**Claim:** Students who take the SAT are awarded 200 points for spelling their names correctly.

FALSE |

**Example:** *[Collected via e-mail, 2004]*

Has anyone there ever heard the myth that you get 200 points on the SAT just for spelling your name correctly?

I remember someone in high school trying to claim that the reason they only got a 900 on the SAT was because they acidentally bubbled in a Q instead of an O when they were putting their name on the test, thus losing the

**Origins:** The SAT Reasoning Test (commonly known as simply “the SAT,” originally an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test) is the bane of college-bound hopefuls across the U.S., a

courses.

The SAT consists of two sections (math and verbal), each of which has a maximum possible score of

Since so many aspects of the high school and college environments are rife with folklore, an element as important as the SAT is bound to attract its own set of legends, one of which is the aforementioned claim that simply spelling one’s name correctly garners the test-taker a

Sometimes tests (particularly standardized tests with __lose__ points for answering the question incorrectly.

Let’s run through some examples of how such a system might work. We’ll start out by assuming we’re giving an

- A student who answers all 800 questions correctly earns
800 points. - A student who answers 600 questions correctly and
200 questions incorrectly earns600 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and
400 questions incorrectly earns400 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and does not answer the other
400 questions earns400 points. - A student who answers 200 questions correctly and
600 questions incorrectly earns200 points. - A student who does not answer any questions receives
0 points. - A student who answers all 800 questions incorrectly earns
0 points.

Now, if we wanted to discourage guessing on our test, we might deduct one-fourth of a point for each incorrect answer (with neither credit nor penalty for unanswered questions. In this scenario, our test-takers would score as follows:

- A student who answers all 800 questions correctly earns
800 points. - A student who answers 600 questions correctly and
200 questions incorrectly earns550 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and
400 questions incorrectly earns300 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and does not answer the other
400 questions earns400 points. - A student who answers 200 questions correctly and
600 questions incorrectly earns50 points. - A student who does not answer any questions receives
0 points. - A student who answers all 800 questions incorrectly earns
-200 points.

As we see, even though two students may both answer

Under this system it is possible for a student to receive a negative score by answering too many questions incorrectly. In order to avoid negative scores, we might add a specified number of points to each student’s total so that answering all the questions incorrectly produces a total score of zero. Since the lowest possible score is -200, we’ll compute our totals by adding

- A student who answers all 800 questions correctly earns
1000 points. - A student who answers 600 questions correctly and
200 questions incorrectly earns750 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and
400 questions incorrectly earns500 points. - A student who answers 400 questions correctly and does not answer the other
400 questions earns600 points. - A student who answers 200 questions correctly and
600 questions incorrectly earns250 points. - A student who does not answer any questions receives
200 points. - A student who answers all 800 questions incorrectly earns
0 points.

The SAT works on a similar principle, deducting points for incorrect (

Technically, no student can ever score lower than 200 on a section of the SAT, because results below that total are not reported. As the SAT FAQ explains:

Q: Is it true that you get a 200 on the SAT just for signing your name?

A: Theoretically speaking, if you just sign your name and don’t complete the answer sheet, you would get a score of 200. That’s because we don’t report scores that are lower than 200. In reality, if we received an answer sheet that wasn’t filled out, it would be considered an automatic request to cancel scores and no scores would be reported.

(Due to the way raw SAT scores are scaled, a student who answered no questions at all would probably receive a scaled score slightly __higher__ than 200 on each of the two sections, and he would have to answer some questions incorrectly to achieve the lowest possible scaled score of 200.)

For more than you wanted to know about SAT scoring, we recommend Colin Fahey’s article describing his endeavor to achieve the lowest possible raw score on the SAT. (He came up just shy of perfection, accidentally answering two questions correctly.)

**Last updated:** 23 June 2011

## Sources: |

*Associated Press.*. “Math SAT Scores Reach 36-Year High.”*CNN.com.*26 August 2003.