SAT is one of the most popular standardized tests which is used for college and university admission and is designed to assess how well the student has acquired the knowledge learned in high school, as well as how prepared the student is for college or university education.
Even though the SAT score is not usually the decisive component of the school application, it is still something that the college admissions commissions take into consideration when weeding out the weaker applicants and when determining who gets accepted and who gets to receive a scholarship or financial aid.
The standardized test includes two main sections – Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. There is also an optional essay, which is scored separately.
But the score from the SAT exam may be a good SAT score and a non-satisfactory score for others.
Read on to find out what is a good SAT score range, how to determine your own personal SAT score goal, as well as ways to improve your SAT scores.
How is the SAT scored?
The two main sections of the SAT exam are scored on a scale of 200 to 800 each, and when combined, make up a total score, which ranges from 400 to 1,600 points.
So if you are wondering what’s the highest score on the SAT, then the answer is 1,600 points.
As with the other similar tests, how good the score you get on the SAT largely depends on the performance of all other test-takers in other words, on their scores on SAT. The score is compared to the scores for SAT of all other students who took the test. Based on that, your SAT score will be presented in percentiles. If your score is in the 70th percentile, this means that you have scored better than 70% of all the scores of other students who took the test.
What SAT score can students expect?
Although each case is individual, there are some rules of thumb that you can use to predict your score after test prep and before you take the SAT.
The first is based on the student’s GPA. For students with a GPA of over 4.0, the expected SAT scores for SATs are in the range of 1,450 – 1,600 points. For those with a GPA of 3.5-4.0, the anticipated SAT good score is somewhere in the range of 1,300 -1,450 points. For students with a 3.0 – 3.5 GPA, the predicted SAT score is about 1,200-1,300, and students who have a 2.5-3.0 GPA can expect to achieve a high score for SAT of around 1,000-1,200 at the SAT.
The second way to predict the average SAT score is based on the English and Algebra 2 grades and performance in high school. Honor and AP students with strong A’s and high B’s can expect a score of 600 to 800 in the evidence-based reading and writing section, and the same goes for students who have the highest grades in Algebra 2 and math.
Then again, since the SAT exam is a timed, multiple-choice exam and a test which most high school students are not familiar with, relying only on the knowledge acquired from school is not enough for achieving a high score on the exam.
It is recommended even for high school students to spend sufficient time and energy prepping for the SAT. This includes studying the material, the test-taking strategies, and a lot of practicing with SAT questions and full-length SAT practice tests.
With the proper prep, even students who don’t have an exceptional GPA may land high scores.
What is the average good SAT score?
Logically, the more points per section and the higher or total score from the SAT exam, the better you performed as compared to the rest of the students who took the test. The points you scored at the standardized test correspond to a specific SAT percentile ranking.
The SAT percentile ranking will show how you performed at the test as compared to the other test-takers. The percentile will tell you how many students achieved the same score as you, as well as what percentage of students you outperformed.
Since the scores follow a normal distribution, the average SAT score among all test takers is around the middle of the score range, which is 531 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 528 for math, which combined is an average of 1,059. Most test-takers have results that are clustered around the average score or are in the 50th percentile.
To get an idea of how students perform on the SAT, and how the percentiles are scored, here is a table of the SAT scores and the percentiles they equal to in 2019:
Overall, any score which is above the 50th percentile is considered an above-average score. Any score lower than about 1,070 points is considered below average, according to the stats in this table from 2019.
Of course, an exceptional score is one that will land you in the top 90-99th percentile range.
If you are interested in how the percentiles correspond to the scores for the separate math and EBRW sections in order to calculate what score is good for the SAT, here is a table that will help you:
What is a good SAT score for you?
As you can see, there is no definitive answer to the question of what a good SAT score is, which is true for every student and every case.
Apart from getting a composite score above the average, scoring above the 50th percentile, a good score also should be one that is sufficient for you to be competitive in the admissions process at the school you are applying for. A good score is also one that may land you financial aid or a scholarship for your studies.
So, what the best score for you really depends on the colleges and universities you are interested in.
For example, scoring in the 85th percentile may be a very good score sufficient to get you in some prestigious schools, but would be considered a low score for college application by the college board if you are planning to apply to an Ivy League or other top-ranked and highly selective colleges or schools like MIT or Duke where your competitors will most likely have higher scores.
On the other hand, a total score in this percentile range will be considered very high in less selective schools where the average SAT score for admitted students is much lower.
The higher your score, the more competitive you become for receiving a scholarship or financial aid as well.
Also, a higher score can help compensate for a lower GPA in the admissions process of some schools too.
Overall, in order to determine what SAT score is good for the SAT for you personally, you will need to consider the average scores of the students accepted at your dream schools, as well as what’s a good SAT score according to the college board.
How to calculate your good SAT score goal
In order to calculate your SAT target score, you should do some research regarding the colleges and universities you are interested in.
The easiest way to do it is via a Google or other internet search. Just type the name of your dream college and keywords like “middle 50 SAT,” “SAT score range,” or “SAT admissions requirements,” “what’s a good SAT score” and you will get the information you need.
If you plan on applying for more than one school, then perform internet searches for what is a good SAT scoring range for all of the universities or colleges on your list.
Then take the time to write down the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile SAT scores, which are usually provided on the admissions requirement pages of the schools, alongside the name of the school on your list. This will provide you with easy to visualize information regarding the score range for SAT for each college or university.
Do this for all of the schools, and you will end up with the full list of all of your dream universities and colleges and the average SAT scores that they require for admittance.
After you are done, choose the highest score in the 75th percentile among all colleges. This score should become your target score for the SAT exam. Getting this score will most likely make you competitive for the most selective school from your list and thus for the rest as well. It should be sufficient to help you get in any college or university on your list no matter what are good SAT scores according to each one.
This target score will help you plan out your SAT test prep accordingly and will also ensure that you still get admitted to one of the schools you have picked even if you happen to score 10-50 points lower on the exam.
Of course, apart from determining what SAT score is considered satisfactory for the college or university, you should make sure that your GPA and other credentials for applying and admission are in compliance with the requirements of the school as well.
After you have determined what a good SAT score is for you, you should inform your parents as well as your instructors or tutors if you are planning on taking SAT prep classes or courses before you take the test.
Pinpointing what a good score in SAT is and setting it as an SAT score a high goal will help you stay motivated during the test-prep period.
What is a good SAT score, according to the top universities and colleges?
In order to make it easier for you to determine your own personal best SAT score, and what are good SATs scores, you can refer to this table, which includes average SAT scores in the top universities and colleges in the USA for 2019, according to the US News ranking.
Even if you have not chosen any of these top 100 schools, the table will give you an idea of what SAT score ranges you can expect for the colleges and universities of your choice.
What is a suitable score for applying for a scholarship?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a student worthy of qualifying for financial aid or scholarship, you should always do your research about applying for free tuition at the college or university of your choice. The reason is that in some cases, your higher scores and other credentials may qualify you as a viable candidate for receiving money for attending college.
Some not so selective schools offer scholarships for students in the middle 50 and 60th percentile SAT, so don’t be discouraged if you are not in the top 99th percentile after taking the SAT.
All you need to do in order to prevent missing out on a chance to make money for your education is to do some research on what’s high SAT score requirements for an academic scholarship or merit aid at your dream college.
Applying for a scholarship or merit aid is another stimulus to keep you studying and to prepare for your SAT exam more seriously. It can help save you and your family thousands of dollars in the long run.
What to do if my score is lower than my score goal?
Once the test day comes, and the test is over, you can expect to receive your SAT scores in about 2 to 4 weeks after you take the test. When the results become available, even if you find that your score is lower than your target score, you shouldn’t panic. There are several solutions for not achieving your good score goal.
Retake the test
The good option is to retake the SAT if you have the time for preparing and taking another test before the application deadlines.
If you have the opportunity to take the SAT again for a higher score, then you will need to set a test prep study schedule. The best way to approach the prep for a retake is to focus on your weaknesses rather than cover the entire content once again. This will give you more time to improve in the areas in which you failed the first time around.
You should study your scores per section and work on the areas which you found the most challenging or which you got wrong the first time.
You can sign up for an in-person or an online SAT prep course, get a tutor, or study by yourself. But as a rule of thumb, you should prepare to spend some time studying and preparing.
The good news is that most of the SAT prep courses offer a score improvement guarantee, so you will receive a refund of the fees paid for the course if you don’t improve your initial score after taking the prep course.
Here is a general guide on the hours you should plan on intensive studying and practice for the retake of the SAT exam depending on what is high SAT score you are aiming at:
- For a 0 to 30 point increase – about 10 hours
- For a 30 to 70 point increase – about 20 hours
- For a 70 to 130 point increase – about 40 hours
- For a 130 to 200 point increase – about 80 hours
- For a 200 to 330 point increase – at least 150 hours
Let it be
If you don’t have the time to prepare for a retake of the SAT, you can leave your score as is, and go ahead and apply anyway. This strategy may work if you have missed your target score by no more than 50 points of the total score. If your score is lower, then you should probably consider one of the other two options.
Adjust the colleges you will be applying to
If you don’t have the time or the motivation to retake the test for a higher score, then you can look back at that list, which you made with the average SAT scores of your dream colleges, and adjust your applications to the college board of each accordingly.
You may look at other safety colleges that were not originally on your list, which are less selective or have a lower average score range for their accepted students. In such a college, with an SAT score good enough, you may even be viable for receiving a scholarship or other tuition aid by the college board.
Hopefully, this guide will help you determine the SAT score that is good for you so that you can start working on preparing for your SAT exam as soon as possible.
We wish you good luck with achieving your best SAT score goal, and with your college application!