Achieving a 1500+ score on the SAT is not an impossible task, but it will require you to adopt a well-crafted study plan and to have a comprehensive understanding of how the test and its scores are broken down.
First, let’s look at how the SAT is scored.
SAT scoring in a nutshell
Your 1600 score (scaled) is divided equally between the two sections – Verbal (800) and Math (800).
Within the Verbal section, there is a further subdivision between the Reading (400) and Writing (400) sections. The scaled scores for each section mean that you will not be graded on a bell curve.
This is good news because regardless of when you sit for the SAT, you will be graded on your ability, so there will be a fairer comparison between you and your fellow test takers.
Each SAT test will be scaled differently based on its difficulty. A scaled score is your raw score – the total number of questions answered correctly – that has been converted onto a consistent and standardized scale.
For each question answered incorrectly, a fixed amount will be deducted from your overall score in increments of 10 points, so 2 incorrect questions could equate to anything from 10-30 points, depending on the day.
Scaled scoring is a best practice way to account for differences in difficulty across SAT papers. A test with more challenging questions will be scaled more leniently, and a test with more manageable questions will be scaled more severely.
Your scaled score is used to determine your percentile rank, which indicates how well you did compared to other test takers.
For example, if you score in the 87th percentile, you did better than 87% of test takers.
Calculating your Verbal section score
Since the Verbal section is split into Reading and Writing, each subsection is worth 400 points each. Given the fact that there are 44 questions in the former and 52 questions in the latter, a question in the Writing section is arguably worth ‘more’ than one in the Reading section.
This means that you can essentially answer more questions incorrectly in the Reading than the Writing section and still stand a chance to do well overall.
However, a good goal to aim for is 3 incorrect questions for Reading and 2 incorrect questions for Writing. This will give you some room for error regardless of how harshly the test is scaled.
Calculating your Math section score
While there are technically two subsections for Math, the raw scores for the No-Calculator and Calculator are added together when calculating your final scaled score.
The scale for Math is normally pretty harsh, so you want to aim for a maximum of 3 mistakes in the entire section.
5 SAT study tips to score higher
1. Know what concepts the SAT will test
The benefit of the SAT is that it tests a very specific – and fixed – list of concepts. Make it your aim right from the beginning to know which concepts the SAT will test. Enrolling in a test prep course may give you a shortcut as a good centre will highlight these to you. Once your grasp of these foundation concepts is sound, achieving a score of above 1500 is increasingly attainable.
2. Build stamina with timed practice
One crucial factor to take into consideration when preparing for the SAT is time management. Even if you have mastered every type of question, your performance will suffer should you be unable to complete the test within the set time frame.
To this end, it is essential that you complete multiple full-length timed practices before your test.
If you are a student at Prep Zone, make full use of the 30 full length tests that we give you access to on our portal. Doing so will also allow you to build the mental stamina required for your test.
3. Choose quality practice materials
There is a wide variety of practice test options available, but do remember that tests from third-party publishers are typically designed to be trickier and may even test you on concepts that are not part of the SAT syllabus.
4. Track your mistakes
Logging your errors is a good way to track your progress over time.
You want to have a clear sense of which concepts are giving you trouble so you can fix it. Blindly practicing without targeting your specific weaknesses is a recipe for a lot of effort but little improvement.
5. Pace yourself with your prep
Don’t try to cram in multiple practice tests per week, and especially not in the 2 weeks before the exam – the likelihood of burnout is high, and the odds that you gain anything substantial from these attempts is low.
Instead, aim for one test weekly over say two or three months, and ensure that you take the time in between to carefully analyse any mistakes that you made or questions you found tricky so that you can better focus your subsequent revision.
Will this work for me?
At the end of the day, your efforts will not betray you. Remain consistent in your revision and practice, carefully analyse your mistakes and review your weaknesses, and you will be well on your way to attaining a 1500+ score.