Sat essay scoring guidelines

Of course, there is one major caveat to all of this:  when you are taking the GRE, you are trying to get every question right, and you don't know which questions you are getting right and wrong.  So in many ways, you are operating in the dark.  However, this table should at least give you a better idea of precisely how you need to perform on the test in order to achieve your desired score.

In order to easily access the easy, medium and hard second sections of the software, it helps to have an answer key.  Here are the answer keys to PowerPrep Tests 1 and 2, with percent correct listed when possible (this information is only available for the PDF tests, not the PowerPrep only questions): PowerPrep Test 1 Answer Key With Percentiles / PowerPrep Test 2 Answer Key With Percentiles

Having now done this research, I am also qualified to address some unverified rumors I had heard about the GRE.  

Rumor #1:  The GRE only scores your second section—the first section simply determines whether you get an Easy, Medium, or Hard second section.  

Verdict:  FALSE.   When controlling for scores on the second section, first section performance still has an effect on the final score (see table).

Rumor #2:  There is a penalty for leaving questions blank and/or not finishing the test.

Verdict:  FALSE.  I ran some simulations on this (finishing the sections, but not getting any extra questions right vs. leaving half the questions blank) and did not find this to be true.  However, you would have to be crazy to leave anything blank, because the GRE scoring algorithm does not care how many questions you get wrong—it only cares how many questions you get right.  Which means that you should make sure to give yourself enough time to answer any remaining questions, even if it’s a complete guess, because probability dictates that some of those guesses will be correct and thus lead to a higher score.  

Rumor #3:  You can get a perfect score even with one question wrong.

Verdict: TRUE.  In order to get a perfect score on math, you need to get all 40 questions right, but as you can see from the table, you can get one verbal question wrong (on either section) and still earn a perfect 170.  A perfect combined score is 340, but any combined score 330 or above is an extremely elite score and should help earn you admission to nearly any graduate studies program.

I hope this information helps you in your quest for a great score on the GRE computer adaptive exam.  Please email me directly with any questions, comments, suggestions, suggested revisions, etc. at mcelroy@.  And for more information about GRE prep, please check out my GRE Action Plan . 

Because so many students at the top universities have great ACT or SAT scores, I do recommend that students *consider* Subject Tests. You’ll only want to worry about them if you think that they can improve your testing portfolio. In the case of elite schools like Columbia, that means 750+ (or at least 700+). You can try tests from the Official Guide published by College Board. Fewer schools than ever are requiring the Subject Tests — especially with ACT scores. It would be a little challenging to fit them in (including preparing for them) as senior year starts and application season begins, so you may want to just sit tight with your ACT score.

Sat essay scoring guidelines

sat essay scoring guidelines


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