SAT Reading & Writing Section: 3 Reasons to Start Prep Early

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SAT Reading & Writing Section: 3 Reasons to Start Prep Early

(P)SAT Reading & Writing Section

In my years as Director of Exam Prep at MEK Review, it’s become clear to me that starting early preparation on the SAT Reading & Writing Section is the key to earning a 750-800 on the RW section, and a 1550+ total score.

What do I mean by early? 9th and 10th grade. Yes, that’s right, 9th and 10th grade. 

Read below to find the three main reasons why.

1. Reaching a 750+ on SAT Reading and Writing is Rare

Every year, College Board presents a break-down of SAT scores in the U.S. This breakdown shows the percentile rankings for students’ scores. A student’s percentile rank is the percentage of students whose score is equal to or lower than their score. For example, in 2021, if a student’s SAT score is 1200, they are in the 74th percentile of SAT users. This means they scored as high or higher than 74% of test-takers who took the SAT over the past three years. This places them at a distinct advantage when applying to colleges, as basically they are in the top 26% of test-takers.

Now that you know what percentile rankings are, here’s a few interesting numbers to muse on.

Percentiles for Total Score (in 2021)

  • Average score (50th percentile): 1040
  • 75th percentile: 1210
  • 90th percentile: 1350
  • 95th percentile: 1430
  • 99th percentile: 1520

That means if you want to score truly elite scores, you would have to earn a 1520+ to be in the top 1% of the nation for test-takers. However, for students aiming for top 10 colleges or Ivy League, you really want to aim for a 1550-1600, which means you have to earn a score that less than 1% of test-takers are reaching! Not an easy thing to do.

Now, here’s how that breaks down for SAT Reading & Writing section vs. the Math section

Percentiles by Section (in 2021)

Score out of 800SAT Reading & Writing PercentilesSAT Math Percentiles

What can we learn from these numbers? Well it tells us at first, more students tend to score higher on the Reading/Writing Section. For example, if you score a 500 on the RW section, you will only have scored as higher or higher than 41% of test-takers, but that same score for the Math section, will place you in a slightly higher percentile (the 43rd). However, this trend changes, as scores get higher. 

For instance, to score a 750 on the Reading & Writing you would be (roughly) in the top 2% of the nation for test-takers, while that same score on the Math Section would only place you (roughly) in the top 5%. 

And if you want to earn a perfect score on the RW, you actually have to score higher than less than 1% of the nation!

So while earning a 750+ on either section puts you in the top percentile of test-takers, it’s even more rare for students to achieve this distinction in the Reading/Writing Section of the SAT. And yet, if you look at elite colleges, 25 – 50% of their incoming freshmen class has hit these scores! For example, Harvard’s average score was 770 on Reading and Writing, and approximately 25% of their freshmen students scored a perfect 800!

So how do you earn such a rare and elite score? You have to start preparation early on, which brings me to my 2nd reason:

#2. Reaching a High SAT Reading & Writing Score Requires Higher Reading Comprehension

Why is it so difficult for students to earn elite SAT Reading & Writing scores?

The main reason is that the Reading section of the SAT and a large portion of the Writing section require students to have advanced reading comprehension skills.

Students must be able to read complex, advanced texts from different sources (that they don’t usually encounter in the classroom), read them quickly and be able to answer complex questions about the text. A student must be able to understand in a short amount of time the main idea of the text, the author’s purpose, the author rhetorical devices, and the ways the author structures their argument.

The students who score the highest on the SAT RW section come into 11th grade with an already strong reading foundation that can’t be built up overnight. That’s why it’s so crucial for students to begin building this foundational reading comprehension in the 9th and 10th grade. By becoming familiar with these types of text, the time limits, the language, and the complex questions they will face in their freshmen and sophomore year, students have much more potential to reach elite scores in their upperclassman years.

This brings me to my 3rd reason:

#3. Starting Early is Proven to Work

For years now at MEK Review, we have known the secret to the SAT Reading & Writing section was early preparation. That’s why we created our highly popular (P)SAT Core Reading & Writing class. It not only helps students build a strong foundation to earn top scores on the SAT Reading & Writing section come 11th grade, but it also helps them score high on the PSAT and earn A’s in their Honors English Courses.

And most importantly, it works.

This past August 2021 SAT test, our students who consistently scored 700+ on the SAT RW section were part of our (P)SAT Core Reading & Writing class in their 9th and 10th grade year. What’s more, several of those students scored 750 or higher!

And that’s because they had the strong foundation they needed to do something that less than 1% of high schoolers achieve!

Getting Started

So if you want to achieve you fullest potential on the SAT and have dreams of top colleges, then get started with early preparation today. Join our (P)SAT Core Reading & Writing class by contacting us here or calling 855-346-1410. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Tony Kim

Tony is the Director of the Exam Prep Team at MEK Review. He teaches math for College Test Prep and H.S. Test Prep and supervises and guides the Exam Prep staff to ensure student success. With a passion for teaching, Tony fosters strong relationships with his students and motivates them to achieve their goals.


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