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Chris Lele

Average SAT Scores

average SAT scores

Average SAT Scores for the New SAT in 2016

The SAT is a standardized test. I know, this is hardly big news. But when we are talking about average SAT scores, it’s a big deal. The whole point of a test is based on the idea of a bell curve. The exact middle of the point scale should correspond to the 50 percentile, meaning exactly half the students get higher than this score, half get lower.

Things don’t always work out perfectly. On the old SAT, the math mean was slightly higher than 500 (the mean score) and slightly lower for the writing and reading. But the total score was close enough to 1500, which was the middle.

This will likely happen with the new SAT but we won’t get exact data until later when a large number of students take the test.

The bottom line: the average score on the new SAT will be very close to 1000. The 25% (meaning you score only better than 25% of test takers) will be close to 800 and the 75% will be closer to 1200.

Of course, what is average nationwide and what is average at a given school are two completely different things. For instance, on the old test the average Harvard score was between 2100-2350, whereas the nationwide average score was 1497.

Though schools haven’t released the information for the average SAT scores for the new test (the test did just debut and students have yet to be accepted), my guess, based on concordance tables between the two tests, is that the average score ranges won’t differ much.

Remember, though, that the new SAT is out of 1600, not 2400. Therefore, multiply that 25%-75% average Harvard score range by ⅔: 2100(⅔)-2350(⅔): 1400-1560ish. Assuming the 50% is in the middle of the score range, the average Harvard SAT score on the new test will be 1480.

For any SAT score range, you’ll want to get as close to the 75% mark as possible, unless you have something that is very compelling about your transcript.

Not all SAT average scores are created equally.

Above, I gave you what is called a composite score. Some schools, however, won’t just be looking at the composite score. To give you an example, imagine you are on the college admissions board of a prestigious university that focuses on engineering. You will be focused on the math score.

So if you get two students with a 1400, but one has a perfect 800 in math and the other has only a 600 math, you are probably going to lean towards the first candidate, all other things being equal.

Average 2016 SAT cross-section and subscores

The example with the math and verbal scores was pretty straightforward. The crazy thing is those aren’t the only scores schools might be looking at, and I’m not talking about the optional essay.

These extra scores won’t be optional but will be built into the verbal and math sections.

First off, you’ll have cross-section scores, which refer to concepts that are tested over several sections. For instance, there is an analysis of science cross-section question type. This might include the graphs you encounter in both the reading and the writing sections. The cross-section scores will be based on a range from 10-40. My guess is these scores might be important if you are applying to a specific program in which those scores are relevant. For instance, if you are applying to MIT for a science-based major, the score on the analysis of science cross-section might be more important.

Additionally, you’ll also have subscores, which are for a concept within a section. In the writing section, there will be separate scores for Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. For Math, Heart of Algebra and Passport to Advanced Mathematics will have a separate subscore. Some subscores, such as Relevant Words in Contexts and Command of Evidence will straddle the verbal section, popping up in both the reading and the writing sections (remember: the reading and writing sections are lumped together in one verbal score, which is out of 800). The subscores range from 1-15.

It’s unlikely that colleges will release averages for these subscores and cross-test scores for their admitted students. They are just there to give a little bit more information should admissions officers really want to dig deeply, or for you to better understand your own scores.


For historical information on old SAT average scores that can help inform what you think about new SAT average scores, check out what is below.

2015 Average SAT Scores

The SAT isn’t your average test in any way. Not in it’s length (it’s long), not in the type of reading involved, not in the trickiness of the math, and least of all in how to calculate SAT scores.

So when we consider the average SAT scores, we have to think twice about what exactly we’re looking at and, more importantly, why we’re looking at it in the first place.


Average SAT scores according to the College Board

Here’s the short and sweet:

Critical reading: 497
Mathematics: 513
Writing: 487

This information comes straight from The College Board, and reports averages for the Class of 2013. Preliminary data for the Class of 2014 shows that their average SAT score was 1497.


But hold on a second… there’s so much more that goes into understanding where you stand relative to your 3 million peers who have also pained their way through those bubble sheets. Your SAT score is more than a zero-sum game.


What does the average SAT score really tell you?

The answer is a resounding “not much.” This is the average of every single person who takes the SAT. Think about where those 3 million people are coming from. The average SAT score at your school might be drastically higher or lower than the universal average.  In fact, the average SAT score in your state might be a whole lot higher or lower.

And even if that doesn’t throw your perspective off a bit, here’s another thought: through most of the middle of the U.S., the students who take the SAT vs ACT are generally those applying to the most exclusive schools. So there’s this huge number of kids who are scoring much higher than the “average student” would theoretically score, and that skews the balance a bit. Needless to say, they’re not overly concerned with the SAT Score Choice—they’ve got it in the bag.

And let’s add to that some even further complications. Some students have to take the SAT as a requirement and don’t care what score they get. Others, worse still, are forced to take it by parents who fear their children face a life of serving burgers and fries down the street if they don’t get a degree(although I hate to break their hearts, a B.A. doesn’t actually prevent a McJob).

So just going by your SAT score vs. the national mean, you don’t really get a lot of helpful information.


Your goal SAT score

Sure, the national average would be important if you were in direct competition with your one-million-plus future college friends, but the truth is you aren’t. Some of those nice folks might be headed to a big state school in Ohio or California, while you may have a tiny liberal arts college in Podunk, North Carolina or upstate New York in mind.

The people you’re in competition with, those students whose scores you need to care about, are the ones applying to the same schools as you. Nobody else matters—not that kid who wears cargo pants every day and says he’s shooting for a perfect score, not that really quiet girl who you heard already did get a perfect score, not the kid who can’t figure out how he got a “700%” (That’s like… an A++, right?), and definitely not Kobe Bryant.

The only thing that counts is what students accepted to your dream schools are averaging. It’s not always easy to hunt down that info, but do your best to get it. You can almost always find this information on your prospective school’s admission’s website, as we did here for Harvard’s average SAT scores and Yale’s average SAT scores. Then use that average as your metric. Never mind the universal average score.

Need help interpreting your SAT score report? Our infographic can help. 🙂

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About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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