SAT Score Range: What is Good?

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So you got your SAT score back, but what does it mean? More than you think. Your SAT score can be a major factor when applying to college. Thankfully, whether your score comes back a 1600 or  800, there is a college for you. This guide will help you interpret your score and find a college that matches your score’s range. It will also offer tips and strategies to improve your score or navigate your future if your score isn’t what you wanted it to be.

What's a Good SAT Score Range for Colleges?

What's a Good SAT Score Range for Colleges?

What’s a Good SAT Score Range for Colleges?

The definition of a “good” SAT score is up for interpretation. However, based on the national average, which tends to be between 1050 and 1100, depending on the year, a score above that can be considered “good.”

In terms of college, however, an above-average score doesn’t always cut it. What’s important to remember is that there are a lot of students who are required to take the SAT. This means that the average is based on results that include students who are not necessarily college-bound. Therefore, if you are planning on going to college, the national average score isn’t a statistic to interpret as a benchmark for success.

Instead one should look at what the average acceptance scores are for specific colleges and universities (we will get into that later). Typically, however, a good SAT score for top-tier colleges is 1600-1400, a good SAT for mid-tier colleges is 1400-1200, and a good SAT score for lower-tier colleges is 1200-900.

What is a Bad SAT Score?

What is a Bad SAT Score?

Again, based on the national average, a score lower than 1050-1100 can be considered bad. For most colleges, it is advantageous to have a score higher than that, so for college bound students, a bad SAT score is less than 1200.

If you score under this range and college is in your sights, don’t be discouraged! Understanding your current score is the first step to setting a new goal for a future score. Furthermore, there are more aspects to a college application than just standardized tests including extracurriculars, GPA, letters of recommendation, and essay responses.

What Do SAT Percentiles Mean?

What Do SAT Percentiles Mean?

What Do SAT Percentiles Mean?

An SAT score percentile is how often a student scores below the listed amount. For example, if a student scored 1000 in 2019, they would have scored in the 40th percentile. This means that about 40% of students who took the SAT in 2019 scored below their score of 1000.

SAT percentiles are important to understand and analyze. This is because it reveals how you measure up to other students who took that same test. In reality, these scores are the scores that you will be competing against when applying for college admission and scholarships.

If you are a college-bound student, scoring above the 50th percentile range is a pretty safe place to be, on average. Top-tier universities (as said above, tend to admit in the 1400-1600 range), would, therefore, prefer students in the 96-99th percentile range. Mid-tier universities (as said above, tend to admit in the 1400-1200 range), would, therefore, prefer students in the 96-74th percentile range. While lower-tier universities (as said above, tend to admit in the 1200-1000 range), they would, therefore, prefer students in the 40-74th percentile range.

Again, when considering the SAT percentiles, like the scores in general, it’s important to remember that many of the data that are measured are not based on a college-ready individual. According to the Department of Education, 70% of high school graduates go to college. Therefore, on average, 30% of this data should not be considered if you have your eyes set on college.

How Does SAT Scoring Works?

How Does SAT Scoring Works?

How Does SAT Scoring Works?

Your SAT score is out of 1600 points. There are two sections of the test that are scored from 200 to 800 points, based on how many questions you answer correctly. Those two numbers are added together to give you your final score out of 1600.

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section

The first section of the test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. The reading section will ask you to read multiple passages and answer multiple-choice questions about each. You will have a total of 65 minutes to answer 52 questions and read the passages.

The writing and language section will also present multiple passages. However, instead of asking multiple-choice questions about the comprehension like the reading section, the writing and language portion focuses on grammar, vocabulary, and editing the text. In this section, you have 35 minutes to answer 44 multiple-choice questions.

The score of your correct answers is factored into what your score is out of 800. Guessing or getting a problem wrong doesn’t take points away.

Math Section

Like the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, the math section is broken up into two parts: calculator and no calculator. The no calculator portion is 25 minutes to answer 20 questions that are a mix of multiple-choice and short answers. Similarly, the calculator portion is made up of a mix of 38 multiple choice and short answer questions that you have 55 minutes to complete.

Questions in the math section are based on geometry, algebra, and trigonometry content. Furthermore, although there is a calculator-allowed section, the College Board claims that all questions, on both sections of the test, can technically be completed without a calculator. This being said, it is highly recommended that students take advantage of the calculator opportunity because it is a tool that promotes accuracy and efficiency in a testing environment.

Like the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, section the score of your correct answers is factored into what your score is out of 800. Guessing or getting a problem wrong doesn’t take points away.

Essay

There is also an optional essay portion of the SAT. However, your essay score isn’t included in your total score of 1600. The essay is scored out of 8 points and you have 50 minutes to complete it. The type of essay is a rhetorical analysis where you have to explain how the author of a passage builds his or her argument.

The essay is scored out of 8 points for reading, writing, and analysis, then an average of the three scores is taken for your overall score. Again, you aren’t required to take this part of the SAT, however, it can be advantageous to include in a college or scholarship application.

Subject tests

The SAT also offers subject tests for specific subjects that aren’t traditionally offered on the SAT. They include:

These subject tests are all scored within the 200 to 800 range, like the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math sections, however, it doesn’t count towards your true SAT score. These subject tests are just to supplement your SAT score and highlight a specific strength. This can prove to be helpful when applying for scholarships and college since most students don’t choose to take a subject test, it sets you apart from the rest if you include this score.

Each subject test has a different amount of questions and time allowed to complete it. To prepare it is best to be already familiar with that test’s format and content. This is an opportunity to reveal the additional knowledge you have in a particular area.

Superscore

The concept of a “superscore” is growing in popularity. It essentially means combining your highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score with your highest math score. However, don’t rely on your superscore since some colleges and scholarships respect a superscore while others don’t.

For instance, if you take the SAT twice and score 1300 both times (first time scoring, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 600, Math: 700), (second time scoring, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 750, Math: 550), your superscore would be 1450. This score would comprise your top Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 750 and your top math score of 700…a significant improvement from your original 1300.

Is Your SAT Score Good Enough to Get Into College?

Is Your SAT Score Good Enough to Get Into College?

Is Your SAT Score Good Enough to Get Into College?

There are a variety of scores that indicate college readiness. Traditionally, this is in the 1200 and up range to be safe. However, if you score below this, do not lose hope!

As stated earlier, there are more factors that determine your college admission than just a standardized test score. For instance, your extracurriculars, GPA, letters of recommendation, and essay responses can often make up for lost points on the SAT. Often students who are well-rounded have a better chance at getting into a school with a higher SAT range than their score falls. Similarly, a student with just a high SAT score won’t always get into their college of choice if their outside activities don’t support their character and dedication.

In reality, there are colleges that accept a wide range of scores. According to the College Board’s national averages, 99% of students will score above an 800, and therefore have college options.

What college you go to does have some significance in terms of your experience, location, major preferences, and price. Therefore, although you technically may find yourself in a range to attend college, you may want to improve your score so these other aspects of college can be met.

To sum it up, yes, unless you are in that 1% range of students, your score is good enough to get into a college. It’s up to you to define whether or not that college is what you are looking for, however.

What to Do with a Low SAT Score?

What to Do with a Low SAT Score?

What to Do with a Low SAT Score?

Retake the test 

Didn’t score the way you wanted to? That’s ok! Thankfully, you can retake the SAT as many times as you want to improve your score. The first step, as said above, to improving your score is to understand what you did wrong on it the first time around.

Study, Study, Study

The College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy where the areas you struggled with are illuminated. There are free lessons and practice tests for you to sharpen up on your weaknesses for next time on Khan Academy as well.

Furthermore, there are many tutors and classes available both online and in person for students to receive instruction on the topics covered on the SAT. Again, improving your score heavily relies on understanding the sections you have the most space for growth. You also want to check out our post on SAT test taking strategies and tips.

Time Management

The SAT typically has you answer questions rapidly. Taking a practice test will familiarize you with the pace at which you need to go in order to complete the test on time. A common situation students find themselves in is losing track of time and not finishing the test, and therefore getting a significant portion incorrect.

Wearing a watch and having mental checkpoints throughout the SAT can also be helpful in improving your score. This is a skill that will help you with future tests including classroom exams, the ACT, AP tests, the LSAT, and MCAT.

New Plans

If your SAT score is too low for most colleges to admit you, then it’s worth considering additional future paths besides college. There is trade school, shadowing experiences, serving opportunities, and many other ways for you to continue your education or dedicate your energy after high school graduation.

List of Colleges by Average SAT Score

List of Colleges by Average SAT Score

List of Colleges by Average SAT Score

1510 – 1600 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 98-99+ percentile.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Average SAT range: 1500-1570
    • Acceptance rate: 7%
    • Net price: $19,000
  • Stanford University
    • Location: Stanford, California
    • Average SAT range: 1420-1570
    • Acceptance rate: 4%
    • Net price: $17,000
  • Yale University
    • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
    • Average SAT range: 1460-1570
    • Acceptance rate: 6%
    • Net price: $19,000
  • Harvard University
    • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Average SAT range: 1460-1580
    • Acceptance rate: 5%
    • Net price: $18,000
  • Princeton University
    • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
    • Average SAT range: 1440-1570
    • Acceptance rate: 5%
    • Net price: $16,000

1410 – 1500 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 94-98 percentile.

  • University of Notre Dame
    • Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
    • Average SAT range: 1400-1550
    • Acceptance rate: 18%
    • Net price: $30,000
  • Northwestern University
    • Location: Evanston, Illinois
    • Average SAT range: 1430-1550
    • Acceptance rate: 8%
    • Net price: $28,000
  • University of Southern California
    • Location: Los Angeles, California
    • Average SAT range: 1350-1530
    • Acceptance rate: 13%
    • Net price: $36,000
  • Cornell University
    • Location: Ithaca, New York
    • Average SAT range: 1390-1540
    • Acceptance rate: 11%
    • Net price: $29,000
  • Georgetown University
    • Location: Washington, D.C.
    • Average SAT range: 1370-1530
    • Acceptance rate: 15%
    • Net price: $29,000

1310 – 1400 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 86-94 percentile.

  • University of Michigan
    • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
    • Average SAT range: 13330-1510
    • Acceptance rate: 23%
    • Net price: $17,000
  • University of Southern California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
    • Location: Los Angeles, California
    • Average SAT range: 1290-1520
    • Acceptance rate: 14%
    • Net price: $15,000
  • Wake Forest University
    • Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    • Average SAT range: 1270-1410
    • Acceptance rate: 29%
    • Net price: $27,000
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • Average SAT range: 1270-1480
    • Acceptance rate: 23%
    • Net price: $12,000
  • University of Texas – Austin
    • Location: Austin, Texas
    • Average SAT range: 1230-1480
    • Acceptance rate: 39%
    • Net price: $14,000

1210 – 1300 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 74-86 percentile.

  • United States Military Academy at West Point
    • Location: West Point, New York
    • Average SAT range: 1140-1350
    • Acceptance rate: 11%
    • Net price: –
  • University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
    • Location: Champaign, Illinois
    • Average SAT range: 1200-1460
    • Acceptance rate: 62%
    • Net price: $16,000
  • Purdue University
    • Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
    • Average SAT range: 1180-1410
    • Acceptance rate: 58%
    • Net price: $12,000
  • Penn State University
    • Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
    • Average SAT range: 1160-1360
    • Acceptance rate: 56%
    • Net price: $26,000
  • Florida State University
    • Location: Tallahassee, Florida
    • Average SAT range: 1200-1350
    • Acceptance rate: 37%
    • Net price: $13,000

1110 – 1200 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 58-74 percentile.

  • Michigan State University
    • Location: East Lansing, Michigan
    • Average SAT range: 1110-1310
    • Acceptance rate: 78%
    • Net price: $16,000
  • Iowa State University
    • Location: Ames, Iowa
    • Average SAT range: 1090-1330
    • Acceptance rate: 91%
    • Net price: $15,000
  • University of Dayton
    • Location: Dayton, Ohio
    • Average SAT range: 1110-1310
    • Acceptance rate: 72%
    • Net price: $35,000
  • The University of Alabama
    • Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    • Average SAT range: 1060-1280
    • Acceptance rate: 59%
    • Net price: $20,000
  • University of Arizona
    • Location: Tucson, Arizona
    • Average SAT range: 1070-1310
    • Acceptance rate: 84%
    • Net price: $16,000

1010 - 1100 SAT Scores

1010 – 1100 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 40-58 percentile.

  • Temple University
    • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Average SAT range: 1010-1230
    • Acceptance rate: 59%
    • Net price: $23,000
  • University of Mississippi
    • Location: University, Mississippi
    • Average SAT range: 1050-1270
    • Acceptance rate: 88%
    • Net price: $15,000
  • Rutgers University – Newark
    • Location: Newark, New Jersey
    • Average SAT range: 1020-1190
    • Acceptance rate: 63%
    • Net price: $11,000
  • DePaul University
    • Location: Chicago, Illinois
    • Average SAT range: 1050-1260
    • Acceptance rate: 68%
    • Net price: $31,000
  • Liberty University
    • Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
    • Average SAT range: 970-1200
    • Acceptance rate: 56%
    • Net price: $27,000

910 – 1000 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 28-40 percentile.

  • Louisiana Tech University
    • Location: Ruston, Louisiana
    • Average SAT range: 870-970
    • Acceptance rate: 63%
    • Net price: $10,000
  • Bowling Green State University
    • Location: Bowling Green, Ohio
    • Average SAT range: 880-1100
    • Acceptance rate: 72%
    • Net price: $18,000
  • Ferris State University
    • Location: Big Rapids, Michigan
    • Average SAT range: 940-1170
    • Acceptance rate: 81%
    • Net price: $13,000
  • Vermont Technical College
    • Location: Randolph Center, Vermont
    • Average SAT range: 840-1050
    • Acceptance rate: 68%
    • Net price: $20,000
  • Jacksonville University
    • Location: Jacksonville, Florida
    • Average SAT range: 900-1200
    • Acceptance rate: 90%
    • Net price: $22,000

810 – 900 SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 10-28 percentile.

  • Gallaudet University
    • Location: Washington, DC
    • Average SAT range: 790-1080
    • Acceptance rate: 57%
    • Net price: $15,000
  • Alverno College
    • Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Average SAT range: 770-1050
    • Acceptance rate: 70%
    • Net price: $18,000
  • Ohio Christian University
    • Location: Circleville, Ohio
    • Average SAT range: 760-980
    • Acceptance rate: 100%
    • Net price: $25,000
  • College of Saint Elizabeth
    • Location: Morristown, New Jersey
    • Average SAT range: 790-980
    • Acceptance rate: 73%
    • Net price: $20,000
  • University of Valley Forge
    • Location: Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
    • Average SAT range: 790-1050
    • Acceptance rate: 59%
    • Net price: $20,000

800 or lower SAT Scores

If you score within this range, you are in the national 1-10 percentile.

  • Mayville State University
    • Location: Mayville, North Dakota
    • Average SAT range: 690-910
    • Acceptance rate: 86%
    • Net price: $13,000
  • Mount Mary University
    • Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Average SAT range: 660-870
    • Acceptance rate: 62%
    • Net price: $18,000
  • Oklahoma Wesleyan University
    • Location: Bartlesville, Oklahoma
    • Average SAT range: 690-1040
    • Acceptance rate: 68%
    • Net price: $26,000
  • Lincoln College
    • Location: Lincoln, Illinois
    • Average SAT range: 700-810
    • Acceptance rate: 80%
    • Net price: $15,000
  • Rust College
    • Location: Holly Springs, Mississippi
    • Average SAT range: 630-800
    • Acceptance rate: 53%
    • Net price: $10,000

Wrapping Things Up: SAT Score Range

Clearly, your SAT score is a complex and influential number. It is important to understand in order to anticipate your future, grow as a student, and set goals for yourself. Typically, one should try to score around the 1200 range for most mid-tier colleges. However, there are college options for 99% of scores and there really isn’t a minimum SAT score needed. There are options to improve your score by retaking the test, studying, or taking subject tests or the essay portion to supplement your score to fit your college and future goals.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love the other posts related to SAT here:

> The 7 Most Common Careless Mistakes on the SAT Math Test

> What Calculators are Allowed on the SAT?

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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