Updated: Sep 27, 2022
The SAT is a widely popular exam with nearly 1 million students around the world taking the exam every year. This exam tests the language and mathematical reasoning skills of students.
Colleges and universities rely on SAT scores to determine the college readiness of applicants. Students should therefore aim for good scores so they can gain admission to their desired college. Each university has different criteria for admission with some demanding exceptionally high scores and some with low score expectations.
Students preparing for the SAT often don’t have enough clarity about how the exam is scored and what scores make them eligible for admission into colleges. The definition of a ‘good score’ may vary for each student depending on their personal goals. Though your SAT score is just one of the many factors influencing the admission decision, a good score will certainly give you an advantage over other applicants. While the pandemic forced several colleges to adopt test-optional policies, several prestigious institutes are still taking SAT scores into account if students choose to submit them.
If you are wondering how to determine whether your score is good enough, this article is for you. Keep reading to find a detailed explanation of SAT scores in the following sections.
What is a good SAT score in general?
The SAT consists of two sections - Math and Evidence-based Reading and Writing. The SAT exam is scored on a 1600-point scale. Each of the sections is scored between 200 and 800 and your final score is the sum of both the sections. Your SAT percentile score will help you determine how well you performed in the exam when compared to other test takers. For example, if you scored in the 90th percentile, your score is better than 90% of test takers. Scores in the 50th-70th percentile are considered average and scores below the 50th percentile are bad.
You will see minor differences in percentile rankings for scores every year. Here is a look into the percentile chart for SAT scores:
SAT Composite Score (Out of 1600)
600 and below
It is evident from this chart that percentile rankings increase drastically with increment in composite scores toward the middle of the scale. 1050 is considered an average score and anything below that is not satisfactory. An improvement from 650 to 700 only increases your percentile rankings from 1 to 3 whereas an improvement from 1000 to 1050 increases your percentile rankings from 42 to 51. Scores equal to 1200 or above can be considered a good score.
It is important to note the SAT percentile distribution for both sections is slightly different. A score with a 94th percentile ranking in the Math section may have only the 91st percentile in the Math section. Here is the SAT score distribution for each section of SAT.
SAT Score (Out of 800)
250 and below
What is a good SAT score for you?
What may look like a good SAT score to others may not be good for you. Your personal goals play an important role in determining whether a score can be considered good enough. While the above section gave you a fair idea about good SAT scores, this section will talk about understanding what scores work well for you.
Your preparation strategies and score goals will be influenced by the kind of college you want to gain admission to. The score requirements of each college are different. If you plan to get into highly prestigious institutions like MIT, 1500 would be a good SAT score for you. On the other hand, if you are aiming for colleges such as Arizona State University, a score equal to or above 1250 will be good enough. In short, the definition of a ‘good score’ will be different for each student.
Students should however aim for higher scores to get into the colleges they wish. A higher score will give you the freedom to choose from multiple options. Plus, good SAT scores can also sometimes compensate for other shortcomings in your application like low GPA scores.
How to find your SAT goal score?
Setting a goal will help you stay focused throughout your SAT prep journey. If you don’t have a goal score yet, you better start working on it right away. How do you know what your goal score is? Here are three easy steps you can follow to determine a goal score that will earn you admission to your desired college:
1. Shortlist colleges
Shortlisting colleges you want to apply to is the first step to deciding a goal score for yourself. The advantage of making this list is that you will know how to plan your study schedule and preparation depending on the score requirements for each college. Choose a mix of colleges with different score requirements. Reach colleges, target colleges and safety colleges could be the three categories of shortlisted colleges. Reach colleges can include highly selective colleges that are difficult to get into. Target colleges will be those where you have a reasonable chance of getting admitted compared to the first category. The last category is safety colleges where you are most likely to secure an admission. Choose colleges from all three categories so you have a wide range of options.
2. Check the exact score requirements for shortlisted colleges
Once you are done shortlisting, check the SAT score requirements of these colleges. Understanding the percentile SAT score of colleges will help you determine the score requirements. It is recommended that you check the 25th and 75th percentile scores of students admitted to the colleges. Go through the 25th and 75th percentile scores for each school on the list and plan your SAT prep accordingly. You may have to devote more hours to study depending on the score requirements of your college. If you aim for a score higher than the 75th percentile, it will boost your application and increase your chances of admission into reputable institutions.
3. Find your SAT goal score
Select the most competitive college from the list and check the 75th percentile score for that college. This is your final SAT goal score. Chasing a high yet realistic SAT score goal will help you prepare well and get admission into your dream college effortlessly.
4. Work towards your goal
After deciding on the SAT goal score, you need to make sure you achieve those goals. Sharing your score goal with friends, mentors or family will help you stay on the right track. If you have people around you to monitor your progress and acknowledge your small achievements, you will easily achieve your goal.
Good SAT scores for popular schools
As mentioned earlier, the SAT score requirements may vary from college to college. Here is a list of good SAT scores for popular colleges that will come in handy if you want to determine your SAT score goal. You can refer to this list whenever you feel stuck and confused about the SAT scores for different colleges.
25th percentile SAT Score
75th percentile SAT Score
UC Santa Barbara
U of Florida
U of Rochester
UC San Diego
U of Georgia
Ohio State University--Columbus
How to prepare for the SAT and improve SAT scores?
As far as SAT preparation is concerned, you have to understand that it is not going to be a cakewalk. One needs to be dedicated and self-disciplined to achieve the desired scores. Here are a few general tips that will help you better prepare for the SAT exam.
1. Start early
You should start your preparations at least 2-3 months before. Scrambling concepts and rushing through preparation at the eleventh hour is a futile exercise.
2. Get acquainted with SAT exam instructions
Memorize the instructions so you don’t have to waste time reading them over and over on the test day. Understand the test format and structure and make sure you know the exam inside out before appearing for the test on the final day.
3. Take a full-length practice test
Taking a practice test is essential for students to determine whether they can finish the exam on time. Time management skills are critical to cracking the SAT exam. Practice tests are also an excellent way to understand your weak areas and polish your skills till the test day arrives.
4. Refer to high-quality SAT prep resources
Though there are multiple SAT prep options available online for test takers, you should only refer to trusted sources for your preparation. Rely on materials that are widely used by a majority of test-takers.
5. Improve your vocabulary
Devote ample time to reading and improving your vocabulary. The College Board has good suggestions for test-takers to brush up their language skills.
Improving SAT score
Don’t feel dejected if your SAT scores did not turn out as expected on the first attempt. You can always improve your score with a little more practice and hard work. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your SAT score and keep the number of attempts to a minimum:
1. Retake the test
You can simply retake the test if you wish to see an improvement in your scores. However, there is no use retaking the test if you don’t study harder and take the time to address the issues you faced during the last test. Review what went wrong and adjust your preparation methods to bring positive changes in the result. Don’t go through several attempts aimlessly. Aim for a 5-point or 10-point improvement or whatever aligns with your personal goals, and study accordingly.
2. Consider superscoring
Several colleges nowadays accept super scores. If you have already attempted the SAT quite a few times, you can choose the highest score for each of the sections from different test attempts. For eg: You may have scored high in Math but low in Reading and Writing during the first attempt. The second attempt may produce a different result with high Reading and Writing scores and low Math scores. Select the best score for both sections. You can also make adjustments to your college list and consider colleges that accept super scores.
3. Reconsider your college list
If you have been unsuccessful in achieving your SAT score goal despite several attempts, you may have to reconsider your list of colleges. While you may have selected the colleges after due research, there is no harm in re-evaluating your college choices if your scores are not anywhere closer to the target score. The chosen colleges may not always be the right fit for you. Rather than setting too ambitious a goal, you can set a more realistic goal and get admission into a college that is more suited for your current academic performance and expectations.
4. Do strategic guesswork
SAT exams don’t have negative marks. That means wrong answers won’t be penalized. You should make strategic guesses and try your best to obtain the desired scores. You can use multiple techniques to make educated guesses. No matter what, one should attempt all the questions and never leave anything blank.
5. Stay positive
This is extremely important as students often end up getting disappointed when their scores don’t match up to their expectations. An optimistic attitude is crucial to overcoming challenges and obstacles. SAT scores are just one part of your college application and there is no need to fret too much about it. You can always find ways to improve your score and one bad score should not be the cause of self-doubt. Be confident about yourself and have a never give up attitude.
6. Be well-rested before the exam
Studying hard doesn’t mean you give up sleep and rest. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and get a good sleep so you can appear for the test stress-free. Don’t overwork yourself as it will only have negative consequences.
SAT scores play an instrumental role in the college admission process and students all over the world take the exam in an attempt to boost their application and stand out from the competition. SAT scores are highly beneficial for securing scholarships and financial aid, which further motivates students to work harder and improve their scores. Acing the SAT exam may seem like an uphill task for most students. This could be due to a variety of reasons. One of the major contributing factors however is a lack of clarity about academic goals. If you know exactly which college you want to gain admission to and what scores you are aiming for, you already have an edge over your competition.
Your motives for taking the SAT should be clear right from the start. Understanding the concept of a good SAT score is crucial to determining your goals. The trick is to figure out what is a good SAT score for you and the tips discussed in this article will definitely come in handy to arrive at a good score that is specific to your goals. Never compare your goals with others. Your peers may have a different understanding of a good SAT score and this should not interfere with your preparation in any way.
Learn the Best Way to Prep in Your Situation
Going through the preparation process without any professional help could be a bit overwhelming. Prestige Institute offers SAT prep courses and academic tutoring for students to reach their target scores faster. With an individualized care system that is tailored to suit your personal goals, Prestige aids students with a customized prep plan. Students can choose between online and in-person sessions and also benefit from the immersive cohort experience of group study sessions. Contact us today to leverage data-based platforms and make your SAT prep journey a fruitful and enjoyable experience.