How Is the SAT Scored?
There are 154 questions on the SAT, which includes 58 math, 52 reading, and 44 writing questions. Your raw score is calculated by how many of these questions you answer correctly – wrong answers are not deducted from your total score. Your raw score is then converted through an equating process to get to your final composite score. Equating ensures that no matter which version of the exam is taken, they are scored equally, taking into account any slight differences in difficulty. After conversion, you can earn a total SAT score of 400-1600 points, including section scores of 200 to 800 in math and ERW. The conversion formula changes from test to test in order to ensure the process is applied fairly.
Equating ensures that no matter which version of the exam is taken, they are scored equally, taking into account any slight differences in difficulty.
Several factors determine the conversion formula, including the seven subcategories in the math and ERW categories that test for specific aptitudes. These subcategories include the following:
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem-Solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
Finally, cross-test scores that evaluate your analysis in history/social studies and science are also factored in. Cross-test scores show how well you solve problems by applying reading, writing, language, and math skills to interpret texts across disciplines. For example, how well you comprehend a word problem in math by using your reading and language skills will determine if you can perform the calculations correctly.
What Are Score Percentiles?
In addition to your final composite score, you'll also receive an SAT percentile rank. A percentile rank indicates the percentage of students with scores equal to or lower than your score, who also took the SAT in the past three graduating classes. For example, if you score in the 85th percentile, 85% of the comparison group achieved the same score or lower than you – higher scores equal higher percentiles. This information is helpful when researching schools because schools will often show a preference for students who rank in a high percentile on their SATs.
Are SAT Scores Averaged?
No, SAT scores are not averaged. However, if you have taken the test more than once, you can submit your highest score or all your scores if your college uses the SAT superscore when evaluating your application. Most schools publish the average SAT scores of first-year students on their websites, so you'll know how high you'll need to score.
What Is an SAT Superscore?
Some colleges consider an SAT superscore to be when a student has taken the SAT more than once. They use your best section-level score out of the tests you took, even if the tests were different. For example, if you took the SAT in the spring and then again in the fall, scoring 50 points higher in math but 20 points lower in ERW, they will consider your highest math score from the spring SAT and the highest ERW score from the fall SAT. Superscoring is essential for colleges to apply fairness and consistency to all applicants who take the SAT. It also encourages students to submit their test scores even if they didn't do as well the second time.
Superscoring is essential for colleges to apply fairness and consistency to all applicants who take the SAT.
What Is the Average SAT Score?
Average SAT scores vary by section, state, and school. For example, the ERW and math sections have slightly different average scores, and cumulative SAT scores are typically higher in some parts of the Midwest and lower in the Northeast and New England states. While a high SAT score may be typical of a first-year ivy league school student, a student enrolling in a public state school may be accepted with a lower score, or the school may waive the requirement altogether.
Average SAT Score in the U.S.
According to College Board, the national average composite SAT score, as of 2021, is 1060 for those who didn't complete the essay section and 1088 for the 46% of test-takers who did.
Average SAT Score by Section
The average SAT score for reading and writing, as of 2021, is 533, and the math score is 528. While some state-provided testing may still require the essay portion of the exam, most administrations have discontinued their use as of 2021. If essays are required, they are scored from two to eight each for reading, writing, and analysis which are added to the final cumulative test score.
While some state-provided testing may still require the essay portion of the exam, most administrations have discontinued their use as of 2021.
Average SAT Score for Incoming First-Year Students
The average cumulative SAT score for high school graduates entering college who took the SAT in 2021 while still in school was 1060. The average score for ERW was 533, and it was 528 for math.
Average SAT Score Over The Past Five Years
In 2016, the College Board redesigned and reissued the SAT exam in an effort to make it more realistic and less stressful for students. Below were some of the key changes:
SAT questions are now more reflective of the reading, math, and writing students will actually use in college and work
A perfect SAT score used to be 2400, and it is now 1600 (800 for ERW and 800 for math)
The essay portion is now scored separately, if it's required at all
Students are no longer penalized for wrong answers – they won't be subtracted from the raw score
Average SAT Scores by State
It's necessary to remember that fewer students had access to the SAT in 2021 due to the global pandemic, and average state scores may look different than a typical year – about 31% of eligible students took the SAT.
Students scored the highest in Minnesota (1263), North Dakota (1258), and Nebraska (1246). Conversely, the lowest scores were from students in Delaware (984), Idaho (985), and the District of Columbia (987).
- New Hampshire1065
- New Jersey1125
- New Mexico996
- New York1057
- North Carolina1150
- District of Columbia987
- North Dakota1258
- Rhode Island995
- South Carolina1036
- South Dakota1215
- West Virginia1007
Average SAT Scores for College Admission
Schools accept various SAT scores for admissions. However, some of the more prestigious private universities in the U.S. are highly competitive and require higher-than-average SAT scores from applicants. Schools that are less competitive often accept average SAT scores, with some waiving the requirement altogether.
Ivy League Schools
The Ivy League schools include eight renowned private schools located in the Northeast. Students enroll in these schools with significantly higher SAT scores than other U.S. universities. Admissions boards at the schools look for near-perfect SAT scores in the 95th percentile and above and have a very selective enrollment process.
Average SAT scores for many U.S. colleges and universities can be found on CollegeBoard and College Scorecard.
|Brown University ||1440-1570 |
|Columbia University ||1440-1570 |
|Cornell University ||1400-1560 |
|Dartmouth College ||1440-1560 |
|Harvard College ||1460-1570 |
|Princeton University ||1460-1570 |
|University of Pennsylvania ||1450-1560 |
|Yale University ||1460-1570 |
In addition to the Ivy League schools, several schools across the U.S. are popular with students who have set their SAT score bars relatively high. These schools generally look for scores in the 86th percentile or better.
- Appalachian State University1100-1270
- Stanford University1440-1570
- Duke University1480-1570
- Texas A&M University1160-1390
- Emory University1360-1530
- Tulane University1360-1520
- Georgetown University1380-1550
- University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)1300-1530
- Johns Hopkins University1460-1560
- University of California-San Diego (UCSD)1250-1490
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)1510-1570
- University of Chicago1500-1570
- New York University (NUY)1530-1530
- University of Notre Dame1400-1550
- Northwestern University1440-1550
- University of Southern California (USC)1360-1530
- Purdue University1190-1440
- Vanderbilt University1480-1570
- Rice University1470-1570
- Washington University-St. Louis1490-1570
Average SAT scores are typically not distinguishable from students enrolling in on-campus or online schools. However, you can look up some of the most popular online schools in our rankings to see if their websites list their average student SAT scores, if submission is required, or if they have an open admissions policy and are test-optional.
Details about the top five most popular online schools are listed below:
|Western Governors University ||Open admissions without an SAT requirement |
|Southern New Hampshire University Online ||Does not require SAT scores |
|University of Phoenix ||Open admissions without an SAT requirement |
|Grand Canyon University || Recommends but doesn't require submitting SAT scores and does not publish scores |
|Liberty University ||1040-1260 |
What Is a Good SAT Score?
A good SAT score helps you get into the college of your choice, keeps you competitive, and helps you stand out from the other applicants. A good SAT score also meets the College Board's college and career readiness benchmarks, which are detailed below.
What Are SAT Benchmark Scores?
These benchmark scores equal a minimum of 480 for ERW and 530 for math, and a minimum cumulative score of 1010. However, 1010 won't be enough to get into an Ivy League school or the other popular schools we've mentioned above, where you'll need a minimum score of approximately 1440 and 1350, respectively.
What Is a Bad SAT Score?
A cumulative score between 400 and 1000 may be considered less than ideal by some schools and may weaken your chances of acceptance. However, it's important to remember that you can retake the test, and many schools use your SAT superscore to make their final determination for enrollment.
What SAT Score Should You Aim For?
While you should aim for the best score possible, or at least one that is above average, you should remain realistic. Don't reach for something you know you can't achieve. However, always target a score higher than the one you're aiming for – this usually means a score about 20 to 30 points higher than you think you'll need.
Colleges we've recognized above look for minimum scores of approximately 1200, with ivy league universities seeking scores of 1400 or higher. This will vary by school, so always check with your school when considering enrollment.
Tips for Determining Your SAT Goal Score
You can determine a score to aim for by considering the schools you'd like to apply to and the average scores of their incoming, first-year students. However, it's essential to remember that admissions boards also look at your extracurricular activities, grades, GPA, and application when considering you for enrollment. They look at the whole package you're offering. For instance, you may not be accepted into the school of your choice, even with an SAT score of 1400, if your GPA is only 2.0 and you weren't active in school or community activities.
Your SAT score can also help you compete for scholarships. Take a look at scholarships you may be interested in applying for to determine if they use SAT scores as part of their eligibility criteria. Schools may also automatically submit your name to consider for their private scholarships once they receive your SAT scores, so the higher you can score, the better your chances are of receiving financial aid that you won't have to repay.
How To Get Your Target SAT Score
There are steps you can take to get your target SAT score once you determine what your aiming for:
Consider taking the PSAT. It's not only a good practice-run, but it also may qualify you for scholarships awarded through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. You don't have to worry about submitting your PSAT scores to colleges - they are only interested in your SAT scores.
Register to take the SAT. Scheduling your test will give you some structure. Make sure to give yourself a minimum of six weeks to prepare before the test date.
Plan to practice, and create a routine. If you're taking your exam during the school year, remember you'll also have homework and routine tests to prepare for, so carve out time when you'll be able to study for your SATs.
Find a tutor, a prep class, study guides, or join a study group. This can help you address areas for improvement and determine the most efficient way to study to achieve your score goals. There are several SAT test prep resources available.
Know your limits and don't cram. You won't be able to achieve your best when you're exhausted and stressed! Take breaks and walk away – maybe literally outside – to clear your head and relax.