When it comes to figuring out your ideal score on the SAT, there are a lot of numbers to consider. Sectional scores, composite scores, percentiles…how do you know? One way to find out how your SAT scores measure up is by looking at the average SAT scores by state. In this post, we’ll dive into those numbers and examine what SAT scores by state can tell us about college admissions.
These measurements can be particularly helpful if you’re applying to public colleges in-state, as many public universities will compare students’ scores to others from the area. However, average scores in your area can also be important for college admissions in general (no matter where you’re from or where you’re applying), as schools often have admissions officers who focus on particular regions or states.
Here’s the data on SAT scores by state!
What Is the Average SAT Score?
The SAT is calibrated so the average score hovers around 1000. However, despite the many clever people at the College Board (the test-maker), this is hard to achieve in practice. In 2017, the average SAT score for all 1,715,481 students was 1060 (composite), with an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 533 and a Math score of 527.
However, the average score for students who took the SAT essay (1,202,640) was 1082, with an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 544 and a Math score of 538.
Why was the average SAT score for students who took the essay higher? Taking the essay doesn’t give you extra points on these two multiple-choice sections, after all. However, because many competitive colleges require the SAT essay for admission—and some less-competitive institutions don’t—it makes sense that students who take the essay generally prepare more, as they may be aiming for higher scores.
Students who are strong writers also tend to score higher on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, so there may also be some cause-and-effect in that regard.
SAT Scores by State
We have included the SAT scores by state for all students, regardless of whether they took the essay or not. As you can see from the overall numbers, students taking the essay tended to score slightly higher on average in both sections, so keep this in mind as you evaluate where your scores stand in relationship to others’.
|State||Average Composite (Overall) SAT Scores||Average Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT Scores||Average Math SAT Scores|
|District of Columbia||950||482||468|
Which States Have the Highest Average SAT Scores?
The Midwest comes out strong when it comes to average SAT scores by state. The highest scores, both composite and by section, come from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri. Here’s a closer look.
Minnesota Average SAT Scores by State
Minnesota tops the charts with an average composite SAT score of 1295. To put this in context, students scoring a 1290 are in the top 13% of students taking the SAT—pretty impressive for an entire state!
Minnesota also has the highest average Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT scores (644) and Math SAT scores (651) by state.
Wisconsin Average SAT Scores by State
Wisconsin follows close behind Minnesota with an average SAT score of 1291. Average Wisconsin scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT were 642, and average Math scores 649, both coming in second behind Minnesota.
Iowa Average SAT Scores by State
Both Iowa’s composite SAT average and SAT scores by section rank third in the nation. Iowa’s average SAT score was 1275 overall, with a breakdown of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT scores of 641 and Math scores of 635.
Missouri Average SAT Scores by State
Missouri comes in fourth in all areas. The average Missouri SAT score was 1271, breaking down to Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT scores of 640 and Math scores of 631.
What Do Average SAT Scores by State Tell Us?
Looking at these SAT scores by state, we can pick out a few common threads. Other than geography (with all four top states in the Midwest, followed closely by the Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota), what trends do we see?
Interestingly, none of these four states requires the SAT for graduation. Instead, Wisconsin and Missouri both require the ACT for graduation. While this might seem like a contradiction, it actually helps to explain the high SAT scores: all students have to take the ACT, and all schools accept both tests. Therefore, you would only take the SAT if you found the test format easier than the ACT’s. This would lead to higher average scores, as students to whom the test did not come somewhat naturally are less likely to take it.
However, that explanation doesn’t take Minnesota or Iowa into account. These states don’t require either test. Nevertheless, both states have excellent (and large) public university systems. This is also true of Wisconsin and Missouri; all four universities were ranked in the top 150 by US News & World Report. This means that students who want affordable tuition at a great in-state college may have to work hard to get their scores as high as possible.
What Average SAT Scores by State Mean for Everyone
Average SAT scores by state are far from the only metric available to measure SAT performance. However, they’re useful for several reasons.
Primarily, average SAT scores by state help contextualize your scores in terms of your state’s school system. How did you do compared to others who had a similar education? (We know that school systems vary significantly within states, but it is one rough measure.)
Once colleges have this knowledge, they can set standards for admission, particularly for public universities with automatic admissions for in-state students with certain scores or with score cut-offs. All colleges reviewing applications can use this information to look at individual students in a wider context, as well.
A Better Way to Put Your Score in Context
What should you do if you need more information about whether you score is “good”? Look at SAT score ideal score on the SAT percentiles. These numbers compare SAT scores to those of all other students who took the test. Particularly if you’re applying to colleges with stiff, nation-wide competition, knowing the broader context of your scores is important.
Also, don’t forget to evaluate the middle 50% of SAT scores for your dream schools. If you’re setting SAT score goals, this is the best place to start!
What is an average SAT score 2018?
Nobody knows. (Well, the College Board probably knows, but they’re not letting us have the info yet!) In all seriousness, the CB releases score information in reports by year, so you can expect to see this in 2019. Keep an eye out!
What is an average SAT score 2017?
The nationwide average for SAT scores in 2017 was 1060, composite. By section, average scores were 533 (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) and 527 (Math). Note that these scores were across all students, not just those who took the essay.
What is an acceptable SAT score?
It 100% depends on where you want to apply. Check out the SAT scores for admitted students at different colleges you might want to attend to get a better sense of what your goal might be.
Is a 1200 on the SAT a good score?
It’s above average, which most people consider “good.” It really depends on where you want to go, as more competitive schools will have pools of applicants with higher scores; it’s best to take a look at the schools you want to attend and evaluate your SAT scores in that context.
A Final Word on Average SAT Scores by State
Learning the average SAT scores by state can help you put your scores (or your student’s scores) in context. However, remember that these average scores are not the be-all-and-end-all of college admissions! In the first place, some states have amazingly high average scores, while others have average scores that fall below the national average. At the end of the day, the best way to evaluate individual scores is by seeing how they measure up to individual goals.
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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. Follow Rachel on Twitter, or learn more about her writing here!
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