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New 2016 SAT: What's a Good Score?

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Sep 26, 2015 9:00:00 PM




The SAT will undergo significant changes in 2016, and you should be prepared to adjust your standards accordingly. The new SAT will be out of 1600 points instead of 2400, so your scores will end up looking a lot different.

In this article, I’ll show you what a good score on the new SAT might mean and how you can calculate a useful goal for yourself within the new scoring system.


National Average Score Predictions

In our article on how to find your target score, we went over the national statistics for scores on the current SAT. These statistics can be converted into scores on the new SAT by multiplying the numbers by two-thirds. Since the new SAT is out of 1600, two-thirds of 2400, this will give a rough approximation of the corresponding average, below average, and above average scores. I’ll go over the converted statistics briefly to give you an idea of these new benchmarks.

An average score for the current SAT is a 1500, meaning for the new SAT you can expect the average to be around a 1000. The 25th percentile score (the cutoff for the lowest 25% of scorers) on the current SAT is a 1260, meaning it will be around an 840 on the new SAT. The 75th percentile score (higher than 75% of test takers) on the current SAT is an 1800, which means we can estimate that it will be around a 1200 on the new SAT.

So, on the new SAT, we can take a guess that:

> 1200 = a very good score nationally

1000 = an average score nationally

< 840 = a very low score nationally

See this article with conversion charts for a more detailed picture of how scores on the current and new SAT relate to each other.


Finding a Good SAT Score for Your College Goals

It’s important to consider your personal circumstances and goals in deciding what a good SAT score means. If you’re aiming for very selective colleges, national averages are not going to mean much to you, since these schools are really only looking at the top one percent of students. On the flip side, if you’re looking at less selective schools, you might not need to set a super high score goal to be accepted.

If you’ve already gone through the process of calculating what a “good score” would look like for you on the current SAT, you can multiply it by two-thirds to estimate what it might look like on the new version of the test. If not, the best way to get an idea of what a “good” score means for you is to look up statistics for the colleges that interest you and see where the average scores fall.

Of course, at this point, colleges will only provide average scores based on the current SAT out of 2400. If you Google “[college name] admissions requirements PrepScholar” and click on the first link, you should be able to find any school’s current SAT statistics. The most accurate way to convert these to score values on the new SAT is to take the Math score as is and then add it to the Reading and Writing scores divided by two:

Math + (Reading+Writing)/2

This method is better than just multiplying the average composite score by two-thirds because it takes the weight of each section into account. Math will make up half of your score on the new SAT, and Reading and Writing together will make up the other half.

This process can be more confusing for schools that only consider Critical Reading and Math and exclude Writing scores. Since Writing remains a component of the new SAT (it’s just mushed in with Reading for one score out of 800), it is difficult to convert these scores. You can still look at the average Math scores to give yourself a benchmark, but for Reading and Writing it may be risky to make a direct comparison.

In general, you’ll want to aim for the 75th percentile score (higher than 75% of accepted students) in order to end up with the best chance of being accepted. 

Let’s use Texas A&M as an example. Currently, the 75th percentile score is a 1900, the 25th percentile score is a 1560, and the 50th percentile score is a 1734. Within the 75th percentile composite score of 1900, students earned a 660 on Math, a 630 on Reading, and a 610 on Writing. This means we can estimate that the 75th percentile score for the new SAT will be 660 + (630+610)/2 = 660 + 620 = 1280. If you're hoping to attend Texas A&M, 1280 should be your goal score on the new SAT.


body_texasamstadiumThe football stadium at Texas A&M. If you like football, this is probably a good place for you.


Potential for Variation

Since the scoring on the new SAT is divided into two sections out of 800 points each rather than three sections, this means that there may be some imbalance in score conversions. Reading and Writing are compressed into Evidence-Based Reading and Writing so that they make up 800 points total, while Math is given the same 800 point weight as it had before. If you’re especially good at math, you may have an advantage on the new SAT, since Math now makes up half of your score rather than one-third. 

For example, suppose you're a math whiz, and your goal was to get a 2100 on the old SAT with an 800 on Math and 650s on Reading and Writing. If you multiply 2100 by two-thirds, you'll get 1400 as your new goal. However, it would make more sense to aim for an 800 on Math and a 650 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing as section scores on the new test. This would bring your score goal up to a 1450 instead. 

On the other hand, suppose you’re not so good at math, and reading and writing are your strengths. I won't encourage you to lower your standards for a good score, but it might mean that you should consider doing more extensive math prep. This will probably only constitute a score disparity of around fifty points or so, but you should be prepared to contend with slightly lower scores initially if your math skills are weaker.  

This is why I say that a better method for converting current scores to the new format is to add the Math score to the average of the Reading and Writing scores. This ensures that the appropriate weight is given to each section in the context of the new score format. If we used this formula instead in the example above, we would get 800 + (650+650)/2, which equals 800 + 650, which comes out to the predicted score goal of 1450.   


body_pipieIf this seems like something you would make, then you're probably going to be fine on the Math section. 


On the new SAT, scores are out of 1600 instead of 2400. We can predict that the average score on the new SAT should be around a 1000, the 75th percentile score should be around a 1200, and the 25th percentile score should be around an 840 nationally.

You can still look up colleges to find the 75th percentile scores of admitted students to calculate a more appropriate goal for yourself. You’ll just have to add the Math scores to the Reading and Writing scores divided by two (Math + (Reading+Writing)/2) to get a solid approximation of the new composite score to beat. For schools that only provide average Critical Reading and Math scores, you should be careful about doing any conversions since this is more difficult to compare directly. However, average Math scores are likely to stay around the same range, so you can still use those to estimate your new goal. 

Finally, you should take all of this advice with a grain of salt. We won’t know for sure what averages look like on the new test until it's administered a few more times. If you’re particularly unbalanced in your skills across different subject areas, you might end up starting out with scores that are slightly off from your predictions. The numbers that you find using the suggestions in this article should only be treated as a rough estimate of what a good score might mean for you on the 1600 scale.


What's Next?

Still wondering if you should take the new SAT? Read our article on how to decide between the new SAT and the ACT. 

If you're looking to read up on study tips for the new version of the test, check out this article for some pointers.

For a comprehensive overview of all the changes that came to the SAT this spring, read our complete guide to the new SAT.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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