The SAT Question and Answer Service: What You Need to Know

Every year, the College Board administers seven SAT exams.

Students who take the SAT can expect to receive their multiple-choice scores 12-14 days after taking the test. Essay scores arrive a bit later (up to a week after).

These SAT score reports contain essential details about student scores, including section scores and percentile rankings.

However, they don’t include information about the specific questions a student missed.

This might seem strange. After all, knowing how you can improve is a key part of any SAT study plan!

But the SAT is standardized, and the College Board is very careful about releasing any of its content to the public.

Luckily, students can learn more about the questions they missed through the SAT Question and Answer Service. This is a service available to test-takers of select exams.

What is the SAT Question and Answer Service? Should you use this service as an SAT test-taker?

We answer these questions and others in this post.

Here’s what we cover:


A Typical SAT Score Report: What it Looks Like

SAT Score Report

About 12-14 days after taking the SAT, your scores should be available online. To access your scores, log in to your College Board account and view your online score report. This is free!

If you registered for the SAT by mail, you will receive a paper score report in the mail. The same is the case if you don’t have an online College Board account. (Note: this takes a bit longer than online score releases.)

You can get your scores via the phone, but there is an additional fee for this.

What’s on a typical SAT score report?

Basically, students can review all of the following on their score reports:

  • Total SAT score
  • Essay scores (if applicable)
  • Section scores
  • Percentile rankings (for section scores and total score)
  • Test scores, Cross-test scores, and Subscores (don’t worry about these)

Total SAT ScoreTotal SAT Score

This is, naturally, the most important part of your SAT score report, and the score that most students care about! SAT total scores range from 400 to 1600.

Learn more about how scoring on the SAT works here.

Essay Scores

If you took the SAT Essay, your scores will appear in the same section as your total SAT score. Students receive a score for each of the three essay categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

Each category score ranges from 2 to 8. 2 is the lowest score you can receive in each category, while 8 is the highest. We talk about ways to maximize your SAT Essay score in a separate post.

SAT Section ScoresSection Scores

These refer to the scores students receive on a scale of 200-800 on the Verbal and Math sections of the SAT. Your Verbal score is calculated based on your performance on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing & Language Tests.

Your Math score is calculated based on your performance on two Math sections: No-Calculator and Calculator.

This section of the SAT score report also references whether or not you’ve surpassed specific benchmarks for each section, scores that “represent college readiness.”

Percentiles

Students will be able to see two percentile rankings for their total SAT score and section scores on their score reports: their “Nationally Representative Sample Percentile” and their “SAT User Percentile.”

Nationally representative sample percentiles refer to the percentage of students a test-taker has outperformed within a sample group. This group is derived from “a research study of U.S. students in grades 11 and 12 and are weighted to represent all U.S. students in those grades, regardless of whether they typically take the SAT.”

Your SAT user percentile refers to the percentage of students you’ve out-performed who have taken the SAT in the last three graduating years.

SAT Question and Answer Service

Test, Cross-Test, and Subscores

These are designed to represent your performance on specific question types within each Test. You can use these to assess the type of skills you’ll need to work on for future exams.

However, these do not reference the specific questions you missed in these areas.

In general, these can only broadly point to content areas and question types students will need to improve upon.

What’s Missing

Students get to see a little bit more when they view their full score report online, including “score ranges” and “Skills Insights.”

But SAT score reports do not include the specific questions missed in each section. Nor does a typical SAT score report identify the specific type or difficulty-level of these questions missed–key information for score improvement.

This may seem frustrating, but students do have an option here for viewing more details about the SAT questions they missed.

This is what the SAT Question and Answer Service is all about!


SAT Question and Answer Service: What is It?

The SAT Question and Answer Service is available for select SAT administrations. It’s one of several options SAT test-takers have for what the College Board calls “verifying scores.”

The Question and Answer Service gives students the following:

  • a copy of the SAT questions from a specific test administration
  • a report displaying your answers from the specific test administration
  • correct answers to these questions
  • “additional scoring instructions”
  • type and difficulty of test questions

The College Board clarifies that these SAT questions might not appear in the same order as they appeared on Test Day. This likely refers to their intention not to release exact replicas of the tests they’ve administered.

When is This Service Available?

The SAT Question and Answer Service is not an option for every administered SAT. It’s only an option for three SATs each year, and even so, there are restrictions.

If you take the test on a Saturday in the U.S. or Canada, you can request this service for the following test dates:

  • October
  • March
  • May

If you have SAT testing accommodations and/or take the test anywhere except the U.S. and Canada, you can only request this service for a May test date.

The service is not available for any of the following:

  • Alternate test dates
  • Makeup test administrations
  • U.S. military personnel testing (under the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program)

How Much Does It Cost?

Yes, you do have to pay for the Question and Answer Service.

As of 2020, it costs $18.00 to request this for eligible administrations. You can pay by check, money order, or credit/debit card.

How Do I Sign Up For The Q & A Service?

You can actually sign up for the Question and Answer Service when registering for the SAT!

It is also possible to order this service up to five months after you’ve taken the SAT on the available dates. To do this, simply log in to your College Board online account and select “Order Now” under “My Score Reports.”

You can also order the service over the phone or by submitting this paper request form. You can request in this fashion up until five months after you’ve taken the SAT on the Q-&-A available dates.


Should I Use the SAT Question and Answer Service?

So, is the SAT Question and Answer Service right for you?

Certainly, given its restrictions, it might not be an option for some students, especially those who have testing accommodations or plan to take the test on an alternate test date.

However, this service could be a valuable tool IF:

  • you plan on taking the SAT at least one more time
  • the $18 fee is not prohibitive
  • you’re taking the SAT in March, October, or May in the U.S. / Canada
  • you are taking the SAT in May with testing accommodations AND/OR
  • you want deeper insight into your SAT test performance

The College Board states on its website that “student answer verification services are not test prep or practice tools.”

However, we definitely believe that this service can definitely be used for test prep purposes. By taking a deep dive into the type and difficulty of questions missed on all SAT sections, students can gain crucial insight into their strengths and weaknesses. This can tailor and hone their prep in the coming weeks and months.

In fact, several of our families have utilized this service with positive results.

If you do request this service, we recommend working through missed questions, identifying underlying errors, and practicing similar questions in your prep until you’ve achieved mastery. If you are working with a private SAT tutor, bring your Question and Answer Service report to your next session to identify further steps!

Remember: good test-taking habits develop by recognizing specific areas of learning opportunity. This is one of the reasons why our expert tutors look closely at missed homework and practice test questions with their students in crafting study plans.


Next Steps

The SAT Question and Answer Service can be used as a strategic tool for guiding further, effective SAT prep.

While it may only be available under select conditions, we encourage eligible students to make use of this resource if they are keen to maximize their SAT scores.

While it is possible to self-study for the SAT, the best way to demystify that Question and Answer Service report is to work with an expert. At PrepMaven, we are proud to connect SAT students with world-class tutors.

Reach out today for your free consultation!


Kate_Princeton Tutoring_AuthorBio Kate M.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University (B.A. in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Humanities) and Boston University (M.F.A in Creative Writing). Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.