What Is a Good SAT Score?

What Is a Good SAT Score?
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By Hannah Muniz

Published on May 21, 2021

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For many students, getting into college is about more than just good grades and a compelling personal statement — it's about strong test scores.

The SAT is one of two major college admission tests in the U.S. (the other is the ACT). While there's no score you need to pass the exam, a higher SAT score can increase your chances of getting accepted into college.

Not all colleges require SAT scores, so check that your target schools require or recommend taking the exam before you sit for it. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has led many universities to temporarily adopt test-optional policies, meaning schools will not require SAT/ACT scores for the 2021-22 application cycle (and possibly beyond).

What SAT score should you aim for? And what counts as a "good" SAT score? Read on to learn more.

What Is a Good SAT Score Overall?

In general, any SAT score above the 50th percentile (median) can be considered a decent score, since this means you've performed better than the majority of test-takers.

However, scoring in the 50th percentile won't cut it at many selective colleges. The standard for a good SAT score increases considerably depending on how competitive the applicant pool is. This is why it's typically better to aim for at least the 75th percentile, or 1200 or higher. For the Math and EBRW sections, strive for at least 600.

Top 25% SAT Scores (2020)

Total

Top 25% SAT Scores (2020)

Math

Top 25% SAT Scores (2020)

EBRW

Your SAT score, which ranges from 400 to 1600, is the sum of your two section scores for Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each of these sections uses a scale of 200-800 in 10-point increments.

Percentiles can be used to see how well you did overall compared with other test-takers. Refer to the following percentile charts to see what constitutes a good SAT score. Note that the percentile rankings for scores may change slightly from year to year.

Total SAT Score
Total SAT Score (Math + EBRW) Percentile
1560-1600 99+
1520-1550 99
1420-1430 95
1350 90
1290 85
1240 80
1200-1210 75 (good)
1170 70
1130-1140 65
1100-1110 60
1080 55
1050 50 (median)

Source: College Board

Math + EBRW SAT Score
SAT Math Score SAT EBRW Score Percentile
780-800 99+
790-800 760-770 99
740 710 95
690 670 90
650-660 650 85
620-630 630 80
600 610 75 (good)
580 590 70
560-570 570 65
550 560 60
530 540 55
520 530 50 (median)

Source: College Board

What Is a Good SAT Score Based on Your Schools?

Colleges and universities maintain their own SAT score expectations. Some highly selective programs and schools even have minimum required scores for admission. While not meeting an institution's score threshold doesn't necessarily mean you'll get rejected, it doesn't bode well for your admission chances either.

In order to raise your chances of getting admitted, aim for an SAT score that's around that of the typical admitted applicant. In other words, if the average admitted first-year student earned a 1300, you too should try to get at least 1300.

To figure out what to aim for, find the middle 50% of scores for each school you're applying to. The middle 50% is a range between the 25th and 75th percentiles. Your goal should be to earn a score around your school's 75th percentile. If that's too difficult, aim for higher than the 25th percentile score (though know that your application will likely look less impressive).

The middle 50% is a range between the 25th and 75th percentiles. Your goal should be to earn a score around your school’s 75th percentile.

Many colleges provide SAT stats on their websites. You can either search online for the school's name and the phrase "SAT score range," or look for a first-year class profile page or a general facts and figures page.

Say you're applying to Emory University. On Emory's class profile page, you'll find the middle 50% of SAT Math and EBRW scores of admitted students. Now you know to aim for around 760 on the EBRW section and 790 on the Math section — both incredibly high scores.

The exact SAT score you should aim for will vary depending on the colleges you're considering. Less selective institutions admit applicants with SAT scores close to the national median, whereas highly selective universities often prefer scores in the 1400-1500+ range.

The table below contains the middle 50% SAT score ranges for students admitted in fall 2020 at 20 well-known colleges and universities.

Class of 2024 SAT Scores for Admitted Students at 20 Popular Schools
School 25th Percentile SAT Score 75th Percentile SAT Score
Boston College 1410 1520
Boston University (class of 2025) 1430 1540
Columbia University 1500 1560
Hamilton College 1450 1530
Indiana University Bloomington 1160 1370
Miami University 1180 1380
Pennsylvania State University 1240 1410
Pomona College 1410 1550
Tufts University 1420 1550
University of Connecticut 1235 1390
University of Georgia 1310 1460
University of Maryland, College Park 1330 1490
University of Michigan 1380 1550
University of Minnesota Twin Cities 1330 1460
University of Pennsylvania 1470 1550
University of Southern California 1410 1540
University of Texas at Austin 1230 1480
University of Washington 1240 1440
Villanova University (class of 2025) 1400 1500
Wesleyan University (class of 2025) 1450 1560

What Is a Good SAT Essay Score?

In addition to the Math and EBRW sections, the SAT used to offer an optional essay. As of 2021, however, the College Board will no longer offer the SAT essay. The only exception to this is if your state requires the SAT, in which case you may need to take the essay during SAT School Day.

As a result, it's unlikely you'll need to worry much about what score you get on the essay, since colleges can no longer require it during admissions. Still, some students may be interested in getting a good SAT essay score for their own satisfaction.

It’s unlikely you’ll need to worry much about what score you get on the SAT essay, since colleges can no longer require it during admissions.

The SAT essay is scored separately from the Math and EBRW sections and uses a different scale. For this section, you'll get 50 minutes to write an essay that analyzes the author's claims and overall argument in a given passage.

Two graders will read your essay. Each will then assign you a score on a scale of 1-4 in three categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The total score range, then, is 2-8 for each category. A perfect SAT essay score is three 8's — that's a 4 from both graders in all three categories.

Although the College Board doesn't report any percentiles for the SAT essay, it does provide the mean (average) scores for each category.

Average SAT Essay Scores (2019-20)

Reading

Average SAT Essay Scores (2019-20)

Analysis

Average SAT Essay Scores (2019-20)

Writing

Generally speaking, an adequate SAT essay score is anything above these averages, but it's better to aim higher if possible.

For a more in-depth look at the SAT essay and how students score on it, refer to the charts below. These tell you what percentage of test-takers earned each possible score in the three categories.


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