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SAT Essay Scores

How the SAT Essay is Scored

Two different highly trained scorers will review each essay. They award scores from 1 to 4 (4 being the best) on the three dimensions of reading, analysis and writing.

The standards that SAT essay scorers use in rating essays are:

4 – Advanced.

3 – Proficient.

2 – Partial.

1 – Incomplete.

How the SAT Essay Score is Used by the Colleges

How much weight the essay score will be given by the schools that require it (less than 10% of colleges currently require it) is frequently debated. Obviously, every school looks at it a bit differently. Our advice is to take a bit of time (probably about 5% to 10% of the total time you dedicate to your SAT test preparation) to prep for the essay and go as hard as you can for the full 50 minutes.

What We Really Think of the SAT Essay

Unless this is the first page of this website you’ve visited, you probably already know we’re pretty jaded about the College Board’s SAT test. The essay is required by less than 10% of colleges and that number is expected to continue to decline. Arguments have been made that the essay teaches an overly rigid writing style and its 4-point scoring system doesn’t provide enough differentiation to be helpful to schools. Additionally, there are reports of scoring inconsistencies and the fact remains that College Board does not use the essay score in any manner within the aggregate verbal score.

In time, perhaps the notable standout schools that require the essay (Harvard and UC Berkeley, as well as the other UC schools, immediately come to mind) will also drop the requirement and the SAT essay will go the way of the horse-drawn buggy. Please note several other notable schools “recommend” the essay such as Amherst and the US Naval Academy.