What Is a Good SAT Score for College?

One of the most frequent questions I hear from high school students who are starting their SAT test prep is, “What is a good SAT score?” Part of the reason this question comes up so often is that students have heard many different answers to it. The thing is, what’s considered a good SAT score is actually highly variable.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to determine ​​what is considered a good SAT score, what good SAT section scores are, what is considered a good SAT score range for scholarships, and more.

What is a good SAT score

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

To start, let’s take a look at what the highest SAT score possible is.

What Is the Maximum SAT Score?

The SAT score range is 400 to 1600. So, the highest SAT score that test-takers can earn is 1600. A 1600 score means that a test-taker earned a perfect SAT score of 800 in both sections of the exam, Math and Reading and Writing.

KEY FACT:

The highest SAT score possible is 1600: 800 in Math and 800 in Reading and Writing.

Now, let’s take a look at the average SAT score.

What Is the Average SAT Score?

The first thing to know about average scores is that the College Board (the SAT-maker) periodically updates them so that they always reflect the scores of recent test-takers. That said, it would be unusual to see wild swings in average scores from one year to the next. For instance, I wouldn’t expect the average one year to be 1010 and the average the next year to be 1070. Changes tend to be more incremental.

According to the College Board, for the graduating class of 2021, the national average score on the SAT is 1060. This score is ranked in the 52th percentile, meaning that approximately 52% of test-takers scored at or below 1060.

As for section scores, the average Math section score is 528, while the average Reading and Writing score is 533.

KEY FACT:

The national average SAT score is 1060.

Now that we know what a perfect SAT score is and what the average SAT score is, let’s talk about what is considered a good SAT score.

What Is Considered a Good SAT Score?

What is considered a good SAT score really depends on which colleges and universities you’re interested in. Furthermore, what a good score is can change depending on what your goals are. For example, are you interested in any merit-based scholarships? (We’ll talk more about those later.)

If you’re targeting selective schools, a “good” score for you may be 1400+ (or 1500+ for the most competitive schools). If your target schools are less selective, you may be fine with an above-average SAT score of, say, 1100 or 1200. One thing we can say for sure is that, on average, the more competitive the school, the higher admitted students score on the SAT.

So, to figure out what’s considered a good score at the colleges and universities you’re interested in applying to, you should take a look at what the most recent class of admitted students scored on the SAT. You can do this research by looking at the class profiles on the individual websites of your target schools.

In particular, there is a certain score range that most colleges and universities report. You’ll want to pay close attention to that range when setting your score goal. So, let’s talk about what that range is and what it means.

TTP PRO TIP:

Look at class profiles on the individual websites of your target schools to see what admitted students scored on the SAT, so you can set your score goal accordingly.

Analyzing the Middle 50%

When researching colleges and universities, you’ll find that most schools publicly report what is called the “middle 50% range” of scores for the standardized tests they accept.

The middle 50% range, or “mid-50%,” is the score range from the 25th percentile score in a class to the 75th percentile score. So, 25% of the class scored at or below the number at the bottom of this range. Likewise, 25% scored at or above the number at the top of this range (meaning that 75% scored below that top). Thus, this range represents the “middle 50%” of the class’ scores.

Let’s take NYU as an example. As of this writing, NYU reports that the mid-50% SAT score range of first-year students is 1350-1530. So, 50% of the class scored somewhere in that range. Furthermore, 25% of the class scored at or below 1350, while 25% scored at or above 1530.

So then, could we say that NYU considers 1350-1530 a “good SAT score range,” and the scores outside that range are outliers? Not quite. We might be able to say that NYU would generally consider a score in the mid-50% range “good.” However, we can’t say for sure that any score in that range would be good enough for YOU. Let’s discuss.

KEY FACT:

The middle 50% is the score range from the 25th percentile score in a class to the 75th percentile score.

How Good Is My SAT Score?

When trying to determine whether your SAT score is good enough for a certain school — or what score you should shoot for on test day — it would be a mistake to simply assume that any score in the mid-50% range will do.

Let’s take our example of NYU. Its mid-50% range of 1350-1530 spans 180 points! So, clearly many other factors aside from SAT scores come into play in college admissions. This fact should come as no surprise. However, it’s important to point out because it changes our calculations. It tells us that you’re going to have to put on your admissions committee hat and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of your application to figure out where your SAT score should fall in relation to a school’s middle 50%.

For instance, how does your GPA stack up against the average GPA of the most recent incoming class? If your GPA looks low in comparison, you may want to aim for an SAT score at the top end of or above the mid-50% range. On the other hand, maybe your GPA beats the average and you have great extracurriculars and recommendations, too. In that case, you may feel comfortable with an SAT that comes in at the low end of the range.

In other words, there will always be two important components to figuring out how good your SAT is:

  1. researching the SAT scores at your target schools
  2. evaluating the other aspects of your application

BOTH of these steps are essential to setting your SAT score goal for particular schools. If you do one without the other, you’re only seeing half the story.

TTP PRO TIP:

To determine how good your SAT score is, research the SAT scores at your target schools and evaluate the other aspects of your application.

Good SAT Scores: General Rules of Thumb

Generally speaking and with all other factors being equal, there are some rules of thumb we can follow to gauge how good our SAT scores are for particular schools:

  • If your score is below the mid-50% range (i.e., you’re in the bottom 25% of the class), the school may be a reach for you.
  • If your score is at or near the bottom of the mid-50% range, you have an “acceptable” SAT score.
  • If your score is around the middle of the mid-50% range, you have a “good” SAT score.
  • If your score is at the top of the mid-50% range (or right around there), you have a “great” SAT score.
  • If your score is above the mid-50% range, you have an excellent score!

Consider Your Priorities

Now, as we just discussed, all things are not equal. So, whether you shoot for, say, a good SAT score versus a great one will depend on many factors. You will of course want to consider the other aspects of your application. However, you’ll also want to consider how important getting into a particular school is to you. Do you have your heart set on a certain school? Is it your top choice, or among your top 5? Is it a reach school for you?

Generally speaking, if you really have your heart set on certain schools, aiming for an SAT score that hits the 75th percentile mark of admitted students — so, the top of the mid-50% — is a smart play. Additionally, if you feel that you may have a weak point in your application, you may want to aim for a score that surpasses the 75th percentile.

TTP PRO TIP:

If you really have your heart set on a certain school, aiming for an SAT score that hits the 75th percentile mark of admitted students is a smart play.

So far we’ve discussed good SAT scores in the context of composite scores. Let’s now discuss good SAT section scores.

What Are Good SAT Scores in Each Section?

The same basic rules apply when you’re determining what good SAT section scores are as when you’re determining what a good composite score is. The tricky part is that not all schools report both types of information.

Some schools report the mid-50% ranges for the Math section and the Reading and Writing section separately and no composite score range. For example, Connecticut College, University of Virginia, and UC Berkeley report ranges for only SAT section scores.

Other schools report only a composite score range. For instance, Duke and UNC report ranges only for composite scores.

Still others report mid-50% ranges for both section scores and composite scores. NYU and University of Michigan fall into this camp, for example.

So, if a school provides section score data on its website, by all means use it. If schools don’t publish that data online and you really feel that you need more information about what kinds of scores they expect, you can always reach out to the admissions offices to see whether they’ll provide further guidance.

If you’re setting your score goal based on composite score ranges, there is one thing to keep in mind: even if you’re hitting a good spot on the mid-50%, if your section scores are wildly imbalanced, you might raise some eyebrows with admissions. Particularly if your target schools are very selective, totally lopsided section scores may not look great.

Again, you can reach out to admissions to try to get their take, if you’re concerned about your section scores. And if you think you can study more and raise your lower section score, go for it!

TTP PRO TIP:

Particularly if you’re aiming for selective schools, totally lopsided SAT section scores could raise some eyebrows with admissions.

Now, let’s discuss good SAT scores for scholarships.

What Is a Good SAT Score for Scholarships?

In general, a good SAT score range for merit-based scholarships is 1200-1600. Of course, different schools and organizations all have their own criteria for selecting scholarship recipients. So, again, you’ll have to research the particular schools and scholarship funds you’re interested in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that SAT scores may not be the only factor considered for a particular scholarship. Depending on the scholarship, you may need to have a certain GPA and/or class ranking. Moreover, requirements such as class ranking may change depending on your SAT score.

For example, students with an SAT score of 1300 may need to be in the top 10% of their class in order to qualify for a certain scholarship, while students with a score of 1400 may only need to be in the top 25% of their class to qualify for that same scholarship. Or, to qualify for a certain scholarship as an out-of-state student, you may need a higher SAT score than in-state students need.

Also, even if your SAT score is below 1200, don’t automatically count yourself out for scholarships. Depending on which schools you’re applying to, you may qualify for automatic scholarships that kick in for scores in the 1100-1200 range.

KEY FACT:

Eligibility is different for every scholarship, but generally speaking, 1200-1600 is considered a good SAT score range for scholarships.

Now, let’s talk about what is considered a good SAT score for the Ivy Leagues.

What Is a Good SAT Score for Ivy League Schools?

Ivy League colleges and universities are some of the most selective schools on the planet. So, as you can imagine, their students have pretty phenomenal SAT scores.

For students matriculating in fall 2020 and fall 2021 at the 8 Ivy Leagues, taken as a whole, the mid-50% range of scores was about 1440-1570. However, for students to be really competitive at Ivy League schools, I generally recommend they shoot for the top of the mid-50% range. At most Ivy Leagues, that 75th percentile score is 1560 or 1570.

Of course, the ranges and 75th percentiles for individual Ivy League schools vary. To learn about SAT scores at particular schools, check out this helpful blog on all things SAT for the Ivy Leagues.

TTP PRO TIP:

To be really competitive at Ivy League schools, shooting for the top of the mid-50% range is generally recommended. So, you may want a score of 1560 or 1570.

All of this said, no score is a guarantee of admittance to an Ivy League or to any other school. A great SAT score can be a powerful addition to your application, but it is just one piece of the puzzle.

Key Takeaways

Remember the following when thinking about what SAT score your target schools might consider “good.”

  • On average, the more competitive the school, the higher admitted students score on the SAT.
  • Most schools report what the “middle 50% range” of SAT scores — the score range from the 25th percentile score in a class to the 75th percentile score.
  • To determine how good your SAT score is, research the SAT scores at your target schools and evaluate the other aspects of your application.
  • No SAT score is a guarantee of admittance to any school.

You can also use these rules of thumb as general guidelines. Just remember to adjust accordingly for your unique circumstances!

  • If your score is below the mid-50% range (i.e., you’re in the bottom 25% of the class), the school may be a reach for you.
  • If your score is at or near the bottom of the mid-50% range, you have an “acceptable” SAT score.
  • If your score is around the middle of the mid-50% range, you have a “good” SAT score.
  • If your score is at the top of the mid-50% range (or right around there), you have a “great” SAT score.
  • If your score is above the mid-50% range, you have an excellent score!

What’s Next?

Wondering how long your SAT prep may take? Check out this guide to creating a realistic SAT study timeline.

Not sure how to organize your studies? These 7 strategies for SAT success can help.

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