What Is a Good SAT Score?

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  • 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%.
  • The SAT essay will no longer be offered unless your state participates in SAT School Day.

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

Like the ACT, the SAT is a popular college entrance exam in the U.S. While there's no score you need to pass the test, a higher SAT score can increase your chances of getting into college.

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

So what SAT score should you aim for? And what counts as a "good" SAT score?

What Is a Good SAT Score Overall?

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

Scoring in the 50th percentile, however, won't cut it at most 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.

Your SAT score, which ranges from 400 to 1600, is the sum of your two section scores: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each section uses a scale of 200-800 in 10-point increments. A good score on Math or EBRW, then, would be around 600.

Percentiles can be used to see how well you did 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.

Percentile Math Score EBRW Score Total SAT Score
99+ 780-800 1560-1600
99 800 760-770 1520-1550
95 740-750 710 1430-1440
90 690 670-680 1350
85 660 650 1290
80 620-630 630 1240-1250
75 (good) 600 610 1200-1210
50 (median) 520 530 1040-1050

Source: SAT Understanding Scores 2021

What Is a Good SAT Score Based on Your Schools?

To raise your chances of getting accepted to a particular college, aim for an SAT score that's around that of the typical enrolled applicant. In other words, if the average first-year student earned a 1300, then 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 may be less impressive).

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. Emory's class profile page lists the middle 50% of SAT Math and EBRW scores for the class of 2025. Based on this data, you know to aim for around 770 on EBRW and 780 on Math — both incredibly high scores.

The exact SAT score you should aim for will vary depending on the colleges you apply to. Less selective institutions admit applicants with SAT scores closer to the national median, whereas highly selective universities often prefer scores in the 1400-1600 range.

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Good SAT Scores for 20 Popular Colleges

The table below presents the middle 50% of enrolled students' SAT scores at 20 well-known colleges and universities. All data is for the class of 2025.

School 25th Percentile SAT Score 75th Percentile SAT Score
Boston University 1430 1540
Bowdoin College 1440 1550
Colgate University 1370 1500
Colorado College 1280 1450
Columbia University 1510 1560
Indiana University Bloomington 1200 1400
Miami University 1220 1410
Pennsylvania State University 1280 1450
Rice University 1500 1560
Tulane University 1430 1530
University of Connecticut 1240 1410
University of Georgia 1350 1490
University of Maryland, College Park 1370 1510
University of Minnesota Twin Cities 1330 1480
University of Pennsylvania 1490 1560
University of Pittsburgh 1250 1440
University of Richmond 1420 1520
Villanova University 1400 1500
Washington University in St. Louis 1490 1570
Wesleyan University 1460 1560

What Is a Good SAT Essay Score?

The SAT used to offer an optional essay. In 2021, however, the College Board announced it would no longer offer the SAT essay. The only exception to this policy is if your state requires the SAT, in which case you may need to take the essay on an SAT School Day.

Even though colleges can't require the SAT essay anymore, some students taking the SAT on a school day may be interested in getting a good essay score for their own satisfaction. The SAT essay is scored separately from Math and EBRW. You'll get 50 minutes to write an essay that analyzes the author's claims and argument in a given passage.

Two graders will read your essay and assign you a score on a scale of 1-4 in three categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The total score range is 2-8 for each category. A perfect SAT essay score would be 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 average scores for each category based on 2020 data:

  • Reading: 5
  • Analysis: 3
  • Writing: 5

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, the charts below tell you what percentage of test-takers earned each possible score in the three categories:

Feature Image: GillTeeShots / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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