SAT Scores: The Good, The Bad & The Range

SAT Scores: The Good, The Bad & The Range

Written by Chris Hernandez

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What is a good SAT score, what is a bad score, and what is the range of possible scores? This guide breaks it down and includes a list of average college scores.

A good SAT score will help you get admitted to your preferred college. If you have recently taken the SAT test, or are preparing for the test, you will likely have questions about what SAT score to aim for. What is a good score, what is a bad score, and what is the range of possible scores? 

This guide will help you determine how your SAT scores compare to other test takers and what a good score is for you depending on the universities you are considering. We will also provide the SAT score ranges and percentiles for more than 50 prominent colleges and explain what to do if your score is lower than anticipated.

Before we get into that, it is important to understand that a good score for your friend might not be a good score for you. It depends on the requirements of the college you want to attend.

When researching colleges, consider the cost of tuition, financial aid, location, campus atmosphere, academic programs, and extracurricular activities that you are interested in. Additionally, use the average SAT score for admitted freshmen as a target for your own score.

What is the SAT?

The SAT, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is an exam taken by students applying to undergraduate courses. The test aims to assess their verbal, written, and mathematical skills. The importance of SAT scores, when it comes to being accepted into college, varies from school to school, but generally the higher your score, the more options you have for admission.

How is the SAT Scored, and What is the Point Range?

  • The perfect SAT score is 1600.
  • There are two required SAT sections.
  • You cannot score zero.
  • There is no penalty for choosing the wrong answer on the SAT. 
  • Your raw score report is only based on the total of the questions you answered correctly.
  • SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, and there are two main subsections that are worth 800 points each.
    • Section 1: The Reading and Writing & Language (EBRW)
      • Total points – 800, made up of reading and writing portions
      • Reading: 400 Points, 52 Questions, 65 Minutes
      • Writing: 400 Points, 44 Questions, 35 Minutes
    • Section 2: The SAT Math Test
      • Total points – 800, made up of two portions
      • No Calculator portion, 20 questions, 25 minutes
      • With Calculator portion, 38 Questions, 55 minutes

Related article: How to Boost Your SAT Reading Score (10 Tips)

Understanding SAT Percentile Score

Your score percentile shows how your performance on the test was relative to the other people who took it on the same day. For instance, if you are in the 15th percentile, it means that you scored better than 15% of the other test takers. If you are in the 90th percentile, that means you did better than 90% of them.

Generally speaking, a score below the 50th percentile is considered ‘bad’; anything in the 50th-70th percentile is ‘good’, and anything above the 90th percentile is great!

The average or mean SAT composite score is 1060 out of a possible 1600 points. The test is created in such a way that the mean score is typically around 1000, with roughly 500 points coming from each section. The average Math score is 528 and the average EBRW score is 531.

Check the table below to see how your SAT score compares with other test takers. 

SAT Score | Nationally-Representative Percentile | Percentile Among Actual SAT Test Takers
1600 99+ 99+
1590 99+ 99+
1580 99+ 99+
1570 99+ 99+
1560 99+ 99+
1550 99+ 99
1540 99+ 99
1530 99+ 99
1520 99+ 99
1510 99 98
1500 99 98
1490 99 98
1480 99 97
1470 99 97
1460 99 97
1450 99 96
1440 98 96
1430 98 95
1420 98 95
1410 97 94
1400 97 94
1390 97 93
1380 96 92
1370 96 92
1360 95 91
1350 94 90
1340 94 89
1330 93 89
1320 93 88
1310 92 87
1300 91 86
1290 90 85
1280 89 84
1270 88 83
1260 87 82
1250 86 81
1240 85 80
1230 84 78
1220 83 77
1210 82 76
1200 81 74
1190 80 73
1180 78 72
1170 77 70
1160 76 69
1150 74 67
1140 73 66
1130 71 64
1120 70 62
1110 69 61
1100 67 59
1090 65 57
1080 63 55
1070 61 54
1060 60 52
1050 58 50
1040 56 48
1030 54 46
1020 52 45
1010 50 43
1000 48 41
990 46 39
980 44 38
970 42 36
960 40 34
950 38 33
940 36 31
930 35 29
920 33 28
910 31 26
900 29 25
890 27 23
880 26 22
870 24 20
860 23 19
850 21 18
840 20 16
830 18 15
820 17 14
810 16 12
800 14 11
790 13 10
780 11 9
770 10 8
760 9 7
750 8 6
740 7 5
730 6 5
720 5 4
710 4 3
700 4 3

The Good, Bad, and Average SAT Percentile Scores 

So, what would be considered a good score versus a bad score? Additionally, what type of result would be so disappointing that it would bring you to tears? It might be better to use the term competitive score instead of good or bad.

Below is some indication of where you are on the good-to-bad scale, but remember, your choice of college plays a significant role in how good your score is. You 

  • 99th Percentile: 1520 is an incredibly high score, which will like give you access to Ivy League colleges.
  • 90th Percentile: 1350 is still very high, and better than 90% of students, and you can aim for any of the top schools.
  • 75th Percentile: 1210 means you are better than three out of every four test takers, and competitive at a lot of quality flagship state universities and many private schools.

A College SAT Score Guide

The score needed to get into competitive universities has been increasing, but the guide below will help you find a school that is suited to your SAT score. 

You don't need to worry if you end up with a score of 1120, as there are still good quality universities you can be accepted to. 

While the 1100s may not get you into a good quality school, an additional 200 points will put you in the 1300 bracket that can get you accepted to a top-10 public school in America.

It is very difficult to get accepted into the most competitive universities, as out of a hundred students, only one might be likely to be successful.

Let's investigate what types of colleges have SAT scores that fall within certain ranges, as these scores usually indicate their expectations for applicants.

  • 1500+: The best universities worldwide, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, and Cal Tech.
  • 1400-1500: Almost-Ivies, like University of Michigan, UC-Berkeley, Notre Dame, UCLA, and University of Virginia.
  • 1300-1400: Many good private and public universities, including the University of Florida, University of Texas at Austin, Pepperdine, and George Washington University.
  • 1200-1300: This range of quality state universities includes the University of Arizona, University of Colorado, and Texas A&M, while there are also numerous excellent private institutions such as TCU and Syracuse in the same spectrum. (See: Which Colleges Accept a 1300 SAT Score?)
  • 1100-1200: A broad range of schools, including flagship state universities like the Ole Miss, University of Missouri and quality second-tier state universities like UC-Riverside and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
  • Below 1100: There are many universities in this group, including non-flagship state schools and numerous small private schools. Examples of these include the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Arkansas State University, Illinois State, and Regis University.

Average SAT Scores at Popular Colleges

College Name Average SAT Score
Arizona State University 1245
Cal Tech 1545
Colorado State University 1180
Florida International University 1195
Florida State University 1270
Harvard University 1520
Indiana University 1255
Kansas State University 1160
Louisiana State University 1180
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 1535
Michigan State University 1210
NYU 1440
Northern Arizona University 1135
Oklahoma State University 1160
Princeton University 1505
Rice University 1505
Rutgers 1300
San Diego State University 1215
SMU (Southern Methodist University) 1390
Stanford University 1505
Texas A&M 1275
Texas Tech University 1155
The Ohio State University 1355
UCLA 1405
University of Alabama 1180
University of Arizona 1235
University of Arkansas 1210
University of California at Berkeley 1415
University of Calfornia at Irvine 1310
University of Central Florida 1330
University of Chicago 1520
University of Florida 1360
University of Georgia 1325
University of Illinois 1350
University of Illinois at Chicago 1120
University of Kansas 1240
University of Maryland 1380
University of Michigan 1435
University of Minnesota 1350
University of Missouri 1190
University of Oklahoma 1210
University of South Florida 1250
University of Southern California 1440
University of Texas at Austin 1355
University of Washington 1340
University of Wisconsin 1390
Vanderbilt University 1505
Virginia Tech 1285
Yale University 1515

Related article: What is an SAT Superscore & Which Colleges Superscore?

How to Improve your SAT Score

Whether preparing for your first or subsequent test, don’t make the mistake thinking that you can master the material on the SAT in a short amount of time. It is important to remember that the SAT covers a wide range of topics that were learned throughout your years of schooling. 

Therefore, it is not feasible to try to learn everything in a matter of days. The best approach is to begin studying early and make consistent, steady progress.

People may mention shortcuts to dramatically improve your score, but don't be fooled. The most effective way to improve is to practice the core skills that the test covers, such as grammar and algebra. 

These steps are sure to get you into the school of your dreams, and you’d be wise to consider gaining outside help to guide your preparation for the SAT. There are a variety of options, such as free resources, online classes, or tutors. Experts with knowledge of the test can help you maximize your score by pointing out where you can gain points.

1. Develop SAT Test - Specific Skills

The College Board, the organization that runs the SAT, has found that most people who take the SAT more than once do better on it. This is mainly because they've gained experience with the test format. Doing some practice tests before the actual exam is a great way to become more familiar with the SAT and its length and difficulty.

2. Identify Your Weaknesses

Subscores provide a helpful way to pinpoint areas that need improvement. It is important to identify any weaknesses, look into concepts that are challenging and develop strategies to address common issues. A tutor can help you to recognize patterns in questions and know how to approach them.

3. Create a Study Schedule

High schoolers often face busy days with school, work, extracurriculars, and social involvements. To get a higher SAT score, you'll need to set aside time to study. Establish a study schedule and commit to following it. You'll be amazed at the progress that can be made in just 6 to 8 weeks of dedicated prep. As little as four or five hours a week for two months can lead to notable growth in academic understanding and test-taking skills.

4. Write Practice Tests

Working hard is essential to success, so dedicate your efforts to completing official practice tests. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to write free official practice tests.

5. Track Your Progress

A successful plan should have a specific target test date and weekly objectives for the hours to be devoted to preparation. To measure your progress and decide where to focus your efforts, use your practice tests as a guide.

6. Make Your Goal Known

Last but no less important – let your target score be known! Talk to your parents about it, and this can be a great opportunity to discuss what your ultimate goal is and how you plan to do it. They can provide valued support and encouragement to help you stay on track with your test-prep routine. 

Make sure you keep your goal score in your sights – write it in big and bold letters!!!

Tape it where you will see it often, like on your wall, refrigerator door, or any other room you often spend time in. This will help keep you motivated and on track with your SAT study plan.

Bottom Line

Now that you have a better understanding of how SAT scores work and the kind of score that would be right for you, take the time to explore Amikka Learning's blogs for even more advice on how to excel on the SATs.

Written by Founder
Chris Hernandez

Christopher Hernandez, the founder of Amikka Learning, couldn’t afford expensive SAT tutoring so he spent hundreds of hours studying on his own.

After improving over 400 points and attending an Ivy League school he realized how unfair the playing field was with tutoring: no matter how smart you were, if you couldn’t afford tutoring you were stuck.
His dream was to change this.

He began tutoring for the SAT and quickly realized that he was a gifted tutor. His students were loving his program and improving very fast.

Fast forward 8 years, Amikka is a leader in the education industry and has helped thousands of students get into their dream schools.

If you’d like a free consultation for 1-on-1 tutoring schedule a call with our team here.

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Help Your Child Get Into Their Dream School. Without The Cost.

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