a few sessions with an expert PrepMaven SAT grammar coach: they won’t just teach you the concepts, they’ll help you develop an SAT grammar strategy that saves you precious points on these tricky questions. 

Just like with verbs, there are two pronoun rules tested by the digital SAT Reading and Writing section. The first one is going to look a lot like the last rule we covered: 

SAT Pronoun Rule 1: Pronouns must match their antecedents 

Sorry for using the annoyingly complicated grammar word there: an “antecedent” is just whatever the pronoun is referring back to. Pronouns always replace nouns, so “the antecedent” is just whatever noun the pronoun refers back to. For example, in the sentence “The business saw its profits plummet,” we know that the “it” refers back to “the business.” 

The main thing that the digital SAT tests when it comes to pronouns is whether they agree in number with their antecedents. It’s just like with verbs: a plural antecedent needs a plural pronoun, and a single antecedent needs a singular pronoun. 

Any time you see a pronoun on the SAT, identify what specific noun it’s replacing/referring to. If that noun is plural, your pronoun must be plural as well. If it’s singular, then the pronoun ought to be singular. 

Remember: “it” is always singular, and “their” is always plural on the SAT Reading and Writing. 

SAT Pronoun Rule 2: Pronouns must be unambiguous

This rule is one that people often forget, but it’s crucial. Within any given sentence, a pronoun must clearly refer to only one known. In other words, it shouldn’t be possible to read a pronoun as referring to multiple different things. Take a look at an example of this rule being broken: 

 The scientists tried to stay thorough while collecting data points on the test subjects, but they ended up lost. 

The pronoun is “they,” right? But who/what is the “they” here? We know that it probably refers back to the scientists, but it isn’t actually clear because we have multiple plural nouns in the sentence that “they” could refer back to. “They” could be the scientists, sure, but “they” could also be the data points or the test subjects!

In a case like this, the digital SAT will always offer you an answer option that makes the pronoun more specific or replaces it entirely. One solution to the above example might simply be: “The scientists tried to stay through while collecting data points on the test subjects, but the data ended up lost.”

SAT Reading and Writing strategy tip: as soon as you see a pronoun in the question, identify exactly what noun it’s referring back to or replacing!

There are a few grammar rules that many people don’t even realize the digital SAT tests, and most of these have to do with specific issues of sentence structure. While these rules are tested less frequently, they are still tested on almost every test at least once!

SAT Sentence Structure Rule 1: Modifiers must be placed correctly

A “modifier” refers to a word or group of words that provide more information about a certain subject. In most Modifier questions on the SAT or ACT, a modifier is a descriptive phrase that provides additional details about a subject, often appearing at the start of a sentence.

Here are some examples of modifying phrases that might offer further details about a specific subject:

walking down the street

bespectacled and grimacing

associated with ancient tradition

In general, modifiers and modifying phrases must be right next to whatever it is they are modifying! Take a look at these sample sentences that use the modifying phrases above:

Walking down the street, my friend and I took in the gorgeous sunset.

Bespectacled and grimacing, the professor made his way to the lectern.

Associated with ancient tradition, the practice of ancestral worship appears in many cultures.

In all of these examples, the modifying phrases are placed directly next to the subject they are modifying. Misplaced modifiers are called “dangling modifiers,” and these incorrectly modify a subject. Here are the same examples written with dangling modifiers:

My friend and I took in the gorgeous sunset, walking down the street. 

The professor made his way to the lectern, bespectacled and grimacing.

The practice of ancestral worship appears in many cultures, associated with ancient tradition.

Technically, due to the misplaced modifiers, these sentences declare that it is the sunset that is “walking down the street,” the lectern that is “bespectacled and grimacing,” and the cultures that are “associated with ancient tradition.” 

In reality, we know that the sentences want to say that the friends are walking down the street, the professor is bespectacled and grimacing, and the practice of ancestral worship is associated with ancient tradition. But we need to make sure that the modifiers are closest to whatever they’re meant to modify–otherwise, we get those wrong “dangling modifiers.” 

These questions don’t appear often, but knowing this grammar rule can help you lock in an extra question or two on the digital SAT Reading and Writing section!

SAT Sentence Structure Rule 2: Items in lists must be parallel

Parallelism isn’t just a concept that appears in math. It also concerns grammatical structure, especially with respect to comparisons or lists.

To apply parallel structure, ensure that items in a comparison or list are in the same form, category, and/or number. 

In this next example, the verbs in the list all have the same form (-ing):

Desmond spends his days at the library photocopying, transcribing, and cataloging articles.

Here, the nouns in the list are all singular, reflecting parallelism in number:

Someday I hope to invest in a car, a retirement account, and a rental property.

All that parallel structure really means is that all of the things in your list share the same general form. If one thing in your list is a noun, the other things should be nouns as well. If one thing is an “ing” verb, all the other things should be as well. 

SAT Reading and Writing Strategy Tip: if you see that a digital SAT question asks you about one part of a list, simply look at the other parts of the list and change it to match. 

SAT Sentence Structure Rule 3: Comparisons must be logical

This one might sound funny: what’s it mean for a comparison to be logical? In a nutshell, all this means on the SAT Reading and Writing section is that you if you’re making a comparison, you must be comparing the same category of thing.

It sounds obvious, but it can actually sneak by us in writing. Take a look at this relatively easy example: 

The price of burgers has gone up way more than fries. 

Can you spot why that comparison is illogical? Technically, it’s comparing “the price of burgers” to just “fries” themselves, which doesn’t make sense (what would it even mean for “fries” to go “up?”). 

These can be tricky to spot, but they’re usually pretty easy to fix. The digital SAT will usually have you fix these by adding in a pronoun like “these” or “that.” Take a look at how we can use those to fix the previous example: 

The price of burgers has gone up way more than that of fries.

Notice the difference? By introducing the pronoun “that,” we’re now really saying that the price of burgers has gone up way more than the [the price of] fries! Look out for these on the digital SAT: they’re sneaky questions. But the answer options are the biggest clue: if you see that your answer options contain the phrases “those of” or “that of,” it’s a good bet that the question is testing logical comparisons!

These SAT grammar rules will help you approach all of the grammar questions on the Reading and Writing section. But don’t forget about the other question types! To familiarize yourself with the other concepts tested on the digital SAT Reading and Writing section, check out our post on What’s on the SAT.

In the meantime, if you’re serious about developing a strategy to maximize your digital SAT Reading and Writing score, you’ll want to use these grammar rules in conjunction with an understanding of the new digital SAT’s format. Check our post on everything you need to know about the digital SAT and how to prepare for the new digital SAT, and start prepping!

If you’re looking for more personalized help, you can get paired with one of our expert tutors, each of whom has experience guiding students through all of the SAT grammar concepts. 

Getting A Perfect SAT Score: What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know about a Perfect SAT Score

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Most students applying to selective colleges want to have a great SAT score: it’s an effective way of setting yourself apart from other applicants, showing your academic skills, and just generally impressing colleges. 

When students set their sights on a top score, very few think of aiming for a perfect 1600 SAT. In this post, we’ll talk about what it takes to get a perfect SAT score, how many people actually earn a 1600, and when it might actually be worth shooting for that 1600!

Over the last couple decades, we’ve worked with countless students on test prep. Because every student has a different starting point and end goal, we’ve guided everyone from students just looking to reach a college readiness benchmark to those aiming for Ivy admissions. Over that time, we’ve developed a winning approach to test prep that has helped our students see tremendous results. 

Below, we’ll offer some of our insights about how to get a perfect 1600 SAT score, and whether it actually makes a difference. 

If you want to see what it takes to be competitive at some of the top school sin the country, check out our free resource below: it contains information on the SAT score ranges of the top 500 colleges in the US!

Jump to section:
Who gets a perfect SAT score?
How many questions can you miss for a perfect score?
Does a perfect score make a difference?
How do you prep for a 1600 SAT score?
Next steps

On the digital SAT (2024 and on), a perfect score is still a 1600, and requires you to earn a perfect 800 in both the Reading & Writing and Math sections. 

So, who is actually able to pull off a perfect score on test day?

The answer, as you might guess, is: almost nobody! According to College Board’s statistics from the 2023 test, only the top 1% of test takers get a 1530 or above. 

According to College Board’s “Understanding Digital SAT Scores,” the percentile for scores above 1570 is “99+” which unfortunately doesn’t give us a ton of information: all it really says is that, at that score range, you’re in an even smaller slice of the top 1%. 

If we break it down by section, only 1% of students get a 790 or 800 on Math, and only 1% of students get a 760 or above on Reading & Writing. While this doesn’t tell us the whole story, it does show us that the percentage of people getting a perfect 1600 is well under 1% of all SAT test takers. 

Take a look at the list of median, 25th, and 75th percentile SAT scores for the top 500 schools: you’ll see just how rare perfect 800s are!

We wish we had an easy answer for you here, but there isn’t one. Since the SAT went digital in 2024, the scoring system has changed completely. You can read more about these changes on our dedicated post to everything you need to know about the digital SAT

But to give you the short version: the SAT now uses an adaptive testing system for all its sections. Each section now presents you two separate subsections (or “modules”) of equal lengths. While the first module is the same for all students, the second module you receive will depend on your performance on the first one. 

So, if you ace the first Reading and Writing module, your second module will present you with much harder questions than if you’d bombed the first one. That also means you’ll be in a higher score bracket than someone who did very poorly on the first module. 

Because of this, however, knowing the raw number of correct answers is useless. In theory, you can get more questions correct than another test taker and still receive a lower score. 

All that is important to keep in mind, of course, and there’s naturally a lot of gray area with this new digital test. That being said, you can be reasonably confident that, for a perfect score, you can afford to miss almost 0 questions. While an individual test may have a slightly different curve, the only way to guarantee a perfect SAT score is to miss no questions at all.

It might be tempting to think that a difference between a 1590 and a 1600 is just 10 points, but that’s not the whole truth. 

The SAT, like most standardized tests, is theoretically scored along a normal distribution–in other words, it’s curved so that each score corresponds to a particular percentage of test takers. 

We’ve included a sample normal distribution table below, but don’t get too hung up on it: the only point you should take away from it is that as you go to the very edges of the range, the percentage of students drops extremely rapidly. 

Vector Scientific <b>Graph</b> Or Chart With A Continuous Probability ...

Because a 1600 is at the very extreme end of the SAT score range, a vanishingly small number of students actually attain it.

What that means for you is that a 1600 on the SAT (like a 36 on the ACT) will stand out at any university. Even at Harvard or Yale–schools where you need a score of 1540+ to be competitive–a 1600 is fairly rare. 

Besides its rarity, however, the difference between a 1600 and a 1590 is literally the difference between perfection and imperfection. A 1590 is a tremendous accomplishment, but a 1600 shows that you have a level of attention, focus, and discipline that can bring you perfect results. 

We’re not saying every student needs to aim for a 1600. But, if you have the capability–meaning you’re comfortably able to lock in a 99th percentile score–we recommend doing your best to specifically prep with the goal of getting a 1600. 

Take a look at the free spreadsheet of SAT score ranges for the top 500 schools: you’ll see that even at the top schools, a 1600 is really something that sticks out!

The advice that follows is specifically for students already scoring in the mid to high 1500s who want a 1600. If your score is below that threshold, then you should start by consulting our other SAT prep resources designed to boost your score to the top 1%.

If you’re already in the top 1%, you may feel like you’ve plateaued. Do you just miss one or two questions a section on each practice test? Do you find yourself making silly mistakes that you immediately catch upon review? These are classic problems for people just shy of the 1600. 

So, how do you specifically tailor your test prep to get a 1600?

  1. First, perfect your content knowledge. 

There cannot be a single concept, strategy, or idea you’re unfamiliar with if you’re targeting a 1600. How do you test yourself? 

Practice tests, obviously, are a great resource. But these are highly limited for the digital SAT. A great resource you can use to drill content is the SAT Digital Question Bank. This includes thousands of SAT questions from College Board and allows you to target difficulty levels, question types, and specific concepts. 

Any misses on these questions should send you hitting the books: there are tons of free resources available to review grammar and math knowledge. And, of course, we’ve got to plug our own expert tutors: these range from Ivy League undergrads to test prep tutors who have been teaching the SAT for a decade or more. There’s no concept they don’t know, no nuance of the test they can’t explain. 

  1. Then, master timing. 

If you’re a top scorer, you already don’t have timing issues. But when we say “master” timing, we mean something beyond just finishing the test in time. 

Mastering SAT timing means developing your own, maximally efficient pacing that allows you to finish the test with time to spare and incorporates a review process that makes use of every last second. 

As a basic benchmark, you should be able to finish each section of the test itself with 15% of the allotted time remaining. We’re not saying you need to do so every time: we’re only saying that this is the minimum safe benchmark that guarantees you won’t be caught off-guard on test day. 

  1. Develop strategies to eliminate “silly mistakes.”

Every student says it: “Oh, that was just a dumb mistake.” And often it’s true: if you’re locking in a 1550+ on a regular basis, many of your mistakes might be as simple as calculation errors, misreading what the question is asking for, or skipping over a word in the answer option. 

But silly mistakes cost you just as much as “real” mistakes, and your priority should be to develop your own strategy to avoiding these. We’re happy to give some general advice below, but this is fundamentally very personal. Each student thinks, reads, and tests differently.

Some tips that help students generally include: 

  • Highlighting the question itself
  • Highlighting key terms, units, or important modifiers
  • Always double-checking specific kinds of calculations (negatives, fractions, percentages, etc.)
  • Simply doing certain kinds of questions twice, every time. 

But what works best for you will depend entirely on what kinds of questions you usually miss and why. Work to develop your own strategies, or work with an expert who can tailor strategies to your particular kinds of “silly mistakes.” 

  1. Practice, review, practice, review, practice… 

It’s not exciting, but it works: the real difference between students who get a 1590 and students who get a 1600 is that the latter drill more effectively. Taking lots of practice tests is absolutely vital, but so is using those tests effectively. 

Here’s an exercise I recommend if you find you’re still missing a couple questions on each practice test: for every missed question, put 5 minutes on the clock. For those 5 minutes, think only about what went wrong with that question, and what specific steps you can do to avoid it. 

It’s a lot of time to spend on a question (especially if it was a “silly mistake”) but it will teach you to look at every aspect of the problem and not just say “oh, I won’t miss it next time.” Identify the concepts at play, identify what tricks the SAT is using, identify exactly what about the phrasing or style of the question may have led you to make the mistake you made. 

And, of course, take notes: once you’re pushing for a perfect 1600, you should be logging every missed question along with your notes on what went wrong and how you’ll avoid it in the future. 

Perfect SAT scorers are incredibly, incredibly rare. But it’s not a question of luck. If you have the knowledge and ability to score in the top range of test-takers, all that’s separating you from a 1600 is discipline, time, and the right strategic approach. 

Below, we have a collection of posts covering a broad range of key digital SAT strategies, everything from Reading tips, to grammar rules, to fundamental math concepts.

These are a great starting point. But, because getting a 1600 is something so few people aim for–because it so depends on your individual test-taking style–we strongly recommend working with one of our top-tier tutors. Many of them have guided students to those elusive perfect scores in the past, and they’ll bring all their experience to the table in helping you achieve that same goal. 

Wondering whether it’s worth in prep for a top score? Check out our free resource below: it has median SAT scores for the top 500 schools in the US, so you can see exactly what kind of score it takes to get into your dream school.