You got the hard part over and have finished the grueling 4-hour test known as the SAT, but now what? As you begin to receive your score, you’re definitely wondering what all those numbers and terms mean, after all, you just want to know one thing: did I get a good SAT score?

Below, we’ll outline how to interpret your scores, see if you are on the right track for your goals, and most importantly, how you can improve your scores.

 

writing

When do SAT scores come out?

Most of the people are confused about when sat scores are released.  The answer is, after you take the exam, you will receive your scores in about 2-6 weeks, depending on the month you took the SAT and how you requested to view your scores.

 

How to get my SAT scores?

You can get your score report through your College Board account, through the mail if you registered for the SAT by mail, or through a phone call for an extra fee. The answer of the question  “How to find my sat scores” is discussed below.

Once the SAT scores are up, here’s how you check your scores:

  • By accessing your scores online: Most of the people access their SAT scores online through the College Board website. Just go to the College Board website and click the yellow box that says Get Your Scores. You will get your desired score if that is already published.
  • By requesting a paper score: Nowadays, SAT scores are released completely on the web. That means you won’t get a SAT score report via mail unless you specifically request one at registration.
  • Receiving your score by phone: You can also get your SAT score on your phone by calling customer service of your College. You just have to give them our test registration number and your birth date. The registration number can be found on your SAT test admission ticket.

How to get old SAT scores

You have graduate from college a while ago but a prospective employer might want to see your scores. In that case you’ll need to know how to access your old SAT scores. You can get your old scores by mail or by calling SAT customer service. Just request your scores via mail with necessary information or call the SAT customer service line to have scores sent to you. The line is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

How to send SAT scores to colleges

When you take the test, you are allowed to send your score to four schools for free and you have nine days after the exam to decide which four schools to send them to. I, however, want to warn that unless you are committed to a school and they need to receive your score, do not send your scores before you have received them. This is because you never know how well you did on the test, and if the schools you are applying to do not require all your past scores, there is no reason to send them a low score.

It will be better to choose the highest score after you have taken the SAT another time. Furthermore, your list of schools may change, especially if you are only a high school junior. Thus, it is unnecessary to send your score to schools you may not be applying to.

After you have received your scores, it is actually very simple to send your scores once you have decided which colleges to apply for. On the College Board website, you can select which specific scores you want to send. You can send only your best score or all your scores. To send them, simply type in either the name of the school or school code. Of course, if you send your scores after they have been released, there will be an extra fee.

 

How the SAT Exam is Scored

To understand your score, you first need to understand how the SAT is scored. The test is divided into three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and Essay (optional).

 Section Score Range
 Total Minimum: 400

Maximum: 1600

10 point increments

 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section Minimum: 200

Maximum: 800

10 point increments

 Math Section Minimum: 200

Maximum: 800

10 point increments

 Essay 3 Section Scores (2 graders)

Individual grader: 1-4 points per section

Both graders: 2-8 points per section

Minimum: 6

Maximum: 24

The chart shows the range of scores in each section and the minimum and maximum score in each section. Each section, however, is split up even more for the grading.

 

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section

As you noticed in the exam, the English part of the exam was split into Evidence-Based Reading, the section where you answered questions about a text, and Writing, the section where you answered questions about grammar and usage. These two sections are scored separately by first calculating the number of answers you answered correctly- this is your raw score. The Reading section is out of 52 raw points and the Writing section is out of 44 raw points.

Then, they take your raw score and convert it to a scaled score, which is anywhere from 10 to 40 points. The scaled score will vary per test as the scaled score tries to compensate for the differences between each exam administered. Afterward, the College Board adds the two scaled scores together and multiplies it by ten to get your final Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section Score.

Math

Similar to the English section of the exam, the Math part of the exam is also split into two sections: Calculator and No-Calculator section. Unlike the English part of the exam, however, the Math part is only scored with one raw score- out of 58 points. This raw score is then converted to a scaled score from 10 to 40 points with the scale, which once again, depends on the exam. Then they multiply the scaled score by two and then by 10 to receive your final math section test.

2016 New Scores

After the new SAT was released in March, the College Board included two new scores that they now report: Cross-test Scores and Sub-scores.

Cross-test Scores: These scores are calculated from the entirety of the exam; therefore, it includes the Math and English section. The Analysis in Science and Analysis in History/Social Studies are each scored from 10-40 points. They help provide insight to you and the admission officers about your analysis skills in each of these areas of study.

Sub-Scores: The Math and English section each have separate sub-scores scored from 1 to 15 points. They give insight on specific skills within each section.

The English Sub-scores include: Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions

The Math Sub-scores include: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.

Essay

The essay is an optional section in the SAT exam that most schools do not require. The essay, however, is often recommended, which means these schools are looking for you to take it. As an overall tip, when schools recommend a test or option on an exam, it will be better for you to take it. This is because it will give you an upper hand if you and someone else have the same credentials in every other aspect.

The essay is split into 3 sub-scores- Reading, Analysis, and Writing. There are two readers who each assign 1-4 points for each sub-score. Both reader’s scores are then combined to give the final score of 2-8 points for each sub-score.

Reading: You are scored on how well you understood the passage, the main ideas and the important details.

Analysis: You are scored on how well you understood the analytical task. You are also scored on how well you analyze the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, stylistic, persuasive elements, or other features.

Writing: You are scored on how well you communicate the information and ideas in your essay. They also look at your structure, cohesiveness, language, and your command of the conventions of standard written language.

Average SAT Scores in the Nation

To understand how well you did in comparison to other students and if you are in fact ready for college, you should understand what the averages in the nation are and what the benchmarks in your score report mean.

Benchmark: The Benchmarks the College Board supply represent “College and Career Readiness”. If you score at or above the benchmark, then you are deemed ready for college or a job by the College Board. The benchmark for the English section is 480 and for the Math section, it is 530 for a total combined score of 1010.

The average score in the United States in 2018 was 1068. The English average was 536 while the Math average was 531. The scoring of the SAT follows a normal distribution. This type of scoring means that most students tend to be around the middle of the scale, about 1000, and few students are at extremely high or extremely low scores.

sat-performance-graph

Why the Average Matters and Why It Doesn’t

As you can see, the average national score is very close to the benchmark score the College Board supplies. While some websites might say that once you have reached the average you are in a very good spot to apply to colleges, you need to remember that the national average is calculated from a very large pool. To get a better idea of what test score you should be getting, you should first look at your state and your individual school’s SAT average. These scores are from the people that you will be more closely compared to when you apply to college. The state average will be as easy as a Google search for  “[your state here] SAT average”. As for your school average, your school should provide the SAT average on Naviance or through a different method.

What are the percentiles for SAT scores?

Alongside your numerical score, you will also receive a percentile. Your total score and section score correspond to a ranking, displayed in the form of a percentile. More clearly, percentiles represent the percent of students you scored better than. If you are in the 75th percentile overall, about a 1210, then you have scored better than 75% of all test takers, and you have scored worse than 25% of all test takers. If you are in the 25th percentile, about a 920, then you have scored better than 25% of all test takers, and you have scored worse than 75% of all test takers. Understanding your percentile and understanding each college’s percentiles will help you later with finding an appropriate school for you.

 

What is a Good Score?

Now that we have gone over how the exam is scored and how to understand your score, we can finally answer, “What is a Good Score?”.

Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered with a simple numerical score. A good score depends on each person’s own goals and which schools they are applying to.

School Type

The major deciding factor of what a good score is putting your score in context to which school you are applying to. While a 1210 puts you at the 75th percentile nationally, and well above the average SAT score for schools like King’s College, for elite and selective schools like Ivy League Universities, MIT, and CalTech, a 1210 will not even put you close to the 25th percentile. This means you are well below the average and are close to the very worst SAT scores at that school. Below is a rough estimate of scores that include what would be a good goal and what score you can stop testing that will give you a good chance of meeting the school’s SAT cut-off score.

Highly Selective Schools (Any school with an acceptance rate of 30% or below):

  • Examples of Highly Selective Schools: Ivy Leagues, Stanford, MIT, Boston College, and Emory.
  • Score You Should Be Aiming For: Even the 25th percentile is about 1400+, a good score to aim for is 1480-1500+.
  • Score You Should Stop Testing After: It is commonly considered that after 1530, unless you receive a 1580-1600 (near perfect or perfect), all scores are treated the same at top institutions.

 

Selective Schools (Usually Mid-tiered schools with acceptance rates of 30-70%):

  • Examples of Selective Schools: Syracuse University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Delaware, and the University of San Diego.
  • Score You Should Be Aiming For: The 25th percentile is about 1200 for most of these universities, a good score to aim for is 1300+.
  • Score You Should Stop Testing After: If you receive a 1400+, you are well above the 75th percentile for most of these schools, which is around 1350.

 

Less Selective Schools (Schools that are generally easier to be admitted to 70-100%):

  • Examples of Less Selective Schools: Marquette University, the University of Iowa, the University of Oregon, and the University of Kansas.
  • Score You Should Be Aiming For: The 25th percentile is about 1100 for most of these universities, a good score to aim for is 1150-1200+
  • Score You Should Stop Testing After: If you receive a 1350+, you are well above the 75th percentile for most of these schools, which is around 1300.

**Obviously, if you can receive a higher score, continue to take the exam. The score suggested is simply an indicator that your score is high enough for the school’s standards.

SAT Score Ranges For Top 30 Universities in the United States: 

Below, the chart will show you the 25th and 75th percentile scores for the top 30 Universities in the United States ranked by US News Ranking.

School Name Location Rank 25th Percentile 75th Percentile Acceptance Rate (Class of 2022)
Princeton Princeton, NJ 1 1430 1570 5.5%
Harvard Cambridge, MA 2 1460 1590 5.2%
Columbia New York, NY 3 1450 1580 5.5%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 3 1490 1570 6.7%
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 3 1480 1580 7.2%
Yale New Haven, CT 3 1420 1590 6.3%
Stanford Stanford, CA 7 1390 1540 4.3%
Duke Durham, NC 8 1390 1580 8%
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 8 1420 1560 8.4%
John Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 10 1460 1580 9.9%
Northwestern Evanston, IL 10 1420 1560 8.4%
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 12 1530 1590 6.6%
Dartmouth Hanover, NH 12 1430 1560 8.7%
Vanderbilt Nashville, TN 14 1400 1550 9.6%
Brown Providence, RI 14 1400 1570 7.2%
Cornell Ithaca, NY 16 1390 1550 10.3%
Rice Houston, TX 16 1490 1580 11%
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 18 1370 1520 17.7%
University of California- Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 19 1240 1490 14.1%
Washing University St. Louis St. Louis, MO 19 1470 1570 15%
Emory Atlanta, GA 21 1350 1520 18.5%
Georgetown Washington, D.C. 22 1350 1520 14.5%
University of California- Berkeley Berkeley, CA 22 1330 1520 15.1%
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 22 1300 1500 13%
Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh, PA 25 1430 1560 21.7%
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 25 1320 1500 26.5%
Tufts Medford, MA 27 1410 1540 14.6%
University of Michigan— Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 27 1330 1500 22.7%
Wake Forest Winston-Salem, NC 27 1320 1490 28%
New York University New York, NY 30 1290 1490 19%

SAT Score In Context Of College Admissions:

It is likely that for you, and most other test takers, a good SAT score is only important in the context of applying to colleges. While the SAT is one important aspect of the college process, it is important to remember that standardized testing is not the only thing admission officers will be looking at.

In fact, for most students, admissions officers use SAT scores as a sort of a cut-off, to see if students are applying to the right difficulty of school. If your score is well below the school’s average, this will often disqualify you for admission. If your score is above the average, this does not mean that you will necessarily be admitted, it just means that you will be considered for admission. It is worth repeating that a good score does not usually mean that you will get in. While other websites will say being in the top 75% of the SAT score generally means you have a good chance of getting in, this is very inaccurate for most top schools. The process for college admissions is complex, and the SAT’s importance in admissions has lessened ever since the 2016 change to the exam.

Furthermore, the test score percentiles above for each school will greatly depend on what major you are applying to. Though colleges will not admit to this very often, each area of study within the school is looking for very different students, especially with schools that specialize in specific majors.

For example, while NYU’s acceptance rate is about 19% and their average SAT score is between 1290 and 1490, NYU Stern, the prestigious business school with a notoriously low 8% acceptance rate, will most definitely have a much higher SAT average, similar to top 15 schools. Another great example would be Carnegie Mellon and its Computer Science major or John Hopkins and its Pre-Medical major.

As you look at the score percentiles above, you should also think about what major you are applying to and look for more specific information about admission and SAT averages on the college’s website. Typically, even if you can’t find the SAT averages, the lower the acceptance rate, the higher the SAT average.

How to Improve Your SAT Scores?

Now that you understand your score and what a good score for you is, the next step is improving your score if you are unsatisfied. While there are many ways for you to do this, the method below is something that I personally, along with many other high school students in your footsteps, have found useful.

  • Goal Setting

To begin improving your score, the most important and first step you should take is setting a goal score. This score will be a target to aim for during practice tests and is something to keep you motivated as you continue studying for the exam.

Goal setting is scientifically proven to be linked to higher achievement. Setting a clear goal will help you see exactly how much you need to improve and how much to study.

  • Studying

The next, and most obvious, step is to study. Once you have already taken the test once and know the format, there are a few different ways to study.

If it is your first time studying formally for the test: One of the best ways to study is by using a prep book, specifically “The Official SAT Study Guide” offered by the College Board Store. Written by the College Board itself, it is the most comprehensive and useful book on the market. Other options to study for the test would be: Barron’s “SAT 1600” book (I personally found Barron’s “Math Workbook for the New SAT” to be the best review for the Math Section), the Princeton Review “Cracking the SAT”, and Kaplan’s “SAT Prep Plus”.

Another way, if you have the means to do so, is to take a prep class. Many websites offer free SAT prep classes and you can look into paid prep SAT classes in your area. In most areas, there are private tutors and group tutors who specialize in preparing for the SAT. The benefit of a paid teacher is having direct access to a person who is well versed in the tricks and tips of taking the SAT.

If you have already completed a prep book/prep class:

Once you have already completed a prep book or a prep class, the next way to study is not to read another book or take another prep class, at least if you want an efficient way to improve your score. You should focus on taking practice tests, specifically, taking many practice tests. Practice tests will give you instant feedback on your progress, and these tests are important because of how the SAT is formatted.

Though you may not realize at first, the SAT is composed of the same type of the questions, simply with different passages for the English section and different numbers for the Math section. If you have taken 10-15 practice tests, you will begin to see the patterns in the exam as well as trick answers. Leading up to your exam, you should aim to take 4-5 practice tests a week if you have a month, or 2-3 practice tests a week if you have more than a month. Another important reason to keep taking practice tests is so that you can get instant feedback on your progress.

If your score is not improving after 5 practice exams, you should look into another prep book or prep class before you begin taking practice exams again.

Day of the Test : Preparation for the day of the test is also key to improving your score. As you may have heard before, it is much more beneficial to get a good night’s rest than studying for the exam the day before the test. In fact, try not to do any last minute cramming the day before the exam. You should not take any practice tests as this may wear you out for the next day. Get at least 8 hours of rest the night before and a healthy breakfast as the 4-hour exam will wear you out.

  • Changing Goals:

If your score has not improved as you would like it to, it may be time to consider a different option: changing which schools you wish to apply to. While it may be difficult to change your mindset, applying to a school that does not fit you academically will be bad in the long run for you. This is because you may be facing a rejection letter or even worse, a school that you cannot succeed at.

  • Somethings to Keep in Mind

There are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to improve your score for the SAT. While the College Board allows you to take the SAT as many times as you want, there is a generally accepted rule that you should take it a maximum of 3-4 times.

The first reason for this cap is that sometimes you will have to share your bad scores with colleges because not all schools accept Score Choice, which allows you to only send your best scores. If you go into the test unprepared thinking that you can simply take the test again later, you might be disappointed to find out that the school you are applying to will see that bad score.

Secondly, taking it more than about 3-4 times will be a waste of time and money. The test costs about $50-$65 to take each time and if you are unprepared the first few times you take it, you are honestly flushing money down the drain. It will be better to prepare for the exam thoroughly and take it a few times than aimlessly trying to improve your score by taking the exam over and over again.

There are other standardized tests that most, if not all, schools accept in place of the SAT exam. If you’ve taken the suggested number of tests above, 3-4 times, and your score still has yet to improve, you should look into a different test. The ACT is another option that almost all schools accept (look into each school’s different requirements) and is formatted differently than the SAT. This test is split into 4 different sections: English, Math, Science, and Essay (optional).

Unlike the SAT exam, there is a science section that is factored into your overall score. If you excel in science, the ACT may be a way to bring up your score. Furthermore, while the SAT allows much more time for each section in comparison to the number of questions, the SAT’s questions difficulty is generally known to be higher than the ACT’s. If you work fast and struggle with more difficult math or English questions, you will be more likely to get a higher score on the ACT.

 

Conclusion:

Finally, You may have been hoping to find a clear number after you Google Searched “What Is A Good SAT Score”, but hopefully now you have realized the difficulty of defining that. For each and every person, the score that will satisfy you will be different. The score you want to achieve will be dependent on a variety of things. Your location, your desired major, your desired school, your desired career, and many other things. As you continue with your standardized testing, it is important to remember that comparing yourself to others will do you no favors. All it will do is cause anxiety and worry for a time that is already filled with stress. Instead, it is important to focus on your own goals and what you want to achieve. With the knowledge and tips above, we hope that you have slowly found your answer to what a good SAT score is for you. Although the SAT is an important part of the college process, it is important to remember that it is only one factor in a holistic process.