New SAT Essay Score Breakdown

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Even though it’s optional, we advise anyone taking the SAT to also write the essay. If you need to know what to shoot for score-wise, we have the grading and criteria for the new SAT essay score below.

Here are the nuts and bolts of how the new SAT essay score is calculated by graders today. Use them as guidelines for practice.

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The SAT Essay’s Purpose

The SAT Essay shows your understanding of the prompt and how to write out a thought-out, well-written argument.

Two essay scorers will read it and award between 1 to 4 points in three specific categories:

  • Reading: Show that you understand the provided passage, both the central ideas and supporting details. Show that you know how to cite and use textual evidence.
  • Analysis: Show your understanding of how the author develops the argument:
    • Examine evidence and reasoning usage, alongside other persuasive and style techniques
    • Developing and supporting claims with specific evidence from within the passage
  • Writing: The essay is focused, organized, and precise, with style and tone while following English language conventions.

How SAT Essay Scoring Works

The SAT Essay is scored using a 3-step process by two different people.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Two separate people read and score the essay independently.
  • You receive 1–4 points for 3 different criteria: reading, analysis, and writing.
  • The two scores for each criterion are added together.
  • You then receive 3 composite scores for the SAT Essay—one for each dimension—ranging from 2–8 points.
  • There is NO cumulative composite score. It is assessed by the 3 criteria composites, not one final cumulative one.

Reading Scoring Point Guide

  • 4 Points
    • Demonstrates thorough source text comprehension.
    • Shows a comprehensive understanding of the entire text including central ideas, important details, and their interactions.
    • Free of both factual errors and interpretation regarding the source text.
    • Skillful use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both).
  • 3 Points
    • Demonstrates effective source text comprehension.
    • Shows understanding of the text’s central ideas and important details.
    • Free of substantive errors of fact and interpretation regarding the source text.
    • Appropriate use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both).
  • 2 Points
    • Demonstrates some source text comprehension.
    • Shows understanding of the text’s central ideas but not important details.
    • May contain errors of fact and interpretation regarding the source text.
    • Limited or haphazard use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both).
  • 1 Point 
    • Demonstrates little or no text comprehension.
    • Fails to show understanding of the text’s central idea(s).
    • It contains numerous errors of fact and/or interpretation regarding the source text.
    • Makes little or no use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both).

Analysis Scoring Point Guide

  • 4 Points
    • Insightful analysis of source text and sophisticated understanding of the analytical task.
    • Thorough, well-considered evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements.
    • Relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claims or points. Consistent focus on the text’s features that are most relevant to addressing the task.
  • 3 Points
    • Effective analysis of source text and demonstrated an understanding of the analytical task.
    • Competently evaluates the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements.
    • Relevant and sufficient support for claims or points made.
    • Focuses primarily on the text’s features that are most relevant to addressing the task.
  • 2 Points
    • Limited analysis of source text and only partial understanding of the analytical task.
    • Identifies and attempts to describe the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, without sufficient analysis.
    • It contains little to no support for claims or points made.
    • Lacks a clear focus on the text’s features that are most relevant to addressing the task.
  • 1 Point
    • Little/no/ineffective analysis of the source text and little to no understanding of the analytic task.
    • Identifies without explanation some aspects of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements.
    • Little or no support for claims or points made, or support is irrelevant.
    • It does not focus on the text’s features that are relevant to addressing the task or any discernible analysis.

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