Home » Blog » How to Target a Perfect 1600 SAT Score?
Every year nearly 2 million students take the SAT, which is used for college admissions in the US universities. Typically taken by 11th/ 12th-grade students, SAT is meant to assess their college readiness.
Let us evaluate different sections and scoring mechanism of the SAT. The two major sections are the Evidence-based Reading & Writing (EBRW) and the Math Section. The EBRW comprises of the reading, writing and the language test. Both these sections have multigraph passages and the questions are multiple-choice. The reading section test the comprehension & reasoning skills, while the writing and language section test other skills including expression of ideas, grammar and punctuation.
The Reading section has 52 questions from 5 passages. These passages include one World/US literature, 2 History/Social studies, and 2 Science passages. The Writing section has 44 questions from 4 passages. The Math section, on the other hand, has a Calculator and No Calculator sections which test on Arithmetic, Algebra, Data Analysis and other topics including geometry, trigonometry, and complex equations. The No Calculator section has 20 questions to be answered in 25 minutes and the Calculator section has 38 questions to be completed in 55 minutes. There is also an optional Essay section to be completed in 50 minutes.
Now let us look at the different scores you will receive on the SAT. Both the EBRW and the math sections individually contribute 200-800 points. These scores are called the section scores. The sum of the two section scores is the total score that ranges from 400-1600. It is these scores that the test takers should ideally focus on. Along with these scores, the students will also receive scores in the SAT Reading, SAT Writing, and SAT Math sections. These scores range from 10-40. The Cross-Test scores range from 10-40 representing the performance in Social and Science domains. And then there are subscores that range from 1-15.
These subscores are considered as feedback on student’s performance in the major areas tested on the SAT. The seven subscores include Command in Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Mathematics, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis.
If the student takes the SAT along with the Essay, then the report will contain three scores on a range of 2-8 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing respectively. Along with these scores, two percentile rankings will also be mentioned in the report. The percentile ranking is an indicator of the percentage of students who have scored equal to or lesser than the student. For instance, if the percentile score is 80, then 80 percent of the students were equal or lower than the score received by the student.
Now that brings us back to the main question – What is a good SAT Score?
Let us look at some recent statistics about the SAT. In 2020, the average total score on the SAT was 1051 and individual averages on EBRW and Math sections were 528 and 523 respectively. What does this mean? If you have scored above 1050, then you have crossed the national average. Does that mean that you can get into your dream college?
Most of the colleges do not expect 1600 because these top scorers usually target the IVY leagues and the other top destinations. So, most students are satisfied with an above-average score that will get them admitted to a decent college. But if your dream is to graduate from an IVY League, then you ought to look at bigger numbers. Let’s see the scores accepted by some of the top colleges.
One thing is clear from this tabular column. It does not hurt to score 1600 just to be on the safer side. But how many students score 1600 every year? Not many. Just a few hundred out of the near 2 million test-takers. Should this bog you down? Not necessarily. Look at the flip side. After all, 1600 on the SAT is possible. You can be one among the few hundreds. Let us look at another table to see how the students have fared on the SAT in 2019.
According to this table, as long as you score a 1520 and above, you are in the top one percent. But like what we saw earlier, the college is the final authority when it comes to deciding whether your score is good enough. Most of the students tend to score closer to the middle than to the extremes of the scale. For instance, by improving from 1010 to 1060, your percentile ranking jumps by 10 points. But an increase from 1460 to 1510 would mean just a one-point improvement on the percentile scale.
What should you do to get a 1600 SAT score?
When aiming for 1600, you should not miss even a single question in any of the sections. Even missing a single question can result in a decrease by 10 or 20 points depending on the scoring curve. So, aim for a perfect score during the practice sessions.
Are you smart enough to just walk into an exam hall and score 1600 on the SAT? A few might be lucky enough. But the SAT requires a lot of hard work. You need to understand how the test works, how SAT tricks the students, and what strategies would work for you. The high scorers identify the patterns in the questions and this enables them to confidently tackle the test.
You should be really motivated to score 1600. Put down all the motivational points and go through them whenever you feel down. This could be any reason like you want to prove to your parents or teachers, you want to get into Harvard, or you want to outdo your friends. This motivation is what differentiates a super scorer from an ordinary test taker.
Another step should be to acquire quality books & expert guidance. The SAT tests you on simple concepts in weird ways. It is designed to make you fall for traps. So, you need to choose high-quality materials that mimic the actual SAT. The SAT official tests are a must-have. Remember that you are only as good as the materials you choose. This is where the preparation experts come in.
Quality always comes before quantity. In this case, too, it is not the number of questions that you practice matters but what you take away from those questions that matter. Time management, new concepts, and lessons from errors are things that you should take care of while practicing.
Mistakes are the stepping stones of success. This is true for the SAT too. Be merciless while working on the mistakes because if you cannot identify where you went wrong, you can never rectify that mistake and you are bound to repeat it. Analyze why you went wrong.
i. Whether you were not sure about the concept – Identify what skills you have to learn
ii. Whether you did not know how to approach the question – Figure out how to solve, is there any rule that you are missing out on.
iii. Whether you read the question wrong – Try to concentrate on the question while reading it.
iv. Whether you were down to two and you chose the wrong one – Now that you know the correct answer, figure out why you eliminated it. Also, figure out how to eliminate the wrong one. Is there a new strategy to learn? This disciplined approach will help you stand out in the crowd.
There is no point in practicing concepts you already know and give an ego boost. Rather work on the weaknesses and spend your precious time in these areas. Pull yourself out of the comfort zone and start keeping an error log. Face your nemesis and come out successfully.
Cultivate habits to get the best out of the time available-
i. Create a schedule– An unplanned preparation will not be an effective one. So, plan a schedule that involves the time you are going to spend, what are the topics you are planning to study for the day, and when should you plan for a test.
ii. Avoid Distractions – You may have to spend nearly two hundred hours preparing for the SAT. But most of the students often get distracted during prep time. This includes using social media, chatting with friends, and blanking out. Ensure that you give 100% concentration during the prep time.
iii. Be positive – There may be ups and downs during the preparation phase. Don’t lose heart. Go through your motivations and remain resilient.
Improve your speed along with the accuracy so that you have a handful of minutes to spare at the end of every section to review the answers.
Time and Pressure are inversely proportional – On the test, day remember you are working on a timed test. Do not let other pressures creep in and hamper your performance. Learn breathing techniques and mind-controlling exercises to remain calm and composed during the test.
Keep a track of the score requirements of the colleges – both the 25th and the 75th percentiles. Your score goal should be to reach the maximum of the 75th percentile in your list of colleges.
So, these are the steps you have to follow overall in all the sections. Now let us look at how to handle the different sections to maximize your performance.
The reading score is a part of the EBRW score. A high score means that your total score goes up and also if your math scores are less, this will help to compensate for the slip. Also, if you are looking for Arts or Humanities courses, you need a higher score on the EBRW, something on the lines of 770 for the Ivy Leagues. So along with the global habits, what are the other things you have to do to improve your reading score?
The tricky SAT – The SAT is designed to confuse the students. The questions sound like open-ended statements and are not like what you see in your English class. Also, while working through the answers, you may be down to two answers and would have made the wrong guess because both of them sound correct. This is a problem for the majority of test-takers. Remember, unlike your English class, there is no room for personal interpretation of the SAT. Don’t get fooled by terms like most likely supported, most nearly means, or primarily serves to. There is always unambiguously one correct answer for every question in the Reading Section and this answer has to be supported by the passage.
Identify your weakness – While practicing take a test, time it. If you finish the test within 65 minutes but your score is less, it means you have problems with handling the questions. On the other hand, if you can spend some more time and get more questions right, it means you have a problem with time management. Identify your weakness and work on it. More practice and the right strategies will help you with time management.
Evolve a strategy to tackle the passage and the questions – You can either skim the passage and then move on to the questions or you may choose to start working on the questions and read the passage as and when needed. Practice both the strategies and figure out what works best for you.
Learn to predict answers – After you have read the passage, predict the answer before you could work with the answer options. This will give a better shot at selecting the correct answer.
Learn to eliminate wrong answers – Now we know that only one answer could be correct, let us figure out how the other answers can be wrong. The wrong answers can have exact words from the passage and might not answer the question. Sometimes, these answers can be partially correct and hence totally wrong. In certain situations, the wrong answers might match with your personal opinion, but might not be supported by the passage.
Read the introduction – Read the introduction blurb. It might not give you the central idea of the passage but at least may tell you what the passage is about.
The Don’ts – Reading novels and magazines might not improve your reading score. Don’t bother about arcane vocabulary.
Writing and Language
This section contributes to the remaining EBRW score.
Identify the weakness – Just as mentioned in the reading section, take a timed test. If you complete it within time and score less, then you need to work on the concepts. On the other hand, if you take a little more time to complete the test and score more, then work on the timings.
Master the grammar rules – Nearly fifty percent of the questions in this section test are about grammar rules. Comprehensively learn the rules tested on the SAT which include punctuation, agreement, parallel structure, modifiers, verb tenses, and pronouns to name a few.
Learn to tackle the style questions – The remaining questions in this section test the style and tone. These questions come in a variety and include Adding/deleting, ordering, concision, graph and data-based, and style and tone questions.
The Calculator and the No Calculator sections together contribute 200-800 points to the total score. An 800 on this section would boost the overall score and also if you are looking at math or science-intensive courses, then this score is very important.
Identify the Weakness – Just like the other two sections, take a practice test to figure out if your problem is with the time or the content.
Practice a Lot – This will help you improve your speed and learn from your mistakes every time you practice.
Topics Covered – The test is majorly about basic algebra, advanced algebra, and problem-solving and data analysis. Few additional topics like geometry, trigonometry, and complex numbers might appear. Learn all the concepts tested in this section.
Are these rules and habits only for those aiming for 1600? Not necessarily. Anyone who is scoring in the 1300s and wants to push the score to 1500s and above can practice these strategies. Also remember the undergrad admission is a holistic process involving not just the SAT scores, but also your school GPA and your personal profile. So, make sure you have a balanced profile.
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