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SAT

SAT Score Guide | [Scores, Options Covered]

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 19 Apr 2024

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Do you find yourself in the SAT score maze, wondering what numbers matter and how to get that perfect score? Percentiles, section scores, average SAT score; all these terms are enough to spin your head. With all the jargon surrounding the SAT exam, the task feels nothing short of cracking a secret code. 

But don’t you worry, we have got your back. 

We’ve put together this ultimate SAT Score Guide to help you with all the information you need to understand the SAT scoring system. By the end of this guide, you will have answers to questions like

  • What is a good SAT score?
  • What is the average SAT score range?
  • What is the highest number a student can get on the SAT?

So, it is time to say goodbye to your SAT stress and hello to our SAT Score Guide – your SAT mentor without all the boring stuff. Let’s turn that expression of “Ugh, SAT scores” into “Yes, I have got this”.

Let’s start with how the SAT is scored.

How is the SAT scored?

The Digital SAT exam is divided into two compulsory sections:

  1. Math
  2. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (also known as, EBRW)

The score range for the digital SAT is 200 to 800 per section, which when combined makes up the overall range as 400 to 1600. This means, considering both sections, the lowest you can score is 400 out of 1600 and the highest you can score is 1600 out of 1600.

In digital SAT, it is impossible to get a zero as the baseline score is 200 for each section. One major thing to keep in mind about the digital SAT is, it doesn’t have any negative marking. So, no marks will be deducted if you get any incorrect answers.

SAT Score Percentile

The SAT Percentile is like a ranking that you get in addition to your final SAT score. The SAT percentile ranking ranges from 1 to 99. You also get the SAT percentile for each section of the SAT (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing).

SAT percentile helps you to determine your performance relative to the rest of the test takers. For instance, let’s say you get a 65th percentile score. It means that you have scored the same or better than 65% of all the students who took the SAT exam with you. Therefore a higher percentile is considered a signal of high performance.

The SAT percentile is crucial in the college admissions process, serving as a benchmark for applicants. It allows colleges and universities to gauge your SAT performance in comparison to other test-takers.

The table below shows a range of the SAT scores and the percentile corresponding to that range for the Year 2023.

SAT ScoresPercentile
1600 to 157099+
1560 to 135099 to 90
1340 to 124089 to 80
1230 to 116079 to 70
1150 to 109069 to 60
1080 to 103058 to 50
1020 to 97048 to 40
960 to 91039 to 31
900 to 84029 to 20
830 to 77019 to 10
760 to 62010 to 1
610 to 4001-

SAT scores & percentiles 2023

Note: The percentile and the corresponding SAT score range slightly vary every year. 

According to the above table, it is clear that a score between 1080 to 1030 is average. Any score above that score range (1080 to 1030) will be considered above-average.

For instance, students who scored between 1340 to 1240 on the SAT, obtained a percentile between 89 to 80. 

Similarly, any score below that score range (1080 to 1030) will be considered below average.

For instance, if a student scored between 960 to 910 on the SAT, he would have got a percentile between 39 to 31. 

Well, after looking at the percentile table, you must have an idea about the SAT score percentiles for each section of the exam (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing).

The table below shows the SAT scores (out of 800) for each section of the exam and the corresponding percentile for the score for the year 2023.

SAT Scores (Out of 800)Math PercentileReading and Writing Percentile
80099+99+
7509598
7009193
6508585
6007673
5506359
5004643
4503327
4001913
35063
30011
250 and below1-1-

SAT scores & section percentiles 2023

What is Considered a “Good” SAT Score?

A good SAT score is a score which will be enough for you to get into the college you want. Usually, a good SAT score is considered any score that will put in the 25% of all test-takers.

The average SAT score for 2023 was 1028 (508 for the Math section and 520 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section). Any score above that would have been a good SAT score for students.

A good SAT score varies for different students based on the colleges they apply to. 

For instance, let’s consider Ivy League universities, like Harvard or Princeton. For such universities, a good SAT score is in the range of 1500 or above.

On the other hand, let’s consider state universities, like the University of California or The University of Texas at Austin. For such universities, a good SAT score is in the range of 1300 or above.

In general, to get a good SAT score, you should aim for the 75th percentile. This means your score should be equal to or better than 75% of all the test-takers. 

The rule is simple: a higher SAT score increases the chances of you getting into a competitive college and getting a college scholarship.

Note: Please remember that while your SAT score is important, it’s just one aspect of your application. Admissions officers consider your grades, application essay, and extracurricular activities as well when evaluating your application.

SAT Scores at Top U.S. Universities

Colleges or universities usually publish the SAT score range of their students. In particular, they publish the 25th percentile and 75th percentile. This helps students in getting an idea about the middle 50% score range.

The table below shows the 25th percentile and 75th percentile of top and popular U.S. universities.

College/University Name25th Percentile SAT Score75th Percentile SAT Score
Princeton University15101570
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)15201570
Harvard University14901580
Stanford University15001570
Yale University14701560
University of Pennsylvania15001570
Duke University14901560
Brown University15001560
Cornell University14701550
Columbia University14701530

25th and 75th SAT percentiles of top U.S. colleges

What SAT Score Students Should Aim For?

To enhance your likelihood of being admitted to a specific college, target an SAT score similar to that of the typical admitted student. In other words, if the average freshman earned 1300, aim to achieve at least that score.

College reports the statistics of admitted students between the 25th and 75th percentiles. This cohort is known as the middle 50%. Your aim should be to target a score higher than the score of this middle 50% cohort.

Let’s say, you are applying to an Ivy League university, like Yale. As per the admission statistics of Yale, the middle 50% of test scores (between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile) for the class of 2027 is

  • Math: 760 to 800
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERBW): 740 to 780

Therefore to increase your chances of getting admitted to Yale you should aim for full marks (800) in the Math section and a score of more than 780 in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section.

Now, consider you are applying to a state university, like the University of California. As per the admission statistics of the University of California, the middle 50% of test scores (between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile) for the first-year students of the class of 2019 is

  • Math: 690 to 790
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERBW): 670 to 760

Therefore to increase your chances of getting admitted to University of California you should aim for a score of more than 790 in the Math section and more than 760 in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section.

What if your SAT Score is Below Average?

Whether your SAT score is average, above average, or below average, all this varies from one college or university to another. It also depends on the college/university you apply to.

SAT scores are just a component of your college application. Colleges also focus on other factors, such as your

  • GPA
  • Essays
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Letters of recommendation

If your SAT score falls short of your expectations or is below the average for the colleges you’re interested in, consider the following recommendations:

1st Option: Retake the Test

Retaking the SAT is the best solution to go for, if you have enough time to invest in the preparation for it.

Students usually take the SAT multiple times to achieve their desired scores.

However, before taking the SAT exam again, it is important to understand your areas of weakness. This helps you to improve those while taking the exam again. So, review your SAT results to identify the specific areas where you struggled.

Whether it’s math or reading and writing, understanding your weaknesses can help you target your efforts for improvement.

2nd Option: Consider a Prep Course

It is good to prepare for the SAT in every possible way before retaking it. So, you should enroll yourself in an SAT prep course. This will help you in getting structured and professional guidance.

Many online platforms, like Wiingy, can offer you a private tutor for SAT prep to help you improve your SAT Scores.

3rd Option: Utilize Free Resources

Take advantage of free resources available online, such as The Princeton Review or PrepScholar. These resources provide

  • Practice questions
  • Video lessons, and 
  • Personalized study plans, all as per your needs.

4th Option: Adjust your List of Colleges/Universities

If your score is less than your goal score and you don’t have enough time to retake the exam, try making some changes to your list of colleges/universities.

For instance, you were planning to get a score of 1570 but got 1430 instead. With the planning of your goal score, you had Duke University (middle 50%: 1520-1570) as a match school. But with your current score, you should consider Duke University as a reach school. This is because the 75th percentile of Duke University is much more than the score you got.

Let’s take another example, with your targeted score of 1570, you had The Ohio State University (middle 50%: 1340-1480) as a safety school. But with the score you got, that is, 1430, you should consider it as a reach school. This is because the score you got falls in the range of the middle 50% of The Ohio State University.

So, in the end, you should consider adding some safety schools to your list as per your current score of 1430, such as the University of Notre Dame (middle 50%: 1450-1530). This is because the score you got is less than the 25th percentile of the University of Notre Dame.

Note: To have a better understanding of the match, safety, and reach schools, you can check our blog “Explore Safety, Reach, and Target Schools: Pick the best one for you in 2024!”

5th Option: Explore Test-Optional or Test-Blind Colleges

Some colleges like Columbia University and Duke University have adopted test-optional policies. This means submitting your SAT score is not mandatory while applying to such colleges. It is up to you if you want to submit your SAT score or not.

Some colleges like the University of California, Berkeley have adopted test-blind policies. This means such colleges do not need your SAT score at all. They will not consider your score even if you submit it.

Research colleges that have such policies and consider applying to them.

6th Option: Consider Test-Retaking Policies

Be aware of the college’s policies about multiple test scores before retaking the SAT exam. Some colleges consider your highest score out of all. Some might consider the average of all the scores.

So, check the policies of the colleges you are interested in.

Is Taking the Digital SAT Compulsory?

No, taking the Digital SAT is not compulsory anymore. Colleges are now making the SAT optional or introducing a “test-optional” policy.

It means that it will be the student’s choice to submit their SAT scores. If a student does submit their scores, the college will consider them.

This includes universities like Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

Unlike the test-optional policy, some colleges are introducing “test-blind” or “test-free” policies. It means that colleges will not accept the student’s SAT scores, even if they submit them.

This includes universities like Washington State University, the California University of Technology, and the University of Charleston.

If Digital SAT is Not Compulsory Then Why Should I Take it? 

Even though many colleges across the U.S. are introducing test-optional and test-blind policies, the Digital SAT still holds importance. The SAT opens doors for students of all backgrounds.

As per Priscilla Rodriguez, leader of the SAT team at College Board, “In the class of 2020, nearly 1.7 million students had SAT scores that would strengthen their college application. Among those 1.7 million students, more than 300,000 were from small towns and rural communities, 600,000 were first generation, and more than 700,000 were African-American and Latino.”

According to the data of the College Board, there are more than 25,000 high schools in the U.S. The grading policies can also vary at different high schools. As an example in 2021, 55% of U.S. students graduated high school with an A grade or higher. Therefore, colleges cannot make an admissions decision based on these school grades. 

Yet, other parts of college applications, like clubs, sports, and academic activities, can be costly and inaccessible for many families. 

This is where the SAT exam helps as it provides a standardized way for colleges and universities to assess a student. At the same time, it offers an opportunity to the student to strengthen their college application. 

Here are the top 3 reasons why you should consider taking the SAT exam:

  1. Showcasing Academic Knowledge: The main focus of the SAT exam is problem-solving and analysis skills. So, getting a high SAT score shows that you have a strong academic understanding.
  2. Merit-Based Scholarships: Colleges like the University of Mississippi use the SAT scores as a criterion for awarding merit-based scholarships. So, you may be eligible for scholarships and additional financial help if your SAT score is good.
  3. Benchmark for Comparison: The SAT score provides a standardized benchmark. Colleges use the SAT to compare students from different schools and regions. It aims to create a common metric to assess academic abilities.

Conclusion

The score range for the SAT is 400 to 1600. The average SAT score for 2023 was 1028.

A ‘Good SAT score’ is one that helps you get into a college of your choice. This will vary by the colleges and programs you want to attend. 

Getting a high SAT score shows that you have a strong academic understanding. By doing so, you may be eligible for scholarships and more financial help if your SAT score is good.

Remember SAT is only one of the factors and the colleges also focus on other factors, such as your GPA, essays, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.

By taking the SAT, you can strengthen your college application as it provides a standardized way for colleges to assess you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is 1200 a Good SAT Score?

1200 is a good score if 1200 falls between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile or more than the 75th percentile for the colleges you apply to.

What SAT Score is Required for Harvard?

Harvard University’s SAT scores usually range from 1490 to 1580. Although SAT scores are optional at Harvard, it is recommended that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1535. This way you will stay competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.

Is 750 a Low SAT Score?

Yes, it is considered a low SAT score as it is less than the 25th percentile for most of the colleges. In general, getting at least within the 25th percentile and 75th percentile for the colleges you apply to is considered a good SAT score. This increases your chances of getting into a college of your choice.

Does Any Negative Marking Happen in SAT?

No, the SAT doesn’t have any negative markings. For every right answer, you get 1 point.

References 

Written by

Shefali Sundram

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