Are you wondering if your SAT scores are good enough for your dream school? In this post, we’ll help you figure out the SAT scores you should aim for, the SAT score range you need for top colleges, and answer your frequently asked questions about the SAT score scale. As a bonus, our quick diagnostic quiz will help you predict your SAT scores.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Good SAT Score?
- What Is a Good SAT Score for College Admissions and the Ivy League?
- What Is a Good SAT Score Range for Scholarships?
- FAQ: SAT Scores
- Diagnostic Quiz: How Will You Score on the SAT?
What Is a Good SAT Score?
- A good SAT score range in senior year is 1200-1400+ (out of 1600 points).
- For juniors, a good SAT score is around 1400.
- Freshmen and sophomores should take the PSAT over the SAT. However, a good SAT score range for freshmen is 1200+, and 1300+ for sophomores.
You can get a more detailed breakdown in the video below:
SAT Score Scale: The Basics
- You’ll receive two sectional scores, one Math and one Verbal (combined from the Reading and Writing sections).
- Your Math and Reading/Writing sectional scores add up to a composite (combined) score. The highest composite score you can earn on the SAT is 1600 points.
- Composite SAT score range: 400-1600 points
- The average composite score is 1000 points.
Good SAT Scores for Freshmen and Sophomores
We highly recommend that you take the PSAT rather than the SAT if you are a sophomore or a freshman. You don’t have to include the score on your college apps, and it puts you in the running for National Merit Scholarships!
Colleges don’t give preferential treatment to those who take the SAT at a younger age. You can take the SAT as a freshman, get a 1200, and then never take the SAT again. That 1200 actually isn’t any different from a senior’s 1200. Yet, given that at least on average, students become more intellectually mature in an extra year of schooling—vocabularies enlarge, a sense of proper grammar becomes more fine-tuned, the ability to concentrate increases slightly—a senior might expect to see a 50-point increase in an SAT score. That might not seem like much, but going from a 1450 to a 1500 does look like a big deal on paper.
With that said, if you take a good SAT practice test before your junior year…1300+ is a great score for a sophomore, while 1200+ is a fantastic score for a freshman. But that’s only if you’re willing to continue to put in work on the SAT as you progress through your coursework! Otherwise, you’re more than likely to see your score stagnate pretty seriously.
Good SAT Scores for Juniors
You may be wondering whether you should take the SAT as a junior, or wait until senior year. Provided that you continue to pay attention in school and you continue to do some SAT prep in your spare time, you will probably do a little bit better as a senior, but not by too much.
A good SAT score for a junior, therefore, is about 50 points less than what a good SAT score is for a senior. If you are a junior and you have enough time to study, then getting close to 1400 is a good score.
Good SAT Scores for Seniors
A good SAT score for a senior really depends on the schools you are applying to, your current GPA, and a host of other factors, such as your essay or extracurricular activities. 1200 is a pretty good score; 1300 is clearly a good score and 1400+ is a great score.
What Is a Good SAT Score Range for Colleges?
Now that you know the general SAT score range to aim for, let’s take a closer look at good SAT scores for your dream school. Just to make things a little easier on you, we’ve put together this table of SAT score ranges for the top universities in the United States. The numbers are from the middle 50% score range (meaning 25% of admitted students had lower scores and 25% had higher scores).
Expand the table by or type the name of your chosen school in the search box to find its the middle 50% SAT score range!
Good SAT Scores for the Ivy League
We’ve also put together a table showing the middle 50% SAT score range for Ivy League schools.
|University||SAT Score Range (25th-75th percentiles)|
|University of Pennsylvania||1370-1520|
For more information on a few of these top schools’ scores and what they’re looking for, check out the following posts. Enjoy!
What Is a Good SAT Score Range for Scholarships?
Many colleges around the country have what are called guaranteed scholarships. These scholarships are automatically awarded to accepted students who have earned a certain SAT score.
A larger number of colleges also have general merit scholarships. These scholarships have the same SAT requirements, but you are in competition with other accepted students for a limited number of awards. These scholarships may require a separate application, along with a personal or themed essay. Scholarships based on academic merit often have minimum SAT scores provided in their descriptions. Take note of any SAT score requirements you find during your research, then average all those scores. The result is your minimum SAT score goal for scholarships. To see the types of scholarships out there, check out our article What’s a Good SAT Score for Scholarships?
Frequently Asked Questions About SAT Scores
What are the different types of SAT scores?
1. Reading, Writing and Language, Math Test Scores
First, there are three “test scores” for the Reading test, Writing and Language test, and Math test. Each one of these tests will be scored on a range of 10 to 40. This score will correspond to how many questions you missed on each section and is adapted to fit the SAT score range.
The two scores, one from the Reading test and one from the Writing test, will be combined to give you a Verbal score on the 200-800 SAT score range. The Math score on the 10-40 SAT score scale will be converted to a final score from 200-800. Add these together and you’ll have your overall SAT score.
2. Cross-Test Scores
So the SAT doesn’t have a science section like the ACT does, but it does have “cross-test scores.” Essentially, these are questions that are science-related, whether they are in the Math section, the Reading section, or the Writing section (hence the name “cross-test”). There are also cross-test scores related to history/social studies. Each score will be on a scale of 10 to 40.
Here’s how the College Board terms the cross-test sections:
- Analysis in History/Social Studies
- Analysis in Science
The College Board wants to give college admissions officers as much information as possible, so we have seven subscores. The first two relate to reading comprehension, the next two relate to writing, and the last three relate to math. Each of these subscores is on an SAT score scale of 1 to 15.
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem Solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
4. Optional Essay Scores
If you’re taking the essay, you’ll have three scores based on the 50-minute writing sample you’ll have to cough up after working on the test for three hours.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Two graders will be scoring your essay.
- Each grader will give your essay a score (1-4) for each of three different criteria.
- The three criteria are:
- reading (how well do you understand the passage)
- analysis (how well do you describe how the writer is persuading his/her audience)
- writing (how well do you write)
In theory, this gives us a total of 24 possible points. However, the scores from each grader will NOT be added up into a composite score, but will instead be added to the other grader’s scores in each area. Thus, you’ll be presented with three scores, on the following scales:
- a 2-8 range for reading
- a 2-8 range for analysis
- a 2-8 range for writing
So a possible SAT essay score might look something like this: 7 reading/5 analysis/6 writing.
Why are there so many different scores? How important are they?
The SAT wants to give schools a better breakdown of your skill set. Colleges that want to know the difference between two very similar candidates in terms of SAT scores can learn a lot more with cross-test scores and subscores.
At the same time, colleges don’t want to be inundated with all this information for each of the thousands of candidates they look at. That way they can start with your test scores and if they want to dig deeper, they can look at these other scores.
For example, let’s say you get the same Verbal score as another candidate. To get a better sense of your performance, colleges will likely look at how you did on the Reading section and how you did on the Writing section. They might find that you did very poorly on Reading yet thrived in Writing, while the other candidate was average in both sections. This relates to an idea called equating, which allows the SAT to compare scores between different tests. But it’s pretty technical and the statistics folks over at College Board take care of this–you just have to look at your score.
What are SAT percentiles?
Your SAT percentile measures the percentage of test-takers who got a lower score than you did. This means that percentile numbers, much like score numbers, indicate better test performance when they’re higher.
If you’re in the 91st percentile, for example, it means that only 9% of all other SAT scores are higher than yours. In contrast, in the 30th percentile, 30% of all other test takers would have lower scores than you… and roughly 70% of the SAT scores were higher than yours. This would place you in the bottom half of the year’s test-takers, in terms of performance.
SAT percentiles are calculated annually. Below are the College Board’s most recently released SAT User percentiles.
SAT Percentiles (Composite)
|Total (Composite) Score||Percentile|
SAT Percentiles (Math)
|Total Score (Section)||Percentile (Math)|
SAT Percentiles (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing)
|Total Score (Section)||Percentile (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing)|
How does the SAT score scale compare to other tests?
PSAT vs. SAT Score Scale
PSAT scores range from 320-1520. Because it’s an easier test, a perfect PSAT score corresponds to a 1520 on the SAT. But otherwise, your PSAT score will correspond to what you’d likely get on the SAT if you took it right after the SAT (not as in the very same day, but you know what I mean).
The PSAT for sophomores and juniors has two primary functions: to see if you qualify for the National Merit Program and to give you a sense of what your likely SAT score will be. Unless you aim to score in the top 2%, you shouldn’t worry about the scholarship.
You should, though, take your PSAT score seriously because it will let you know how much you’ll need to prep for the SAT to hit your target score. You can improve your performance on the actual SAT by prepping and practice; or, if you slack off, your SAT score might be lower than what your PSAT score would suggest.
ACT vs. SAT Score Scale
ACT and SAT score ranges are about as dry a topic as they come. But there’s actually some serious drama behind this. Right now, the ACT is pretty much fuming that the College Board decided to release an SAT to ACT score “translation” without consulting them. (“Hey College Board–why you no invite me to party?”)
So the information I’m about to share is somewhat provisional; it might change if the ACT decides to release its own concordance tables (spoiler alert: the College Board won’t be invited). That said, for now, this is what colleges will most likely go on: ACT to New SAT to Old SAT Score Conversion Chart.
As you can see from the tables on this score conversion chart, a perfect score on the ACT is a perfect score on the SAT. Though an ACT score of 35 works out to a 1540 on the SAT, remember that the ACT doesn’t have nearly as large of a score range as the SAT (36 increments from 1-36 vs. 120 increments for the SAT from 400-1600).
Old SAT vs. New SAT Score Scale
The “old” (pre-March 2016) and “new” SAT tests are very different; a student who scored in the 95% on the old Math section might not even crack 80% on the new one, or vice versa. With a table to show which score on the old SAT corresponds to which score on the new SAT, colleges can get a real sense of how students who took only the old test did in comparison to those who took the new test.
Though the tests are pretty different, another way to compare the two is by using SAT score percentiles. If a score of 800 used to correspond to the top 1%, then the same should apply to the new test.
How can I improve my SAT scores?
Check out this video for tips to boost your score, and read on for resources to help you before and during test day!
- Make use of a SAT study schedule—knowing how to study for the SAT is a huge factor in improving your score!
- Take a free, full-length SAT practice test to establish a baseline score.
- Review our tips for pacing yourself during an exam.
- Find ways to remain calm when a question flusters you.
- Learn how to avoid careless mistakes in the future. (Magoosh’s SAT study guide has great tips to help with this!)
Diagnostic Quiz: How Will You Score on the SAT?
Quiz Starts Here:
This quiz has one page for each SAT section (3 total): Writing and Language (“English”), Math, and Reading.
This quiz will take about 10-20 minutes to complete, so grab some scratch paper and a calculator, and do your best!
How did you do on the Diagnostic Quiz above? What else do you want to know about SAT score ranges? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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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 10 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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