There’s no exact science to figuring out your SAT goal score. Based on their circumstances, every student will have a different SAT goal score as well as different ways of figuring it out. Here are a few goal-setting suggestions so that you can get an idea of what would work best for you.
Know your diagnostic SAT score before you do anything
You won’t be able to set a realistic SAT goal score without a diagnostic SAT score. You can get that either through your PSAT scores or an official College Board practice test. Although there are scoring differences between the PSAT and the SAT, it would be safer to assume what you got on the PSAT is your SAT diagnostic score. So, if you scored a perfect score on the PSAT, you will be better off assuming 1520 is your SAT diagnostic score.
Method 1: Basing SAT goal score on colleges’ averages
This is probably the most common way to set one’s SAT score goal. Research the schools that you’re interested in and make a list of their median SAT scores. (Here’s a list for the Top 100 Colleges and Universities!) Your goal score could fall anywhere between the median of these median scores and higher than the highest median score; it all depends on what you get on your diagnostic score and how ambitious you are.
However, this method might put you at a disadvantage if you need to increase your score by several hundred points (as determined by the difference between your diagnostic score and your target score). Of course, raising your score by several hundred points is not impossible, but it does require A LOT of time and energy as well as a solid understanding of the right way to study. If you’re in that situation, think carefully about whether or not you’re up for that challenge or whether you might need to reconsider your target schools.
Method 2: Basing SAT goal score on how much you can dedicate to test prep
Determine how much your schedule and plans allow for test prep and the corresponding score increase you can expect. Although this is not a common way to set SAT score goals, for some students, this might be the most effective way to ensure that they are setting realistic and achievable SAT goals. This method also allows students more flexibility in looking for great colleges that fit them rather than chasing well-known and ultra-competitive colleges that might not be the best fit anyway.
Method 3: Aiming for the perfect score
Although this method certainly won’t work for all students, it can work for some, particularly for students who are already scoring at the 90th percentile or higher. You also really have to make sure you give yourself enough time to actually work toward a perfect score. But the beauty about this method is that if you’re putting in the grunt work to reach the coveted 1600, you will probably end up with a great score regardless; I like to call this “shoot for the moon, land among the stars” goal setting. The important thing is to realize that it’s not worth beating yourself up if you don’t get a perfect score on the real thing. Once you’re scoring in the very top percentiles, you’ve already kicked the SAT’s butt.
Method 4: Not having an SAT goal score at all
For students who need something tangible to work towards, this method will not be helpful. But if you believe that having a goal score is too much pressure or maybe you’re really motivated by a growth mindset, you can totally skip creating an SAT goal score altogether. In essence, if done the right way, this method is actually not that different from aiming for the perfect score because you’re constantly pushing yourself to be the best SAT taker you can be!
Other considerations for setting SAT goal score
Section vs. overall
It doesn’t really matter whether you decide to set your SAT score goal by each section or for the test overall. Students who find themselves scoring much higher on one section than the other might find this method useful and would likely work harder on their weaker section. But this can also vary from student to student as well. For example, a student that’s scoring a 700 on math and a 600 on reading might want to spend more time trying for a perfect math score than raising their already-solid reading score, especially if they are looking into math or science-heavy programs. Or the same student might spend more time on reading, if they want colleges to see that they’re well-rounded. It’s really all about what makes the most sense for you and your goals.
What to do when you’ve reached your score goal
Congrats! That’s really, really awesome!! Now keep prepping for the SAT.
You certainly don’t need to kill yourself to score higher. Celebrate your well-earned victory and rejoice in the fact that you’re owning the college admissions game right now. But if you still have time before the Big Test, you have absolutely nothing to lose and probably a lot to gain to keep practicing for an ever higher score!