SAT and ACT test scores are often used by schools as a predictor of college academic success. Scores also provide a common academic measure that can be used to compare all applicants. But how are these tests scored and how do colleges receive scores and evaluate them?

How the SAT and ACT are Scored

The SAT test is divided into two sections, math and reading/writing, with the potential to earn 800 points for each section and a total composite score of 1600 points. The ACT test is divided into four sections–math, reading, English, and science–with the potential to earn 36 points per section and a total composite (average) score of 36.

Test Score Submissions

When you register for the SAT and/or ACT, you can request your test scores be automatically submitted to four colleges of your choice (you can select more than four, but you’ll have to pay for it). However, if you take the test more than once, the large majority of colleges will only use your highest section scores when evaluating your application.

Some students prefer to only submit their best test score to colleges, and they can do this by registering for score choice. If you choose to send your scores using score choice, you will lose the four free score reports given during registration. For many students, this is a small price to pay to know that the school of their dreams won’t see their first attempt at the SAT or ACT.

Scoring Policies

If you submit more than one SAT score with your application, which one will colleges evaluate? While each college admissions department follows its own SAT scoring policy, most schools superscore. Superscoring combines the highest math section score and highest reading/writing section score, even if they are taken from different test dates. Some of the highly competitive schools will follow a policy of looking at the highest test score in one sitting, which means your highest total score from one single test date. If the chart below indicates your test scores, the highest test score in one sitting would be 1260 and the superscore would be 1290.

Test Month Math Reading/Writing Total
March 650 580 1230
May 600 620 1220
October 620 640 1260

Like the SATs, colleges follow their own scoring policies when evaluating ACT test scores. They can accept the highest total composite score from one single test date, average the highest section scores across all test dates (superscore), or a combination. UVA, for example, does not recalculate the ACT composite score but does look at the highest score for each individual section (see more info and an example on UVA’s admission blog http://uvaapplication.blogspot.com/2013/11/how-uva-looks-at-test-scores-or-when.html ).

If the chart below indicates your test scores, the composite score would be 22 and the superscore would be 23 since all composite scores are rounded up or down.

Test Month Math Reading English Science Composite
April 19 22 25 18 21
June 18 23 24 19 21
October 21 26 24 17 22

The majority of Virginia colleges superscore SAT test scores but are split on how they evaluate ACT scores. Below is a chart of popular Virginia schools and their SAT and ACT scoring policies.

School Name SAT ACT
GMU Superscore Highest Composite Score
JMU Superscore Highest Composite Score
ODU Superscore Superscore
Radford Superscore Highest Composite Score
UVA Superscore Superscore
VA Tech Superscore Superscore
VCU Superscore Highest Composite Score

Why does Scoring Policy Matter?

Scoring policy can influence the way you study for the SAT or ACT. If all the colleges you apply to superscore, you can focus on just one section when studying after you’ve hit your goal score on the other sections. If the colleges you apply to evaluate the total composite score you can study your weaker areas across all sections to increase your total score. You will also need to continue to practice your stronger subject areas to keep that information fresh.

If you’re looking for a little guidance and strategy to increase your SAT or ACT test scores, we can help! Schedule a phone consultation with Tri-Ed Tutoring.