SAT Essay Scoring: What You Need to Know

The SAT Essay is an optional component of the SAT, designed to test your ability to analyze and evaluate the author's argument in a provided passage. If you choose to take the SAT Essay, it's essential to understand how it is scored and what the scores mean. In this article, we'll explore the SAT Essay scoring system and provide insights into what you need to know.

 Understanding the SAT Essay Scoring System

The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT, with scores ranging from 2 to 8 in three categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. These three scores are then added together to produce a total score between 6 and 24. Here's a breakdown of the scoring system:

- Reading: 

This score assesses your ability to understand and use evidence from the passage. It is based on how well you comprehend and summarize the author's argument.

- Analysis: 

The analysis score evaluates your ability to analyze the author's use of evidence, reasoning, and persuasive techniques to build and support their argument. It measures your ability to recognize and explain the strategies used.

- Writing: 

This score examines your writing skills, including your use of effective language, organization, and clarity in presenting your own argument. It also assesses the control and mastery of language and writing conventions.

Each of the three scores (Reading, Analysis, and Writing) is given by two different graders, who each provide a score between 1 and 4. The scores from these two graders are then added together for each category, producing a score between 2 and 8. For example, if one grader gives you a score of 3 for Reading, and the other gives you a 4, your Reading score will be 7.

After receiving your scores in each category, they are added together to create your total Essay score, which can range from 6 to 24. For example, if your Reading score is 7, your Analysis score is 6, and your Writing score is 7, your total Essay score would be 20.

 Interpreting SAT Essay Scores

When interpreting your SAT Essay scores, it's important to understand that the scores are not just a reflection of your writing skills; they assess your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments. Here's how to interpret SAT Essay scores:

- Scores of 6 or below: 

A total score of 6 or below indicates that your Essay did not effectively analyze and evaluate the author's argument. You may have struggled with comprehension, analysis, or writing. Most top colleges prefer to see scores above 6.

- Scores of 7: 

A total score of 7 is considered a respectable score. It indicates a competent analysis of the author's argument and effective writing skills. This score demonstrates a solid understanding of the passage.

- Scores of 8: 

An Essay score of 8 or above is considered excellent. It signifies a strong ability to analyze and evaluate the author's argument, along with effective and well-structured writing. Scores in this range will make a positive impression on college admissions officers.

 Should You Take the SAT Essay?

Many colleges and universities no longer require the SAT Essay as part of their admissions process. Before deciding whether to take the SAT Essay, research the admission requirements of the schools you're interested in. If your chosen schools do not require the Essay, it may be a good idea to save time and money by opting out of it.

On the other hand, if your desired colleges do require the Essay, or if you're unsure, it's a good practice to take it, as it can enhance your application and showcase your writing and analytical skills.


Understanding the SAT Essay scoring system is essential for anyone considering taking this optional portion of the SAT. Your Essay score reflects your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments, as well as your writing skills. Aim for a score of 7 or higher to make a positive impression on college admissions officers, but remember to check the requirements of your chosen schools to determine if the SAT Essay is necessary for your applications.