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
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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. We’ve ranked the 15 best SAT Tutoring Services: check out that list here!

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. 

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.