Using the graph in 2006 Total Group Writing Subscore Report to estimate the percentages, the percent of test takers who get a certain score on their essay, we get:
Since actual numbers or percentages were not given, nor could I, doing some but not too much looking on the Internet, find any, I had to estimate them from a graph in the report. I graphed my total numbers as well the percentages, so you can see how my numbers compares to the numbers suggested by the official graph. If you wish, you may look at my number estimates in SAT Essay Data, a pdf file made from an Excel worksheet. By the way, the College Board said that 1,376,745 took the test, but 0.1% received a 0 on the essay; that means 1,375,368 received a score of 2 -12.
Some sources of data and some essay writing advice follow.
In the College Board’s 2006 Total Group Writing Subscore Report, they say:
Of the 1,465,744 students in the 2006 College-Bound Seniors cohort, 1,376,745 took the SAT Reasoning Test after the January 2005 administration, and therefore have an SAT writing section score. As with the critical reading and the mathematics sections, scores on the SAT writing section are scored on a scale of 200-to-800. For the graduating class of 2006, the Writing mean score was 497, with a standard deviation of 109.
Essays are scored in a manner that is fair and consistent, using a holistic approach. In holistic scoring, a piece of writing is considered as a total work, the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts. The essay is scored by 2 qualified readers, who take into account such aspects as complexity of thought, substantiality of development, and facility with language. A reader does not judge a work based on its separate traits, but rather on the total impression it creates. Each reader scores the essay on a 1-6 scale, with a 0 representing a blank or off-topic essay. The two scores are combined to form the overall essay score, graded from 2-12. For the 2006 class, the mean score on the essay is 7.2 with a standard deviation of 1.7. The distribution of scores for the students is highlighted in Figure 2 below. Note that, for the 2006 cohort, only 0.1% of the essays written received a score of 0.
In Writing: An Overview of Research and Psychometrics to Date by Krista Mattern, Wayne Camara, and Jennifer L. Kobrin, they say
2. The mean score was 7.2 with a standard deviation of 1.7 (males, 7.1; females, 7.4), and the median score was 7.
3. Sixty-nine percent of essays received a score between 6 and 8; 80 percent of the essays received a score between 6 and 9 (see Figure 1). The distribution of essay scores on the SAT and other tests is different from typical score (or normal) distributions in that, typically, relatively few students score at the extreme ends of the scale. This is because only one prompt is used, and readers give few scores of 1 or 6
Want some advice on getting a good score?
In SAT Essay Test Rewards Length and Ignores Errors by Michael Winerip (New York Times, May 4, 2005), he writes:
In the next weeks, Dr. Perelman studied every graded sample SAT essay that the College Board made public. He looked at the 15 samples in the ScoreWrite book that the College Board distributed to high schools nationwide to prepare students for the new writing section. He reviewed the 23 graded essays on the College Board Web site meant as a guide for students and the 16 writing “anchor” samples the College Board used to train graders to properly mark essays.
He was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. “I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one,” he said. “If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you’d be right over 90 percent of the time.” The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade.