What Is a Good SAT Score?

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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The SAT may have changed a lot in recent years, including going digital-only for international students in 2023 and for the U.S. in 2024. But one thing hasn’t changed ­— a good SAT score will help you gain acceptance into the schools on your college list, even if they’re test-optional. Of course, standardized test scores are just one component of a strong college application, but they help provide a more comprehensive picture of your college readiness. If you’re preparing to take the SAT, keep reading to learn more about how the score is broken down, what’s considered a good score, and what the score range is for the middle 50% of enrolled students at some of the top universities in the U.S.

How Is the SAT Score Broken Down? 

Students who take the SAT can earn a minimum total score of 400 and a maximum score of 1600. The test consists of two sectional scores — one section tests math, and the other tests reading and writing. Each section has a score range of 200 to 800 points, which are then added together for your total score. The raw score from each section — which is the number of questions you answered correctly — is converted into your section score. You will not have points deducted for incorrect answers, so it’s better to guess than leave questions blank.

The SAT score breakdown is the same whether you take the paper test or the digital SAT, though there are some differences in the types of questions and length between the two formats. Unlike the paper test, the digital SAT test is adaptive. Each section is divided into two modules, and the student’s performance on module 1 determines the difficulty of the questions in module 2. The higher the difficulty of the questions, the higher the sectional scores and overall total score.   

What Is the Passing Score for the SАТ?

While there is no “passing” score for the SAT, students will receive benchmark values as part of their score. These benchmarks indicate the student’s college and career readiness. Each section of the SAT has its own benchmark, which is based on the success of students in entry-level college courses and represents increasing levels of achievement from eighth through 12th grade.

  • SAT Math: Students who score a 530 or higher on this section have a 75% chance of earning at least a C in entry-level college math courses.
  • SAT Reading and Writing: Students who score a 480 or higher on this section have a 75% chance of earning at least a C in entry-level college courses in literature, writing, social sciences, or history.

 
Students who don’t meet these benchmarks may still reach their academic potential in college with additional practice and preparation.

What Is a Good SAT Score Overall?

You can define a good SAT score as one that helps you gain admission into the target schools on your college list — and your safety schools as well. Generally, this score will align with the middle 50% of test score ranges for admitted students. You can set a score goal after you research and choose the range of colleges for your list that meet your criteria. Then check the standardized test score data for admitted students at each school to determine your target score for admission. You can find this information in the school’s Common Data Set (CDS).  

What is an Above Average SAT Score?

According to the College Board, the average score is 1050. Above-average SAT scores exceed 1050 and scoring 1350 or higher will put you in the top 10% of test takers and increase your competitiveness at more selective colleges. However, colleges will also review your sectional scores, which can lead to some confusion. What happens if you take the SAT twice and score higher on the Math section the first time and higher on the Reading and Writing section the second time? Answering this question requires an understanding of score-use policies.    

  • Superscore: Colleges that superscore the SAT accept your highest score from each section, even if they come from different tests. Many top U.S. superscore. 
  • Score Choice: This option allows you to choose which scores or sets of scores to send to a college, giving you control over which test scores are reviewed by the admissions committee.
  • Highest Total Score: Some colleges will review your highest total score regardless of test date.
  • All Scores Required: These schools require applicants to submit scores from every SAT test, reviewing the highest scores in each section and looking for signs of improvement between test dates.

 
Many colleges and universities currently have test-optional admissions policies in place. If you’re applying to a test-optional school and aren’t satisfied with your SAT score, you can focus on making the other parts of your application as strong as possible. Learn more about test-optional admissions and test prep on the IvyWise podcast.    

What Is a Good SAT Score for Popular Colleges in the U.S.?

Wondering what SAT score will help you get into some popular colleges in the U.S.? This table includes the middle 50% SAT score ranges of Class of 2026 students enrolled at some top U.S. universities, as reported in each school’s Common Data Set.

College/University

Middle 50% Score Range

Boston University 1370-1480
Bowdoin College 1340-1520
Brown University 1500-1560
Columbia University 1500-1560(Columbia College and Columbia Engineering)
Cornell University 1470-1550
Emory University 1450-1530
Georgetown University 1410-1540
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1520-1570
New York University 1470-1560
Northeastern University 1450-1535
Northwestern University 1500-1560
Pomona College 1480-1540
Princeton University 1510-1570
Rice University 1500-1560
Stanford University 1500-1570
Tufts University 1460-1540
Tulane University 1400-1500
University of Southern California 1460-1540
Vanderbilt University 1490-1570
Vassar College 1440-1510
Washington and Lee University 1410-1533
Washington University in St. Louis 1500-1570
Wesleyan University 1310-1505
Yale University 1470-1560

 How to Achieve a High SАТ Score

Achieving a high SAT score takes preparation and practice. Following these SAT test taking tips can help:

  • Take at least three or four practice tests under timed conditions. These are similar to the real test, and the practice time will help you learn the pacing. Practice will result in higher real scores!
  • Use your practice test results to determine which skills need work, and schedule time each day to work on improving these skills.  
  • Take advantage of online test prep resources that offer practice questions and answer explanations. Many of these resources are free.

 
Even if you achieve competitive scores on your SAT, it’s still important to focus on the other factors that admissions committees are looking for, including relevant extracurricular activities and a strong application essay. The college admissions process can be daunting, but preparation and hard work can help you get into your dream school. At IvyWise, our college admissions counselors and test prep tutors have the expertise to help you achieve your college goals.  

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