First, a quick reminder about how SAT essays are scored: two graders score each SAT essay on a scale of across three different dimensions:. Summed together, this means your score can range between 2 and 8 for each area. Logically, it would seem that the average SAT essay score in each domain should be a 5 since that's halfway between 2 and 8. The most recent SAT essay score data bears this out except when it comes to the Analysis dimension.
To get a better idea of how frequently different essay scores were assigned, I created several different SAT essay score distribution charts that show how many students got each essay score for Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The data in this first chart shows the distribution of scores across all three dimensions for students who graduated high school in From this chart, we can see that there's the same general trend for the numbers of students who got various Reading and Writing scores, while there's something quite different going on with Analysis scores.
Let's separate these scores out into separate graphs, starting with Reading and Writing essay scores. If you compare the graphs for the distribution of Reading and Writing scores, you'll see a striking similarity between them when it comes to how many students got each score on Reading and Writing. There's a huge drop-off from the middle range of scores to the upper and lower ends of the scale.
The SAT Essay: Overview
Because so many people score towards the middle on SAT Essay Reading and Writing scores, it's safe to say that if you score a 3 or below, your essay score is definitely lower than average; if you score a , your score is pretty average; and if you score a 7 or above, your score is significantly higher than average. In contrast to the trend for Reading and Writing scores, Analysis scores are heavily skewed toward the bottom of the scale. Even though the average Analysis score for was a 3 out of 8, the Analysis score the most students received was 2 out of 8.
Why did so many students score lower on Analysis, while still managing to do okay on Reading and Writing? The most likely answer is that the Analysis dimension is the part of the SAT essay task that is most different from what students have had to do on other standardized test essays. Instead of giving their opinion on the passage in the SAT essay prompt, students are asked to analyze the author's opinion. While this analysis is pretty straightforward once you manage to wrap your mind around it, it is very different from what students had to do on the old SAT essay and what students are still asked to do on the ACT essay and other standardized essays like DBQs.
Because of the different trends for Analysis scores on the SAT essay, an Analysis score of a 6 or above puts you well above average; a score of is solidly middle of the pack; and a score of 2 is low.
When colleges look at your SAT scores, however, they usually won't look at your essay scores all by themselves. This leads into my next point More and more schools are dropping the requirement for students to submit SAT with Essay scores entirely, and schools that do require the SAT Essay often place much less importance on your essay score than on your other SAT scores. Still, there are highly competitive programs and schools that use SAT scores to place students in the appropriate level classes that require students to submit SAT Essay scores.
For these kinds of schools, while your SAT essay score still won't matter as much as almost any other part of your application, you'll still want to aim for a high enough score that you're not immediately disqualified or so that you don't get bumped down into remedial writing. So what's the average SAT essay score you should target for more competitive schools? Our advice is to aim for at least a 6 out of 8 on Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Higher essay scores particularly on the Analysis dimension are even better, but a 6 out of 8 shows that you have above-average writing skills on a standardized essay written at the end of a multi-hour test.
In cases where admissions offices might wonder if your application's personal statement was a fluke, your SAT essay scores can confirm that you do have a certain level of writing ability.
What is the SAT?
And the SAT essay rubric requirements to get a 6 out of 8 on each section are a pretty reasonable minimum standard for colleges to expect students to meet. If you're struggling to get a 4 or above on each SAT essay section, don't despair—you're not alone, and there is hope. Start by reading our collection of SAT essay blog articles.
Next, follow along as I write an SAT essay, step-by-step.
5 SAT Essay Tips for a Great Score | The Princeton Review
With these four articles, you'll learn just what is required to excel in each dimension of the SAT essay and how to approach reading the prompt, analyzing the passage, and writing the essay. If you're struggling with identifying how the authors of SAT essay prompts build their argument, we also go into the six most common argumentative essay devices.
Finally, if you think you'd benefit from more personalized feedback on your essay writing, you might want to try out PrepScholar SAT. You'll get to write essays on official SAT essay prompts and receive feedback from graders on what you're doing well and how you can improve and boost your score to the next level. Now that you know what an average SAT essay score is, what should be your target? Learn more with our article on what a good SAT essay score is for you.
Discover what the relationship is between SAT essay length and essay score here!
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Well, I wish I could give you a short answer to that. But the truth is, it depends on your priorities in life. Most students will fall somewhere in-between.