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SAT Score Range: 3 Steps to Understanding Your Score

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Jun 16, 2019 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

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Confused about the SAT score range? It's no secret that the SAT has undergone drastic changes since 2016, shifting from a 2400-point scale to a markedly narrower 1600-point scale. But what do these numbers mean for you? And how can you use SAT score ranges to determine the scores you need for college?

First, we'll discuss the current SAT scores range for the exam as a whole and for each SAT section and subsection. After, we’ll take a close look at how SAT scores are distributed among test takers, explain why colleges maintain different SAT score ranges, and teach you how to set your own SAT goal score.

 

What Is the SAT Score Range?

Altogether, the SAT score range is 400-1600 for your composite SAT score (i.e., Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math). Three individual sections comprise this total score: Reading, Writing and Language (often called Writing), and Math.

The Math score range is 200-800 in 10-point increments.

The Reading and Writing sections, however, work a little differently. At first, these two sections are scored separately in one-point increments on a scale of 10-40. They are then converted (using an individualized equating process) into one Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score on a scale of 200-800 (the same as the Math scale).

Note that the composite SAT score range does not include the optional Essay. The Essay score has three dimensions to it: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Two readers will each assign you three scores on a scale of 1-4. The two scores from these readers are then combined to give you a total SAT score range of 2-8 for each of the three dimensions. So a perfect Essay score would be 8|8|8.

We're not finished yet! The SAT also contains subscores and cross-test scores, which are calculated separately on scales of 1-15 and 10-40, respectively. Subscores and cross-test scores indicate your level of mastery of specific skills, such as vocabulary knowledge and algebra.

Here are the EBRW subscores:

And here are the Math subscores:

Cross-test scores are a little different; they measure your performance on history/social studies and science questions on all SAT sections (excluding the Essay). The two SAT cross-test scores are as follows:

  • Analysis in History/Social Studies
  • Analysis in Science

 

body_apple_slices.jpgThe SAT has four sections, and even its sections have sections!

 

To help you visualize what we've touched on so far, here is a detailed chart showcasing each SAT scores range:

 

SAT Score Range (2016-Present)

SAT Section

Score Range

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)

200-800

Reading

10-40

Writing and Language

10-40

Expression of Ideas

1-15

Standard English Conventions

1-15

Words in Context

1-15

Command of Evidence

1-15

Math

200-800

Heart of Algebra

1-15

Problem Solving and Data Analysis

1-15

Passport to Advanced Math

1-15

Cross-Test Scores*

Analysis in History/Social Studies

10-40

Analysis in Science

10-40

TOTAL (EBRW + Math)

400-1600

Essay

2-8 | 2-8 | 2-8

Reading

2-8

Analysis

2-8

Writing

2-8

*Cross-test scores are for the Reading, Writing, and Math sections

 

All of these score ranges are for the current redesigned SAT (2016-present). But what about the pre-2016 SAT?

Contrary to what we have now, the old SAT score scale was 600-2400 (as opposed to 400-1600) and there were no subscores or cross-test scores as there are today.

Additionally, test takers got separate Critical Reading and Writing scores, the latter of which was a combination of your Writing and Essay scores. (Nowadays, the SAT Essay is optional and does not count toward your composite SAT score.)

Here is an overview of the old SAT scores scale:

 

Old SAT Score Range (Pre-2016)

SAT Section

Score Range

Critical Reading

200-800

Math

200-800

Writing Composite

200-800

Writing Multiple Choice

20-80

Essay

0-12

TOTAL (All Sections)

600-2400

 

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SAT Score Distribution

The College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016 so that a total score of approximately 1000—the middle score between 400 (the minimum) and 1600 (the maximum), or the highest point on the SAT bell curve—would signify the average score of test takers.

This score is in contrast to the pre-2016 SAT average of around 1500, which was the middle point between 600 and 2400 (the old SAT minimum and maximum).

The current SAT bell curve means that most SAT takers score around 1000, and very few score extremely high (1500 and higher) or extremely low (700 and below).

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According to data collected by the College Board, the average SAT score is 1068—pretty close to 1000.

Below is a chart showcasing the current SAT percentiles for EBRW, Math, and the exam as a whole. As a reminder, percentiles indicate what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on a given section. Thus, the higher your percentile, the more impressive your score is.

Percentile

EBRW

Math

TOTAL

99 and 99+

750-800

790-800

1500-1600

90

670

680-690

1340

75

610

600

1200-1210

50

530*

520*

1050-1060

25

460

450

910-920

10

400-410

380-390

800

1 and 1-

200-330

200-320

400-680

*Estimated score based on current percentiles

We can use SAT percentiles to help us understand how many (or, rather, how few) test takers scored at the extreme ends of the exam.

According to this data, a 99th percentile or higher SAT score is anywhere from 1500 to a perfect 1600. This means that only 1% of test takers scored 1500 or higher on the SAT. So you don't need to get a perfect score in order to reach the 99th percentile—you can miss as many as 100 points and still achieve that top 1% distinction on your SAT score report!

Likewise, very few test takers scored on the lower end of the SAT score range. Only 1% of test takers scored between 400 (the absolute minimum) and 680; that's a huge 280-point span! What this ultimately means is that you’re very likely to earn at least 280 points on the SAT since 99% of test takers score above 680.

In regard to SAT section scores, once again few test takers scored the highest and lowest possible scores. To hit the 99th percentile on EBRW, you’d have to score 750 or higher. But to do the same on Math, you’d need to earn a 790. This trend indicates that the Math section is generally more competitive than the EBRW section, as more people score higher on Math than on EBRW.

As for the 1st percentile, EBRW and Math maintain respective score ranges of 200-330 and 200-320. This means only 1% of test takers scored 320 or below on either section and the vast majority scored higher than 330.

But how can you figure out what kinds of SAT scores you'll need for your colleges specifically? Read on to find out!

 

body_college_graduation.jpgTo get to this point, you must first get IN.

 

What Are SAT Score Ranges for Colleges?

There are no general SAT scores range for colleges; instead, every school maintains its own SAT scores range as a means to compare applicants' SAT scores. This range represents the middle 50% of SAT scores (usually of incoming students).

What do I mean by "middle 50%"? Think of it as being similar to average SAT scores—only instead of a single average, you're given a range of scores consisting of the 25th and 75th percentiles for a particular group of students.

A 25th percentile score means that 25% of incoming students scored at or lower than a particular threshold on the SAT, whereas a 75th percentile score indicates that 75% of students scored at or lower than a different (and higher) threshold.

For example, here are the current 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores for Yale:

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Exactly how is this info helpful to you? SAT score ranges tell you how high you must score on the SAT in order to be on par with (and better than) other applicants. In general, a score in the 75th percentile or higher is a safe bet, as this means that your SAT scores will exceed those of most other applicants.

You can find SAT score ranges for most schools using our database. Simply search for "[School Name] PrepScholar" or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT."

Here's an example of the page I got when I searched "university of delaware prepscholar sat":

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Click on either link to get to the PrepScholar page for your school. SAT score ranges will typically appear in a box as so:

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You can also check out our comprehensive guide to SAT scores for colleges, which contains a list of 100+ schools and their SAT score ranges.

 

Want to learn more about the SAT but tired of reading blog articles? Then you'll love our free, SAT prep livestreams. Designed and led by PrepScholar SAT experts, these live video events are a great resource for students and parents looking to learn more about the SAT and SAT prep.

Click on the button below to register for one of our livestreams today!

Sign Up for Our SAT Livestream

 

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How to Set an SAT Goal Score: 3-Step Guide

In the simplest of terms, you’ll want to get the best SAT score you can get on test day. To do this, you must determine your SAT goal score. A goal score is the score that's most likely to get you into all the schools you're applying to.

Follow our three simple steps below to set your own SAT goal score.

 

Step 1: Make a Chart

Before jumping headfirst into your SAT score research, make a simple chart of all of the schools you're applying to (excluding any safety schools). You may download our worksheet or create a chart like the one below.

Draw two columns for the 25th and 75th percentiles for each of your schools. Here is a sample:

School

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

University of Washington

   

University of Oregon

   

UCLA

   

UC Santa Barbara

   

 

Step 2: Look Up SAT Score Info

Next, begin looking up SAT score info for each of the schools on your table. Specifically, you’ll want to look up the middle 50% (i.e., the 25th and 75th percentiles) for each of your schools.

To find these ranges, search for "[School Name] PrepScholar" or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" on Google. Most schools should be in our database, but if you can't find yours, you may instead search for "[School Name] average SAT scores" or "[School Name] 25th 75th percentile SAT" and look for relevant links to the school's official website.

Here is an example of the PrepScholar page for the University of Washington:

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Now, here is our chart again, with all the schools' 25th and 75th percentiles filled out:

School

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

University of Washington

1190

1420

University of Oregon

1080

1270

UCLA

1240

1490

UC Santa Barbara

1270

1500


 

body_ice_cream_cone.jpgIf at any point you get tired, just take an ice cream break.

 

Step 3: Calculate Your SAT Goal Score

The last step is to find your goal score. The highest score in your chart (in your 75th percentile column) will be your target SAT score. This score is the most likely to get you into all the schools in your chart. In our example above, this score would be 1500 for UC Santa Barbara.

But what about your goal scores for each section? To get your individual EBRW and Math goal scores, divide your total goal score by 2. So a goal score of 1420 means that you'd have to aim for around 710 on both sections (assuming you're trying to get about the same score on each).

If you’re applying to engineering programs or other field-specific schools, you'll want to aim for a slightly higher score on the SAT section more relevant to your particular major. For example, aspiring engineers applying to MIT should focus more on trying to achieve an extremely high Math score instead of a super high EBRW score.

 

Takeaways: What to Know About the SAT Score Range

The total SAT score range for the SAT is 400-1600 in 10-point increments. This score comprises two sections: EBRW and Math, whose score ranges are each 200-800. EBRW can be further divided into Reading and Writing, which each use a scale of 10-40.

The optional Essay consists of three separate scores on scales of 2-8. There are also subscores and cross-test scores, which use smaller scales of 1-15 and 10-40, respectively.

The old SAT differed greatly in its score scale. Before 2016, the SAT score range was 600-2400 in 10-point increments, and the exam had three sections (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing), each of which used a scale of 200-800.

On the current SAT score range, a score of around 1000 (the midway point of the score range) is the average SAT score. (The actual average is 1068 for all 11th and 12th graders.)

In terms of score ranges for colleges, each school has its own SAT score range, or middle 50%, to show the average range of SAT scores for incoming students. The lower SAT score in this range is the 25th percentile, while the higher score is the 75th percentile.

Finally, follow these steps to find your SAT goal score:

#1: Make a chart with your schools' names and their 25th and 75th SAT percentiles.

#2: Look up SAT score info for your schools. You can use our own SAT database or official school websites. Record the 25th and 75th percentile for each school in your chart.

#3: Find the highest 75th percentile score in your chartthis will be your target score. Aiming for this SAT score will increase your chance of gaining admission to all the schools in your chart.

Now, get out there and ace the SAT. Remember—you got this!

 

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What’s Next?

Want more info on SAT scores? Check out our in-depth guides to learn how the SAT is scored and what constitutes a great, a good, and a poor SAT score.

Gearing up for college applications? In our article on the SAT scores you'll need for college, we've gathered the average SAT scores for dozens of popular schools, both private and public.

Aiming for a perfect SAT score? It's not impossible, I promise! For step-by-step tips, take a look at our comprehensive guide to getting a full 1600—written entirely by a perfect scorer.

 

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 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.



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