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June 22, 2022

Don’t Let Messy Handwriting Impact Your SAT Score – Because It Can

You have gone over endless vocabulary flashcards, practiced word problems and read countless pages to prepare for the SAT, but have you overlooked one detail? Your handwriting has the potential to play a role in your SAT score. 

Messy is Ok

Don’t panic too much, handwriting has to be absolutely illegible in order to impact your score. If the entire essay is impossible to read, you will receive the lowest possible score, which is a 1 out of 4. However, if your analysis is unintelligible because keywords are impossible to decipher, you may loose points. As long as your writing does not get in the way of the graders’ comprehension of your essay, you will not loose points.

No Extra Points for Nice

Attractive handwriting will not improve your score either. Your score is based on how well you demonstrate your comprehension of the given passage, your analysis of the passage and your ability to use writing and grammar knowledge to communicate. Don’t waste time making your handwriting perfect and as a result miss out on writing an excellent essay.

Under Pressure

Writing a timed essay under a tremendous amount of pressure can lead to handwriting that is less than perfect. This is a minor factor. You don’t need to add to your pressure by worrying about how neat your handwriting appears. When you are done with your essay, you can go back and read it. If there are any words that seem unclear, you can correct them. This is also a great time to fix grammar errors.


The best way to avoid nervous handwriting problems and feel confident about how to approach the essay is to take practice essays. The more you practice a timed essay, the easier it will be to perform under pressure. Practice writing quickly and clearly. 

The College Board states, “Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.”  Make reading your essay as easy as possible for your graders. Keep in mind that they cannot withhold points because they think your handwriting is messy. Maintain a good balance between quick, efficient writing and writing that is legible. 


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