Planning to take the SAT soon? Then you're probably wondering, "What's a good SAT score for 2020?" In this comprehensive guide, we break down three different ways you can define good SAT scores for 2020 and explain why it's so important to set a goal score.
We also look at how SAT averages and percentiles have changed (or, rather, not changed) over the past few years and what this means for how we define what a good SAT score is.
Let's get started!
What Is a Good SAT Score for 2020 Overall?
While a good SAT score for you will be whatever is high enough to get you into the colleges you're applying to, a good SAT score overall is one that is considered high compared to other test takers. In other words, we've got to look at averages and percentiles to be able to determine what a good 2020 SAT score is.
The rule of thumb is that any SAT score that places you in the top half of test takers is good. The higher above average your score is, the better. At the same time, SAT scores that place you in the bottom half of test takers are considered not so good. The further below average you are, the less impressive your performance is.
According to recent College Board data, the current average SAT score for 2019 is 1059 (out of 1600). The average score for the Math section is 528, whereas the average score for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section is 531. What this means is that good SAT scores are any scores above 1059/1600.
The following chart tells you more specifically what SAT scores can be considered poor, good, and great. We used 2019 percentile data from the College Board to make this chart based on students who graduated in 2019.
Recall that a percentile tells you what percentage of other test takers you scored the same as or better than on the SAT. For example, an 89th percentile score means you scored the same as or better than 89% of test takers.
|99th (Best)||750 and above||790 and above||1510 and above|
|1st (Poorest)||330 and below||310 and below||680 and below|
Source: SAT Understanding Scores 2019
*Estimated score based on available percentile data
Be aware that the Math and EBRW scores at a particular percentile might not add up exactly to the total score at the same percentile. This is likely a result of rounding.
You might have noticed right away that you only need to score 1340 to break into the top 10% of test takers. So, no, a perfect 1600 isn't required to get an excellent score! You don't even need to break 1400.
By contrast, a score of 800 or below puts you in the bottom 10% of test takers and doesn't look very impressive on college applications. Even if you managed to raise your score from 800 to 910, you'd still be in the bottom 25%, meaning that the vast majority of students did better than you on the SAT. As a result, we can say that any score at or below the 25th percentile is poor.
But percentiles aren't all there is to consider when it comes to determining a good SAT score. You'll need to also pay attention to how good your scores are for the specific colleges you're applying to.
What Is a Good 2020 SAT Score for You?
Ultimately, what's most important when it comes to good SAT scores isn't what percentile you get but whether your score is high enough to get you admitted to your dream college. At PrepScholar, we call this your SAT goal score. It's the score that's most likely to get you admitted to the schools you're applying to. Get this, and you'll be on your way to attending your top-choice college!
How high your own goal score is will depend on the schools you're applying to. For example, if you were applying to extremely competitive Ivy League-level schools, such as Stanford and MIT, your goal score would be really high—right around a perfect 1600. But if you were looking at less competitive schools like the University of Oregon, then you'd aim for something closer to around 1270.
To figure out your own SAT goal score for 2020, you'll need to know what SAT scores admitted students typically get at all the colleges you're applying to. Keep reading for our step-by-step guide so you can find your target score today!
How to Set an SAT Goal Score for 2020: 3-Step Guide
To find your SAT goal score for 2020, follow these three simple steps.
Step 1: Make a Chart
The first step is to make a chart like the one below and to list all the schools you're applying to in this chart (you may exclude any safety schools). You can make a chart yourself or download ours by clicking the thumbnail:
Here's a sample chart with a handful of schools filled in already:
|School Name||25th Percentile SAT Score||75th Percentile SAT Score|
|University of Florida|
|University of Miami|
|Florida State University|
|University of Tampa|
Step 2: Find SAT Score Information for Your Schools
The next step is to do some research online to find the SAT score information you'll need for each school in order to fill in the rest of your chart. Specifically, you'll want to look for the middle 50%, or average, range of SAT scores—i.e., the 25th and 75th percentile scores—for each school.
The easiest way to do this is to use our PrepScholar college database. Simply search for "[School Name] PrepScholar" or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" and then click the link to the school's page in either our SAT/GPA or admissions databases:
Once you've clicked the link to that school's page in one of our databases, scroll down to find the SAT score information for that school. You'll need the 25th and 75th percentile scores.
Here's an example of what this page looks like for the University of Florida:
Record the 25th and 75th percentile composite SAT scores in your chart. Repeat this process for every school you're applying to.
If you can't find your school in our PrepScholar database, go to your school's official website and look for any information it has on student facts and figures, admissions data, etc. You might also try searching for "[School Name] average SAT scores" or "[School Name] SAT scores" and looking for links to your school's official website.
By the end, your chart should look something like this:
|School Name||25th Percentile SAT Score||75th Percentile SAT Score|
|University of Florida||1240||1410|
|University of Miami||1220||1410|
|Florida State University||1190||1330|
|University of Tampa||1070||1230|
Step 3: Determine Your SAT Goal Score
Now, it's time to figure out your SAT target score. Find the highest 75th percentile score in your chart—this will be your goal score, as it's the one most likely to get you accepted to all the schools you're applying to.
In our sample chart, the highest 75th percentile SAT score is 1410 for both UF and UM. This means that your goal score would be 1410, an incredibly high score in the top 5% of all test takers!
If your goal score feels like way too much of a reach for you, then you can lower yours slightly to a score in-between the highest and second-highest 75th percentile scores in your chart, or to simply your second-highest 75th percentile score (in this case, that would be 1330, in the 89th percentile).
Once you've got your composite target score, you can divide this score in half to get your rough scores to aim for on the Math and EBRW sections. In our example, this would be 1410 ÷ 2 = 705, which would round to either 700 or 710 per section.
Good SAT Scores in 2020 vs Good SAT Scores From Past Years
So far we've gone over a few ways you can define good SAT scores. But are these good SAT scores different from what were considered good scores in previous testing years?
The short answer is no, not really. While percentiles and averages can shift a bit each year, they rarely change dramatically. In general, what's considered a good SAT score (based on averages or percentiles) is going to stay fairly consistent from year to year.
The current format of the SAT came out in 2016, so we only have a few years of data we can use to determine how good SAT scores might have changed since then (the SAT prior to 2016 was scored very differently than it is today).
The following chart shows past and present SAT averages from 2017 through 2019:
|Year||Avg EBRW||Avg Math||AVG TOTAL|
As you can see, average SAT scores have changed minimally over the past three years. Last year witnessed a somewhat sharp rise in averages for all three score types, but these dropped again by 2019, putting them almost at the exact same levels they started at in 2017. This means that a good SAT score in 2019 is slightly lower than what was considered good in 2018 (if we're defining what's good using averages).
But what about percentiles? Remember that percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers you scored the same as or higher than on the SAT.
This chart shows past and present SAT score percentiles from 2017 through 2019:
|Year||90th %ile||75th %ile||50th %ile||25th %ile||10th %ile|
Here, we can see that, like the average scores above, SAT percentiles really haven't changed all that much. In fact, the 50th percentile stayed exactly the same at 1050-1060, while all other major percentile marks shifted up or down by only 10 points.
With such little change between each year, it's hard to say whether there will be any big changes in percentiles and averages in future testing years. For now, we can confidently say the definition of a good SAT score hasn't changed really since 2017—and likely won't for a while.
Conclusion: So What's a Good SAT Score for 2020?
There are three main ways you can define good SAT scores for 2020.
One way is to look at the national average, which is 1059. Any score above this threshold can be considered a good score, as it means you've done better than the majority of test takers.
Another way of defining good SAT scores is to look at SAT score percentiles, which compare your performance with those of other test takers. The higher your percentile, the better you did relative to other students. In general, scores in the 50th percentile (1050-1060) are average, while scores in the 75th percentile (1200-1210) and 90th percentile (1340) are good and excellent, respectively.
The last (and by far most important!) way you can define good SAT scores for 2020 is to figure out what scores are good for you based on the schools you're applying to. Look for SAT score data for each of your schools; the highest 75th percentile score will be your target score—that is, what's considered a good score for you and you alone.
Once you know what score to aim for on the SAT, you can get started on coming up with your very own SAT study plan!
Don't put off studying for the SAT—get started now!
Need help getting a super-high SAT score? Then check out our expert guides on how to get that elusive 1600 (written by a real full scorer!) and the best SAT prep books. We also have an ultimate SAT prep guide filled with tons of links to our most helpful SAT articles!
You know what a good SAT score is—but what about a bad SAT score? Learn about what kinds of scores are considered bad by national standards here.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.