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What's a Good SAT Score for 2017?

Posted by Hannah Muniz | May 19, 2017 12:00:00 PM

SAT/ACT Score Target

 

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If you're planning on taking the SAT this year, you may be wondering how high you'll need to aim in order to attain a good (or even a great!) score. What is a good SAT score for 2017? More importantly, what is a good SAT score for you?

In this guide, we look at different ways to define good SAT scores for 2017 and teach you how to set an SAT goal score. In addition, we examine old SAT averages and percentiles to determine whether the definition of a good SAT score has changed over time.

 

What Is a Good SAT Score for 2017 Overall?

In the simplest of terms, a good SAT score is any score that's high enough to get you into the schools you wish to attend. But to define good SAT scores for 2017 overall, we'll need to look at the SAT in a broader, more objective sense. And the easiest way to do this is to use averages and percentiles to see how your scores compare to those of other test takers. (Percentiles show you what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on the SAT.)

As you may know, the SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600. According to the College Board, the average SAT score for 2017 is 1083 (for college-bound 11th and 12th graders), which is close to the 50th percentile. Generally speaking, good SAT scores for 2017 can be considered anything above average (in other words, any score that places you in the top half of test takers). Likewise, a poor score can be considered anything below average. So essentially, the farther you get from average, the better (if above average) or worse (if below average) your score will be.

Below is an overview of the current SAT percentiles and what they indicate about your test performance:

Percentile

EBRW

Math

TOTAL

90th percentile (excellent)

680*

690*

1340

75th percentile (good)

620

610*

1220*

50th percentile (average)

540**

530**

1080

25th percentile (poor)

470

470**

950

10th percentile (very poor)

410*

410

830

Source: SAT Understanding Scores 2016

*Score is 1 percent higher than percentile listed (i.e., 91st, 76th, or 11th percentiles).

**Score is 1 percent lower than percentile listed (i.e., 49th or 24th percentiles).

 

Let's start by looking at the "good" percentiles. As we can see in this chart, the higher your percentile, the more test takers you've outperformed and thus the more impressive your score is.

What's intriguing here, though, is that you don't need to get a perfect score or even break 1500 to qualify for the top 10 percent. As the data above shows, a score of 1340 — despite being 260 points below a perfect score — is in the 90th percentile! Therefore, anything at or above 1340 can be considered an extremely impressive SAT score.

By contrast, a low percentile indicates that more test takers have outperformed you than you have them. According to the chart, any score in the range of 400-830 — that’s a big 430-point span! — places you in the bottom 10 percent of test takers.

Interestingly, a score of 950, which is only 130 points below average, still means you're scoring worse than a whopping 75 percent of test takers. So it's safe to say, then, that anything at or below 950 can be considered a rather poor SAT score.

But what do all of these numbers mean for you specifically? Is a good SAT score simply defined by what percentile you're in, or is there more to it than that? 

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What Is a Good 2017 SAT Score for YOU?

Ultimately, and regardless of SAT percentiles and averages, what's important is that you're aiming for an SAT score that's good enough for you — in other words, a score that's high enough to secure you admission to your particular schools. Here at PrepScholar, we call this ideal SAT score a goal score.

As you might've guessed, goal scores vary depending on the test taker and where you're applying. So for someone applying to Harvard, for example, a good SAT score is likely something just under or even at a perfect 1600. But for someone applying to Washington State University, a solid goal score may be something closer to 1200. 

In the end, getting the exact SAT score you need for your schools is far more important than aimlessly trying to hit a certain percentile that may or may not be good enough for your schools. But how do you find your goal score? Read on to learn how!

 

How to Set a 2017 SAT Goal Score

Figuring out your SAT goal score is easy if you know what steps to take. Here, we walk you through the three critical steps needed to determine your goal score.

 

Step 1: Make a Chart

First things first, you'll need to make a chart. Fill in your school names in the leftmost column, and then write “25th Percentile SAT Score” and “75th Percentile SAT Score” across the top. Alternatively, you may download our goal score worksheet.

Here is an example:

School Name

25th Percentile SAT Score

75th Percentile SAT Score

University of Michigan

   

Michigan State University

   

Eastern Michigan University

   

 

 

Step 2: Find SAT Score Info for Your Schools

The next step is to start researching SAT score info for your schools.

One way you can do this is to look for your schools in our PrepScholar database. To find your school, search for “[School Name] PrepScholar SAT” or “[School Name] PrepScholar” on Google and then click the link to your school's "Admission Requirements" or "SAT Scores and GPA" page (both pages list SAT score info).

Here’s an example of our "Admission Requirements" page for Eastern Michigan University:

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Once you find your school in our database, scan its page for SAT score info — specifically, 25th and 75th percentile scores. These percentiles are important because they tell you the middle 50 percent, or the average range, of admitted applicants' SAT scores for your particular school.

If you can't find your school in our database, try searching for “[School Name] average SAT scores” or “[School Name] 25th 75th percentile SAT” on Google and see whether any relevant pages on your school’s official website pop up. 

Be aware that some schools may report average SAT scores or percentiles using the old (pre-2016) SAT scoring scale. In this case, simply convert the old scores (out of 2400) into new scores (out of 1600) using our SAT conversion charts. (As you can see in the screenshot above, our database lists SAT scores using the redesigned scale, so you won't need to convert any scores!)

Now, here’s our example chart again, this time with SAT score info filled out for each school:

School Name

25th Percentile SAT Score

75th Percentile SAT Score

University of Michigan

1370

1530

Michigan State University

1050

1310

Eastern Michigan University

980

1260

 

 

Step 3: Calculate Your Target Score

Finally, look for the highest score in your chart (in the 75th percentile column); this score will be your goal score because it’s the one most likely to get you into all of the schools to which you're applying. In our example above, our goal score would be 1530 — an extremely high score in the 99th percentile!

If your goal score feels a little too high for you (such as our example goal score above), you may consider lowering it just slightly, ideally to either the second-highest 75th percentile score in your chart or to a score between the highest and second-highest percentile scores. (So in our example, you could instead aim for something closer to 1420, the halfway point between the highest and second-highest scores. This score is still high enough for MSU and EMU, though slightly lower for UM.)

Once you have your total goal score, you'll likely want to know your section goal scores, as well. To get these, simply divide your total goal score by 2. In our example, this gives us 765 (which we'll round up to 770) for both Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math.

 

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How Has the Definition of a Good SAT Score Changed?

Now that we understand what constitutes a good SAT score for 2017 and for you, let's look at whether the definition of a good SAT score has changed or stayed the same over the years.

To do this, we'll need some data. But here's the caveat: the SAT underwent a massive redesign in March 2016. These changes didn't simply shift the SAT scoring scale but rather completely overhauled the content and format of the exam. Thus, it'll be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to compare 2017 SAT data with that of prior administrations. 

So what we'll do instead is compare SAT averages and percentiles for only the old SAT. This way we'll be able to determine with more accuracy whether the SAT average has risen or fallen over time as well as whether SAT percentiles have changed.

Let's start with the averages. The following table showcases the average SAT scores for college-bound seniors from 2006 to 2016. Note that on the old SAT, there was no EBRW score (instead, you got two separate Critical Reading and Writing scores). Additionally, the essay used to be a required component that counted toward your total Writing score (now, it's optional and graded separately).

 

Average SAT Scores 2006-2016

Year

Critical Reading

Math

Writing

2006

503

518

497

2007

501

514

493

2008

500

514

493

2009

499

514

492

2010

500

515

491

2011

497

514

489

2012

496

514

488

2013

496

514

488

2014

497

513

487

2015

495

511

484

2016

494

508

482

Source: The College Board Total Group Profile Report 2016

 

As you can see above, in all SAT sections, average scores have declined steadily over time. From 2006 to 2016, Critical Reading witnessed a 9-point drop (503 to 494), Math a 10-point drop (518 to 508), and Writing a 15-point drop (497 to 482).

As these averages changed, it seems logical, then, to assume that the definition of a good SAT score has also altered slightly over the years. In more recent years, you needed to score fewer points on the SAT in order to hit the average score, indicating it was somewhat easier to exceed this average (and attain what's generally considered to be a good SAT score) in 2016 than it was in 2006.

But how do percentiles come into play? Let's find out. Below is an overview of total SAT score percentiles from 2011 to 2015:

 

SAT Score Percentiles 2011-2015

Year

90th Percentile

75th Percentile

50th Percentile

25th Percentile

10th Percentile

2011

1930-1940

1720

1490

1280

1110

2012

1930-1940

1720

1490

1280

1100-1110

2013

1930-1940

1720

1490

1280

1100

2014

1930-1940

1720

1490

1270

1090-1100

2015

1930-1940

1720

1480

1260

1080-1090

 

Again, we can see that for some percentiles — namely the 10th to 50th percentiles — corresponding SAT scores have declined just slightly over time. This means that over the years, fewer test takers reached certain scores on the SAT, thereby lowering the scores needed to attain different percentiles. 

But these changes in scores and percentiles are all fairly nominal. Of the percentiles whose scores decreased from 2011 to 2015, all dropped by a mere 10 or 20 points — changes which aren't drastic enough to indicate any major trend.

Even more interesting, some percentiles' corresponding scores didn't change at all over the years. From 2011 to 2015, the 90th and 75th percentiles remained remarkably steady (at 1930-1940 and 1720, respectively), meaning that the same percentages of test takers were scoring at or around these scores each year.

All in all, this general consistency in SAT score percentiles suggests that what’s considered a good score hasn’t changed much in recent years, particularly if you’re defining a good SAT score by how your score compares with those of other test takers.

 

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Recap: So What Is a Good SAT Score for 2017?

There are many ways to define good SAT scores for 2017. Perhaps the easiest way we can define them is to use current data from the College Board.

According to this data, the average SAT score for 2017 is 1083 (nearly the same as the median, or 50th percentile). Generally speaking, anything above average (in the top half of test takers) can be considered a good SAT score, and anything below average (in the bottom half of test takers) can be considered a poor score.

But while averages and percentiles offer us a more objective idea of what good SAT scores for 2017 are, ultimately, you determine what a good SAT score is for yourself. To do this, you'll need to set an SAT goal score. A goal score is the score most likely to get you into all of the schools to which you're applying. By setting (and eventually attaining) your goal score, you guarantee yourself an excellent shot at gaining admission to your schools.

 

What’s Next?

Want more info on SAT scores? Learn what constitutes a good, bad, and excellent SAT score in general and get the rundown on how the SAT is scored.

Need help hitting your SAT goal score? Try our 15 expert tips to improve your score. And if you're willing to work extra hard, follow the road to success with our step-by-step guide on how to get a perfect 1600!

 

Disappointed with your scores? 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:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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