Taking the SAT test can be somewhat nerve-wracking, but fortunately, this is a test that people do not “pass” or “fail.” Instead, each college usually looks for a specific score in order to be admitted. This can include a specific total score or a specific score in one of the test areas. Once you learn a little bit about how the SAT is set up and administered, you can set a more realistic goal for yourself. And if you think the SAT verbal score is the most difficult to understand, you’ve come to the right place.
What Are the Parts of the SAT Test?
The SATs are not like ACT tests. The two tests have very different methods of scoring, so the highest scores for the ACT and SAT are 36 and 1600, respectively. The SAT scores have a score range of 400 to 1600, and the test consists of two sections with two parts each, for a total of four parts. These include the Reading test, Writing and Language test, Math no-calculator test, and the Math calculator test. Below are a few more details on the sections and the scoring:
- Reading test raw score: Calculated between 10 and 40
- Writing and Language test score (raw score): There are 44 questions, and the raw score is the number of questions you get right; then, the score is calculated between 10 and 40
- Reading and Writing test score: Consists of the Reading test score and the Writing and Language test score, which ranges from 20 to 80; the number is multiplied by 10 to get a score that is between 200 and 800
- Math section score: The raw score (number of correct answers) from both the no-calculator and calculator sections are added; then the score is converted using a specialized chart to get a score that is between 200 and 800
So the highest overall score for the SAT is 400 to 1600 (200-800 for Reading and Writing, and 200-800 for Math). The test also provides you with a percentile rank, which tells you how well you did compared to other individuals on that same test. For example, if you’re in the 99th percentile, this means you scored higher in that area than 99% of the people who took the test. If you scored in the 50th percentile, therefore, it would mean you had an average score because half of the people scored higher and half of them scored lower than you.
What About the “Verbal” Section?
So, you’ve likely heard a lot about the Verbal section of the SAT, and this refers to Reading and Writing sections, which are officially called the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. Since that’s too long to say for most people, they simply call it the Verbal section of the SAT test. This means that you can call the two sections on the SAT the Verbal section and the Math section, and each of these sections has two parts. It sounds a little confusing at first, but it’s easy to understand after a while.
We determined earlier that the Verbal SAT score is worth 200-800 points, or half of the total SAT score. This makes the Verbal section extremely important, but you can easily improve that particular score if you’re familiar with it and you learn a few simple tips. The best way to improve this score is to know about the scoring methods, learn what types of questions are found on the test, and maybe even take some SAT practice tests, and these tests are easy to find if you go online.
How Can You Improve Your Verbal Test Score on the SAT?
Verbal test scores can get as high as 800 points, and if you’d like to increase the odds that you’ll get as close to that 800 as possible, there are some things you can do. Keep in mind that for a few years until 2015, test makers gave the SAT three sections: A Critical Reading section, Math, and Writing. Since 2016, its format is the one mentioned earlier, with two sections and a total of four parts. So don’t be confused if you’re researching the SAT online and you see something that mentions Critical Reading. This section is no longer applicable.
But, back to the Verbal section of the SAT. The first step to improving your score is to know what the sections consist of, starting with the SAT Reading section. This section asks you questions in five specific areas or passages:
- 1 in US and World Literature
- 2 in History and Social Studies
- 2 in Science
As far as the types of questions go, all of them fall into eight categories, with six of them utilizing the skills used for critical reading, and two of them utilizing new skills that weren’t required in the test before the year 2016. Let’s take a look at these eight categories in more detail.
Category 1: The Meaning of a Word in a Passage
These questions ask you what a specific word means in the context of a passage. These are multiple choice questions and you have to identify how the word is used in a particular sentence or passage. Remember that there are numerous words that can be used several ways, so you’ll have to pay attention to the passage carefully.
Category 2: The Main Point of a Passage
This category wants you to see the main point or the “big picture” when it comes to the passage. After you read the passage, you’ll have to decide if the main point is to inform, contradict, review, hypothesize, parody, prove, etc. Once again, thorough reading of the passage is important.
Category 3: Recognize Small Details
These questions reference a specific line in a paragraph, then ask you about a detail from that line. In this way, the question might want you to explain what a paragraph or phrase accomplishes in that context.
Category 4: A Line or Paragraph’s Inferred Meaning
In a way, this category expects you to interpret the meaning of a specific line or even the entire passage. It may sound difficult, but it really isn’t, especially if you’re prepared for it. Keep in mind that the answers aren’t subjective – there is a definite answer to each of the questions.
Category 5: Determine the Function of a Sentence or Phrase
Determining the function or effect of a sentence or phrase is the purpose of this type of question.
Category 6: Recognize the Tone, Attitude, Style, or Perspective of the Author
These are called Author Technique questions and you have to determine the author’s voice, attitude, tone, perspective, or style.
Category 7: Interpret Data (New Skill as of the 2016 Test)
These questions will have charts or graphs that you have to interpret. They sound technical but if you practice them and get familiar with them, you’ll see that they aren’t all that difficult. They’ll list data sets and ask you to choose a fact that best or least supports the question. You don’t need to be a science expert for these types of questions, but you do have to be able to read graphs and charts.
Category 8: Provide Evidence Support (New Skill as of the 2016 Test)
These questions come in sets of two. The first question asks a specific question about a certain passage, and the second question asks you to specify where you found the answer to the first question.
Other Things You Need to Know
Admissions committees at colleges decide what your minimum score should be, so if you intend to get a degree in English, for example, they’ll expect you to have high scores on the Reading and Writing sections, which means your Math score might not have to be that high. If you’re getting a math or science degree, however, they’ll likely require a higher Math score but may let you slide on the Verbal part of the test. It’s up to each college admissions department to decide what the scores need to be.
There are also numerous sites online that test takers can go to and take practice tests. Remember that there’s a difference between your raw score, which is the number of questions you get right; and the composite score, which is calculated another way. You’ll take this class in high school, but you can take it more than once if you like. Make sure you read each writing and reading question thoroughly so you understand it. The SAT is a diagnostic exam that tests several different knowledge areas. Some of the areas are broken down into sub tests and section scores, which affect the final score.
The SAT score report gives you the reading test score (the SAT verbal score) and the writing score, because there is an optional essay on the SAT. The writing section on these standardized tests is important for anyone who wants to major in a humanities or liberal arts option. You do not lose points for a wrong answer but you can score higher with more right answers. Though every student would love a perfect score, that isn’t necessary, and it’s a good idea for college-bound seniors to check with the college board or admissions office to get more information on what their target college expects from your SAT exam scores and their quantitative admission requirements.