How to Get a Perfect SAT Score: Tips From Top Scorers

Scoring a perfect 1600 on the SAT isn't easy — less than 1% of students do this. Get tips from real top scorers to help you ace the SAT.

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by Danika Miller

Published on February 2, 2022 · Updated on March 20, 2022

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How to Get a Perfect SAT Score: Tips From Top Scorers


One essential part of preparing for college is to take college entrance exams. Many colleges use SAT and ACT scores to assess students, in addition to other application materials. A perfect SAT score can help you earn admission to prestigious colleges and may even qualify you for certain scholarships.

A 1600 SAT score is pretty rare, though. You'll need to dedicate time to studying specifically for the SAT. We've outlined some tips to get you started from real students who aced the test.

What Is a Perfect SAT Score?

Students who take the SAT receive a score on a scale of 400-1600, meaning a perfect SAT score is 1600.

The SAT consists of two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). You'll receive a score for each section between 200 and 800. Those two section scores are then added together to give you a total SAT score out of 1600.

Calculating your section scores is a little more complicated. The College Board uses a conversion chart that takes your raw scores (i.e., how many questions you answered correctly) and converts them into section scores out of 800.

That conversion chart is different every test date and scaled to other students who took the test. This means there could potentially be a bit of wiggle room, allowing you to miss a few questions and still get a perfect 1600.

We looked at the score conversion charts for official SAT practice tests provided by the College Board to get an idea of how many questions you can miss and still get a perfect 1600.

The conversion chart and number of missed questions differs depending on your test date, but based on practice test data, you'll need a nearly perfect test. On average, you can miss one question on the entire SAT and still earn a perfect score.

Number of Questions You Can Miss on the SAT for a Perfect Score
Practice Test Number Math Test Reading Test Writing Test Total
Practice Test 1 0 1 0 1
Practice Test 3 0 1 0 1
Practice Test 5 0 0 1 1
Practice Test 6 0 1 0 1
Practice Test 7 0 0 0 0
Practice Test 8 2 0 0 2
Practice Test 9 1 0 0 1
Practice Test 10 0 0 0 0

How Many People Get a Perfect 1600 Sat Score?

The College Board doesn't report the exact number of students who receive a perfect score, but we do have some understanding of its rarity.

Based on tests taken between 2020 and 2021, the 99th+ percentile score range was 1560-1600. This means that less than 1% of test-takers scored in that range. And according to a College Board report, only 8% of 2021 high school grads who took the SAT in high school scored between 1400 and 1600 — that's just 118,704 students out of 1,509,133.

Basically, scoring anything above 1400 is a huge accomplishment. The average SAT score for all 2021 high school grads was 1060.

You don't have to score a perfect 1600 or even in the 99th+ percentile to get into a prestigious college. The middle 50% of scores for students enrolled in top schools like Brown, Columbia, Duke, Princeton, and Stanford was between 1450 and 1570, or the 96th and 99th percentiles.

The term "middle 50%" means that out of all the students enrolled, half of them scored within that range. That leaves 25% of students who scored above that range and 25% below. Another way to look at it: If the middle 50% of SAT scores at Cornell is 1450-1540, then about 75% of students scored 1450 or higher.

Middle 50% SAT Scores for Top Schools, Class of 2025
School Middle 50% SAT Score
Brown University 1480-1560
Columbia University 1510-1560
Cornell University 1450-1540
Duke University* 1500-1570
Johns Hopkins University* 1500-1550
New York University** 1350-1530
Northwestern University* 1460-1540
Princeton University 1450-1570
Stanford University 1470-1570
University of Pennsylvania 1490-1560
* Class of 2024.
** Does not specify graduating class.

4 Essential Tips for Scoring a Perfect 1600 on the SAT

It can be intimidating to prepare for the SAT, especially if you're aiming for a perfect score. We spoke with actual students who earned a 99th percentile score or higher and compiled their expert advice.

1. Start Preparing Early

You should start studying and preparing for the SAT at least three months before your test. You'll need ample time to take practice tests, identify your weaknesses, and learn new material.

"If you start too late, the anxiety and pressure from reaching a goal within a short period of time will diminish the effectiveness of your efforts," said Emma Wang, who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school.

2. Use Official SAT Study Materials

Take advantage of official SAT study material and practice tests. These will give you the most accurate replications of the SAT. The College Board offers many free SAT resources, like full-length practice tests and study guides, and you should use them all.

"Do lots of practice exams and exercises," advised Wang. "I did all the questions in the official guide, from third-party sources, and from any real past exams I could get my hands on."

3. Practice the Pacing

Part of your SAT prep should be practicing the test timed. We recommend mimicking the testing conditions you'll encounter on the day of the test. If you practice your pacing, you'll feel less time pressure during the test and be more likely to finish every question.

"For the SAT, pacing is critical to getting a perfect score, especially if you are only a few questions off," said Alex Nelson, a mentor with Ivy Scholars and full SAT scorer. "This is because you will need that time to tackle the hardest questions — the ones to get you those last 10 points."

Your score can improve if you become comfortable with the speed of the test and develop techniques for prioritizing questions. For example, you'll want to move quickly through content you know well to leave you more time to work out harder questions.

"You will need to learn when to trust your gut on the earlier questions — ticking the right answer and coming back to recheck if there's time at the end," said Nelson.

4. Target Your Mistakes and Revisit New Material

Once you've taken a few practice tests, you'll be able to detect subjects that need improvement. Consider the types of questions consistently keeping you from a perfect score.

For example, Nelson noticed that vocab was a consistent mistake on his practice tests when preparing for the SAT. So he carried around vocab cards to study during his free time.

Continue to study those weak areas and anything new you learned.

"Keep a running list of things you learned during practice exams — these could be some new vocabulary you saw or a new type of math problem," said Wang. "Then take some time to review and absorb these in between practice exams."


With Advice From:

Portrait of Emma Wang

Emma Wang

Emma Wang went to high school at the Great Neck South High School in New York before attending the University of California, Berkeley. Upon graduation, she started a job in healthcare consulting. At the same time, she launched an online publishing business, Tent Camping Trips, to help people enjoy the outdoors. In her spare time, she can be found skiing, hiking, and going to museums.

Portrait of Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson has served as a full-time mentor and tutor for 12 years. After scoring a perfect 1600 on the SAT in high school, he joined The Princeton Review where he worked as a college admissions mentor and tutor for the SAT, ACT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. Over nine years, he became their highest-level "Premiere" tutor and teacher trainer for all of Houston. Alex joined Ivy Scholars in 2018. He specializes in improving organization and study habits and is a master at helping high-scoring students raise their SAT and ACT scores to the top 1%.


Feature Image: Antonio_Diaz / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Most colleges require the SAT for undergraduate admissions. Make sure you're prepared to tackle the exam with confidence. Click through for info on the SAT. We've identified nine ways to help you earn a high SAT score. Advanced preparation and day-of meditation are key to test-day success. Many high school students struggle to choose between the SAT and ACT. Discover the exams' biggest differences and which to take based on your unique strengths.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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