The college application process includes many rites of passage, from conducting campus visits to selecting a personal statement topic. However, of all the admissions hoops students must jump through, none inspire more anticipation (or perhaps dread) than the SAT. A lot of students’ concerns about the SAT originate from anxiety about their performance. These fears lead many to questions such as: what is a good SAT score? Is a 1200 a good score? A 1300? A 1400?!
We have encouraging news: good SAT scores are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In fact, a “good” SAT score will vary from student to student. In this post, we will discuss how the SAT is scored and what variables define good SAT scores, so that you can identify a target score for yourself!
What is the SAT?
Before we can figure out what is a good SAT score, let’s establish what the SAT is. The SAT is a standardized test that functions as an entrance exam for many colleges. This exam measures students’ readiness for college-level work by evaluating their knowledge of reading, math, and writing, as well as their ability to think analytically and problem-solve. SAT scores, in combination with a student’s GPA and transcript, provide admissions officers with a more comprehensive understanding of a student’s academic performance in comparison to other applicants.
While the composition of the SAT has evolved over the years, it is currently composed of two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and the Math section. Each of these sections includes two subtests. Altogether, it takes three hours to complete both sections.
The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section includes tests on Reading, as well as Writing and Language. Students have 65 minutes to complete the Reading section’s 52 multiple-choice questions in response to written passages about literature, social studies, and the sciences. 35 minutes are allotted for students to complete the Writing and Language section comprising 44 multiple-choice questions. In comparison to the Reading section, which focuses on comprehension and close reading, the Writing and Language test asks students to identify corrections that will improve the clarity, organization, or accuracy of a passage.
The Math section also includes two subsections, one in which students can use a calculator and one in which cannot. The math test without calculators includes 20 multiple-choice questions and five free-response questions. Similarly, the subsection in which students can use calculators consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 free-response questions.
Historically, the SAT has also included an essay section. However, it was dropped in June of 2021 in the majority of states and school districts.
How is the SAT scored?
The EBRW and Math sections of the SAT are each evaluated on a scale of 200 to 800. Together, these sections produce a cumulative score of 400 to 1600. In contrast to other exams, SAT scores are only based on the number of correct responses students provide. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. This means that it is in students’ best interest to answer all SAT questions, even if they have to guess.
Although many students fixate on earning good SAT scores, there is no such thing as a passing score. Instead, a student’s score report will include a percentile ranking, indicating what percentage of students scored the same score or below. For example, a student in the 80th percentile performed the same or better than 80% of other test takers. Below is a partial list of SAT scores and their corresponding percentile rankings from College Board:
|SAT Score||Percentile Rank Among SAT Users|
College Board also provides percentile rankings for EBRW and Math section scores.
What is a good SAT score?
The average SAT score for the class of 2022 was a 1050 according to College Board. Using that score as a baseline, one could argue that a “good” SAT score is anything above a 1050 (i.e. anything above-average). However, an above average score likely won’t cut it for many applicants, particularly those applying to selective colleges. This is because good SAT scores are contextual, depending on a student’s college list, as well as variables such as their prospective major.
For example, let’s say a student earns a 1400 on the SAT, placing them in the 93rd percentile. Objectively, that’s a pretty great score! However, that score’s mileage may vary depending on the student’s college list. This student is primarily applying to public universities in the Midwest, including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of Iowa. They also want to apply to a few highly selective colleges like the University of Chicago. While this student’s SAT score is quite high, the admissions committee at each university will perceive it differently based on the SAT scores of their applicants.
What is a Good SAT Score (Continued)
Let’s start with UIUC. Looking at their First-Year Class Profile, the middle 50% of their first-year class, meaning students that fall within the 25th-75th percentile range, had SAT scores between 1330-1510. Based on that information, a 1400 would fall in the middle of that range around the 50th percentile mark. This ranking indicates this student’s SAT score is average at UIUC, making it a good target school for them. In comparison, the University of Iowa’s middle 50 percent SAT score range is 1130-1350. There, the student’s score is outside of that range. This places them in the top 25%, making the University of Iowa a good safety school for this student.
However, this student has always dreamed of attending the University of Chicago, even though it’s a “reach” school for them. They confirm this fact when they look at the middle 50% of SAT scores for UChicago, which range from 1510-1560. This places this student in the lower quarter of SAT scores. While this doesn’t mean they will not or cannot be admitted to UChicago, it does signal that this college is a reach for them and admission is less likely.
What is a good score based on your prospective major?
While looking at the SAT scores of admitted students goes a long way in helping students determine what is a good SAT score, it doesn’t paint the full picture. It is also important to consider prospective majors when determining whether your score is “good” for a particular school. Let’s revisit our student with a 1400 SAT score. This student is considering careers as a software developer or STEM teacher. If they apply as an education major to UIUC, their SAT score would make them a more competitive applicant. This is because the middle 50 percent of SAT scores for students within UIUC’s College of Education range from 1170-1380.
However, this applicant’s score would be perceived differently if they apply as a computer science major to UIUC’s Grainger College of Engineering, where the middle 50 percent ranges from 1450-1540. Within that applicant pool, this student would be in the lower quarter based on their SAT score. Overall, this example shows how an applicant’s major can impact the perception of their SAT score. This student might be within the target score range for the general student population at UIUC, but their prospective major can make their score more or less competitive.
So, what is a good SAT score? As this example shows, there isn’t a magic number that will be “good” for all students or in all circumstances. Good SAT scores are those that help make you a competitive applicant, and that number may vary depending on your college list and prospective major.
What should my target SAT score be?
We know that there is no one definition of a good SAT score. However, as an applicant, you need to know your answer to “What is a good SAT score?” so that you can prepare accordingly.
To answer that question, you need to assemble a well-rounded college list that includes a healthy balance of target, safety, and reach schools. Once you know where you want to apply, it’s time to do some research! Collect information about the SAT score ranges of admitted students at each university on your list. We have made this part of the process easy with our searchable Entering Class Statistics table. If colleges provide major-specific scores, document the score range for students within your prospective major as well.
Once you’ve collected all relevant data, identify the highest 75th percentile score from all of your colleges. That is your target SAT score. Scoring at or above the highest 75th percentile score will make you a more competitive applicant among all of your colleges.
How can I improve my score?
Okay, you’ve found your answer to what is a good SAT score. Now, how do you actually get it? We have some suggestions:
- First, figure out your baseline score by taking a practice test. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the SAT’s structure and composition.
- Once you receive your score, consider your strengths and weaknesses. Did you struggle with one test over the other? Was one type of question especially confusing? Did you struggle to respond to all of the questions in the allotted time? Reflecting on your experience and performance will help you identify what skills you should prioritize while studying.
- From there, assemble and stick to a study plan, focusing on your core improvement areas. Ideally, you’ll have several weeks, if not months, to prepare to maximize your odds of reaching your target score. Consult College Board’s website, which provides numerous resources to support SAT preparation.
- Finally, consider taking the SAT more than once if time and money allow. Doing so will give you more experience with the exam, as well as additional opportunities to improve through superscoring.
What is a Good SAT Score (Continued)
Hopefully, your diligent preparation will help you reach your target score. However, if you are unable to hit your target, don’t panic! Your SAT score is just one part of your college applications. If your SAT score is slightly below your target but other aspects of your application, like your GPA, are solid, then you’re likely still a competitive applicant. Even a more significant score differential won’t necessarily take you out of the running.
However, not meeting your target score, particularly by a significant margin, does signal that it would be worthwhile to reevaluate your college list. Schools that were originally in the target category may now be “reaches”. In this scenario, it is a good idea to play it safe by applying to additional schools in the target and safety categories. Doing so will ensure your college list is well-rounded and aligns with your SAT score and GPA.
Final Thoughts: What is a Good SAT Score?
Your performance on the SAT is an important factor in many college admissions decisions. Good SAT scores are contextual, depending on the schools you apply to as well as your prospective major. For this reason, it’s important to determine your target SAT score based on your college list. Earning an SAT score at or above the 75th percentile at a university can make you a more competitive candidate.
While your SAT score is important, it’s just one of the many factors that admissions officers weigh, including your GPA, the rigor of your courses, and your application essays, among others. Do your best on the exam, but don’t let it consume you or define your college admissions experience. There are many excellent colleges to choose from that admit students with a variety of SAT scores. By preparing for the test intentionally and engaging in thoughtful goal setting, you’ll end up at the school that’s right for you.
If you have additional questions about the SAT or standardized testing, consider consulting the following resources:
- Should I Apply Test-Optional to College?
- ACT and SAT Testing Policies
- Test-Blind Colleges
Emily earned a BA in English and Communication Studies from UNC Chapel Hill and an MA in English from Wake Forest University. While at UNC and Wake Forest, she served as a tutor and graduate assistant in each school’s writing center, where she worked with undergraduate and graduate students from all academic backgrounds. She also worked as an editorial intern for the Wake Forest University Press as well as a visiting lecturer in the Department of English at WFU, and currently works as a writing center director in western North Carolina.
What is a Good SAT Score? ›
The average SAT composite score is 1051, with the average score for math being 523 and EBRW being 528. A score above 1040 is above-average, and a score above 1200 puts you in the 75th percentile (the top 25% of test-takers).What is a good SAT score for college? ›
A strong SAT score can raise your chances of getting into a particular college. While there's no standard for a "good" SAT score, it's best to aim for at least 1200. More importantly, aim for an SAT score that's within or higher than your school's middle 50%.Is 1100 a good score for SAT? ›
Is An 1100 SAT Score (58th Percentile) Good? A score of 1100 on the SAT puts you at the 58th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 58% all 2 million+ test takers. Earning an 1100 makes you eligible to apply to most colleges and universities as a decent candidate.Is 770 a good SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 770 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 750 a good SAT score? ›
A good SAT score will not only open doors to college acceptance, but also to merit aid at a vast majority of colleges and universities. A good score is in the range of 1300 to 1500 (Math: 650 to 750, Reading/Writing: 650 to 750).Is 1150 a bad SAT score? ›
The average national SAT score is between 1050 and 1100 every year (on purpose), putting an 1150 at an above-average 67th percentile — that's a score to be proud of! It means that you scored higher than 67% of all other test takers.What did Elon Musk score on SAT? ›
Elon Musk reacts to GPT-4 scoring 93% on SAT exams.How rare is a 1500 SAT? ›
A 1500 puts you in nearly the 95th percentile of all 1.7 million test takers.What SAT score is required for Harvard? ›
Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.Is 1200 an ok SAT score? ›
A 1200 is an above average score that places you in approximately the 74th percentile of all high school students taking the exam. A score of 1200 makes it possible to apply to the vast majority of schools throughout the nation and be competitive for admission at a sizable number of colleges.
Is 490 a bad SAT score? ›
Poor SAT Score: 900 or lower (bottom 25% of test-takers) Average SAT Score: 1050 (even with 50% of test-takers) Good SAT Score: 1200 (top 75% of test-takers) Excellent SAT Score: 1350+ (90%+ higher than all test-takers.)Is 950 a bad SAT score? ›
The scoring scale runs from 400 to 1600, with the average test taker receiving a composite result between 1050 and 1100. A 950 falls in the 31st percentile, short of what most colleges and universities would like to see on applications for admission.Is a 900 a good SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 900 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 800 on SAT bad? ›
An 800 SAT is considered a percentile 8, which means that you only did better than 8% of all other test takers. However, there are a handful of colleges where a score of 800 is eligible for admission but the majority would ideally want to see a higher score, at least on par with the national average.Is an 850 OK on an SAT? ›
Is An 850 SAT Score (15th Percentile) Good? A score of 850 ranks approximately in the 15th percentile of test takers nationwide. Upwards of 2 million students take the SAT every year and the average student earns between a 1000 and 1100 every year. The SAT is designed for the average score to be about the 1000 mark.Is 1000 a bad SAT score? ›
Is A 1000 SAT Score (40th Percentile) Good? A score of 1000 on the SAT places you at the 40th percentile of all exam takers. With a score of 1000, you'll be eligible to apply to a decent number of colleges, however, it won't make you a competitive applicant at most of them.Is 1600 SAT bad? ›
A perfect SAT score is 1600 — that's an 800 in both Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The average SAT score in 2021 was 1060, and just 7% of students scored above 1400. Start studying several months before the SAT and use official practice tests and resources.Is 420 a bad SAT score? ›
420 SAT Score Standings
Out of the 2.13 million test-takers, 2135836 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 13 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1485 schools with this score.
A 1600 SAT score makes an eligible and extremely competitive candidate at all schools, resulting in it being a good score.What is Mark Zuckerberg SAT score? ›
The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University.
What is Bill Gates SAT score? ›
Gates scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs.Has anyone ever gotten a 0 on the SAT? ›
While it's impossible for you to get a zero on the test (everyone who takes the SAT will receive at least a 400), you have almost similar odds of doing very well on the test without studying.Is 1500 good enough for Harvard? ›
There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.What SAT score should I not retake? ›
Never Retake a 1530+
The SAT User Percentiles are what matter since they're based on the actual scores of students. The Nationally Representative Sample is pretty meaningless. A student's percentile represents the percentage of students whose score is equal to or lower than his or her score.
Ideal SAT Score for Ivy League Colleges
A good average aim should be 75 percentile or an SAT score of 1580 (out of 1600). But the main goal should be to earn scores that exceed the majority of applicants.
You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.What GPA does Yale require? ›
Yale University does not have a strict minimum GPA requirement for undergraduate admissions. However, admitted students typically have very high GPAs, ranging from 3.8 to 4.0, with an average GPA of 3.9.
According to the latest statistics, the average GPA at Harvard is 3.67 with A- as the most common grade. There is no standardized tests minimum, but admitted students represent a range of scores from 600 to 800 on each SAT section.
Less selective public institutions, as well as many small liberal arts colleges, regularly accept applicants in the 950-1050 range. Public universities in your state might also accept residents with scores on the lower end of the scale depending on their policies and your other qualifications.Can I get into MIT with a 1200 SAT? ›
MIT SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
There's no absolute SAT requirement at MIT, but they really want to see at least a 1500 to have a chance at being considered.
Can I get into an Ivy League with a 1300 SAT? ›
It depends. For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.Is 960 a bad SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 960 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 780 a bad SAT score? ›
A score of 780 is definitely low. It situates you in the bottom 8th percentile on the national scale, underperforming the majority of the 1.7 million SAT test takers. This score signifies your very poor performance in answering questions in the Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing sections of the exam.Is 680 a bad SAT score? ›
Section SAT Scores
The top 10% of test takers tend to earn between 660 and 800 in Evidence Based Reading and Writing and above 680 in Math. To be considered competitive, the score has to be between 650 and 690 in Reading and Writing and 610 to 670 in Math.
Unfortunately, 760 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 700 good on SAT? ›
A good SAT Subject Test Score is one that fits within the range of scores your college usually looks for or accepts. Many colleges are happy with scores of 650 or above, but highly selective schools may want to see a 700 or 750—or even higher.How bad is a 900 on the SAT? ›
A 900 SAT score is a percentile of 23, meaning you scored higher than 23% of all test takers.Is a 920 a good SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 920 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 800 in SAT reading good? ›
There are many reasons why it is beneficial to get a perfect score on the SAT Reading section: Earning a score of 800 will put you in the 99th percentile of all test takers, and it will increase the likelihood that you will earn scholarship money and get accepted into the school of your dreams.Is 560 a bad SAT score? ›
560 SAT Score Standings
Out of the 2.13 million test-takers, 2122838 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 18 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1480 schools with this score.
Is 480 a bad SAT score? ›
So, if you score below 480 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 530 on Math, you're technically earning a “bad” SAT score. But remember 3 things: Every college will have different standards when it comes to SAT scores of admitted applicants.Is 870 a bad SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 870 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is 470 a bad SAT score? ›
470 SAT Score Standings
Out of the 2.13 million test-takers, 2133567 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 15 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1483 schools with this score.
With a 570 SAT score, you're already strongly competitive for these schools. You're very likely to get admitted if you apply. If you improve your SAT score, your Safety Schools will get better and better.Will colleges accept a 830 SAT score? ›
With an 830 SAT score, you're effectively out of running for the Top 10 universities and Ivy League schools. These comprise most of the well-known and highly-sought after colleges and universities including Harvard, MIT, UPenn, Caltech, Brown, Princeton, and more.Is 1090 a good SAT score? ›
A score of 1090 is a little better than average. It places you in the top 57th percentile nationally out of the 1.7 million test takers of the SAT entrance exam.Is a 930 a good SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 930 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is a 1050 a bad SAT score? ›
The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600, with 1600 being considered a perfect score. A score of 1050 falls on the bottom end of the 50th percentile range, which is 1050-1100.How rare is a 1200 on the SAT? ›
What percentile is a 1200 SAT score? The 1200 SAT is in the 74th percentile. This means just shy of 550,000 of the 2.13 million test takers scored the same or higher than you.Is a 27 a good SAT score? ›
With a score of 27, you are in the 87th percentile of all test takers. More likely than not, with a score of 27, you'll often be in or near the commonly accepted range at selective colleges.
Is 1200 a good SAT score for college? ›
A 1200 is a great score and makes you a competitive applicant at a number of institutions. However, if you want to increase your score, either to become eligible or competitive at more selective institutions or for more merit aid, junior year is a great time for that.Is 970 a good SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 970 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is a 1300 on the SAT bad? ›
Is a 1300 Sat Score (87th Percentile) Good? Yes. A 1300 on the SAT indicates good performance in all sections of the exam and places you around the 87th percentile of all test takers, meaning you scored higher than 87% of all test takers.Is 930 a bad SAT score? ›
Unfortunately, 930 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.Is a 24 a good SAT score? ›
A score of 24 would put you in the top 25% of students who take the test. If you earn a 24 or higher, this can be a competitive score on the ACT. Similar to SAT scores, a “good” ACT score also depends on where you are applying.Can I get into Harvard with a 1200 SAT? ›
To get admission to top colleges like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, one needs to score at least 1500. But there are more than 430 colleges that accept an SAT score of 1200 or 75th percentile score.Can you get into Harvard with a 1600 SAT score? ›
Harvard SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.
The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1470, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1560. In other words, a 1470 places you below average, while a 1560 will move you up to above average. There's no absolute SAT requirement at Yale, but they really want to see at least a 1470 to have a chance at being considered.Can I get into Harvard with a 1300 SAT? ›
Harvard applicants with a combined SAT score of 1300-1400 and an average GPA of 3.5-4.0 have a better chance of being accepted to Harvard University.Is 1700 good on SAT? ›
As expected, however, the higher the score, the better—regardless of the school you plan to attend. If you are considering a school with more average-based acceptance requirements, an SAT exam score of 1500 to 1700 is a perfectly acceptable goal.