Do you have a target score for your SAT? Do you want to know how you did the last time you took it? Whether you have taken the SAT or are about to take it for the first time, you may be wondering; what is a good SAT score?
The answer to this question heavily depends on which college or university you are applying to. In this article, we will find out what an acceptable SAT score is and if it is good enough to open the door to the college you always wanted to attend.
How is the SAT scored?
Before we determine what an SAT passing score is, it is important for us to know the scoring system employed by the standardized admissions test. The SAT score range is between 400 and 1600, where the former is the lowest you can get and the latter is the perfect SAT score.
For each of the two sections–Math section and the Evidence-based Reading and Writing section, the score range is from 200 to 800. The Essay section, however, is optional and is scored separately (1)
The score that you will get on the SAT has a corresponding percentile ranking. SAT score percentiles tell you what percentage of the SAT examinees obtained the same number of points as you or higher. For instance, a 90th percentile SAT ranking would mean that your score is higher than 90% of the students who took the SAT.
What is the average SAT score?
How well did the entire country do on the SAT in 2019? Let’s look at the data by the College Board to have a good grasp of all SAT takers’ performance.
According to the College Board, the average SAT score in 2019 is 1059 (2). The average SAT Math score is 528, while the average score for Evidence-based Reading and Writing is 531.
See below how the 2019 SAT examinees performed on the test and on each section of the SAT.
Now that we know the average SAT score, we will look at two baselines in which we can compare your SAT score. How good your score is will depend on the baseline used for comparison.
Baseline #1: The national average score
Since the average SAT score is 1059, any score higher than this is considered above average. Here is the SAT score distribution from the College Board showing SAT scores and their corresponding percentile rankings in 2019 (1).
|SAT score (out of 1600)||Percentile|
As seen on the table, a score of 1050 will give you a percentile that is close to the 50th. This is because the score is near the national average. SAT score percentiles play a major role in determining how good your score is.
If you have the national average as your baseline, it is fair to say that any score from the 70th percentile is good. Let’s have an example.
Is 1200 a good SAT score? If you score 1200, you performed better than 74% of the SAT takers, which is considered good.
If your score is 1300, you did better than 86% of the takers, which is pretty high.
A score of 1500 puts you in the top 2% of the students and this is considered impressive.
If you scored 1600, which is the SAT max score, or the highest SAT score that you can have, then you will have a percentile rank of 99+, which is amazing!
On the flip side, a percentile rank of 49 and below would mean that you scored below average. If the national average is your baseline, then your score is bad.
Baseline #2: Average scores on your preferred school
If you are looking to get to a specific college or university, particularly an elite one, you should consider targeting a certain SAT score that is close or exceeds the average SAT scores of the school’s students’.
Doing so will boost your chances of getting admitted to the school.
What’s a good score on the SAT that will bring you to the top schools? Let’s look at some of the best universities in the country as a basis.
Harvard University, which is among the Ivy League schools and is ranked #2 nationwide by US News (3), has an average SAT score of 1520 (4). Considering and looking at the previous table from the College Board, you will have to score better than 98% of the SAT takers to boost your chances of getting to Harvard University.
Let’s look at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT for our next example. Based on the admission statistics on its website (5), the average SAT score at MIT is about 1550, which percentile is at 99+ in 2019, according to the College Board’s data on SAT percentiles.
If it is not necessary for you to attend Ivy League schools or at least one of the top 10 schools in the country, then you would not need extremely high SAT scores. Some schools like Michigan State University, have an SAT average score of 1170 (6). 75% of Baylor’s University’s freshmen have an average SAT score of 1290 (7).
Different universities in the country have a different average SAT scores. You can always check it out on the school’s official website. This way, you can set a goal for your SAT score.
In a nutshell
How good your SAT score is will depend on two things: the national average and your desired school. If your baseline is the national average, an SAT score that is a little bit above the mean can be considered good.
If your basis is the school you want to attend in, make sure to check out its students’ average SAT scores, so you can set a target and boost your chances of being accepted.
The bottom line is the higher your SAT score, the higher your chances are of getting into your dream school.