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If you're planning on taking the SAT this year, you might be wondering how high you'll need to aim in order to get a good (or even 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 (and how) 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 with those of other test takers. (As a reminder, percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on the SAT.)

As you likely 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 (i.e., 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.

Here is an overview of the current SAT percentiles and what they indicate about your overall 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% higher than percentile listed (i.e., 91st, 76th, or 11th percentiles).

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

Let's start by looking at the good percentiles. As we can see from this chart, the higher your SAT percentile, the more test takers you've outperformed and 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%. As the data indicates, a score of 1340—despite being 260 points below a perfect 1600—is in the 90th percentile! Therefore, anything at or above 1340 can be considered an extremely impressive SAT score for 2017.

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% 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% 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?

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, an SAT score that's high enough to secure you admission to your schools. At PrepScholar, we call this ideal score a goal score.

As you might've guessed, goal scores will vary depending on the test taker and where you're applying. For someone applying to Harvard, for example, a good SAT score would most likely be just under or even at a perfect 1600. But for someone applying to Washington State University, a solid goal score might 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 might or might not actually be good enough for the colleges you're applying to.

But how do you find your goal score? Read on to learn!

How to Set a 2017 SAT Goal Score

Figuring out your SAT goal score is easy if you know what you must do. 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 to do this is to look for your schools in the PrepScholar database. To find your school, search for "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" or "[School Name] PrepScholar" on Google. Then, click the link to either your school's "Admission Requirements" or its "SAT Scores and GPA" page (both pages list SAT score info).

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

Once you find your school in our database, look for information about SAT scores—specifically, its 25th and 75th percentile scores. These percentiles are important because they tell you the middle 50%, or 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 to see whether any relevant pages on your school's official website pop up.

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 you're applying to. In our example above, our goal score would be 1530—that's in the 99th percentile!

If your goal score feels a little too high for you (such as our example goal score), you might want to consider lowering it 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.

In our example, this means you could instead aim for something closer to 1420, the halfway point between the highest and second-highest scores. This would still be 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, too. To get these, 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.

How Has the Definition of a Good SAT Score Changed?

Now that we understand what a good SAT score for 2017 is, both in general 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 had a massive redesign in March 2016. These changes didn't simply shift the SAT scoring scale but also completely overhauled the content and format of the exam. As a result, it'll be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to compare 2017 SAT data with data from earlier administrations of the test.

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, and whether SAT percentiles, too, 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, in all SAT sections, the 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).

Since these averages changed, it seems logical to assume that the definition of a good SAT score has also altered slightly over time. In recent years, students have needed to score fewer points on the SAT in order to hit the average score, indicating that it was somewhat easier to exceed this average (and get what's generally considered 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 a little over time. This means that over the years, fewer test takers have reached certain scores on the SAT, thereby lowering the scores needed to achieve 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 that aren't drastic enough to point to 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.

Recap: 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 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, any SAT score above average (i.e., in the top half of test takers) is a good score, and any score below average (i.e., in the bottom half of test takers) is a poor one.

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 must set an SAT goal score. A goal score is the SAT score most likely to get you into all of the schools to which you're applying.

By setting (and eventually hitting) your goal score, you can guarantee yourself an excellent shot at gaining admission to your schools.

What's Next?

Want more information about 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 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!

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you'll love the free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program. Designed and written by PrepScholar SAT experts, our SAT program customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so that you can focus your studying on what will get you the biggest score gains.

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