SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

SAT Score Range: The Complete Story

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Jan 6, 2019 5:21:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

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What is the range for SAT scores? How do your scores stack up? In this article, I’ll give you a basic rundown of the range of scores you can expect on the SAT and help you put your scores in perspective if you’ve already taken the test.

 

SAT Score Range: The Basics

The SAT is scored on a 1600 point scale, and composite scores range from 400 to 1600. You composite score represents the combined scores of two test sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, scored from 200 to 800, and Math, also scored from 200 to 800.

You get three test scores in Reading, Writing, and Math on your score report, but they range from 10-40 and will not be a concrete aspect of your final composite score. The SAT score report also includes two cross test scores and seven subsection scores that are designed to give you a more complete picture of your strengths and weaknesses based on which questions you answered correctly.

The essay is optional (like it currently is on the ACT) and does impact your composite score; the essay score is reported separately. 

 

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Average SAT Scores

The national average for composite SAT scores is around a 1500. For 2014, these were the average section scores:

Critical Reading: 497
Math: 513
Writing: 487

Total: 1497

If you’re scoring above a 1500, you’re already doing better than half of the country. If you’re scoring above an 1800 you’re in the top 25% of scorers, and if you're scoring below a 1260 you’re in the lowest 25%.

In the end, you shouldn’t worry about these averages nearly as much as you should worry about averages for your particular college. Some schools don’t even consider the Writing Score, like schools in the public university system in Massachusetts. Admitted students to UMASS Lowell last year had an average combined Critical Reading and Math score of 1150, meaning they scored slightly higher than average on each test.

If you want to have the strongest chance of getting into a school, you should aim for the 75th percentile score (a higher score than 75 percent of admitted students). If you’re hoping to get into schools in the Ivy League and other top schools like MIT and Stanford, you will be expected to have scores that are in the 2200-2400 range. To use Stanford as an example, the 75th percentile composite score for applicants this past year was a 2360!

To learn more about what scores you should aim for, check out our article on figuring out your target score.

body_stanford.jpgUgh Stanford get over yourself. NO PLEASE TAKE ME YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL.

 

Studying for Your Score Goals

Now that you have a better sense of the possible score range on the SAT, you can take a practice test (or take a look at scores from an SAT you’ve already taken) and see where you fall in the rankings. If your scores aren’t where you need them to be yet, that’s ok! You will just have to plan out your studying time accordingly.

I’ll outline some brief guidelines below, but for more information read my article on how long you should study for the SAT and our complete study plan for the SAT.

 

I’m Looking to Improve 100-200 Points

This will require about 40 hours of studying on average. Plan ahead a couple months or so before your test date - if you give yourself two months, five hours of studying a week should get you up to speed. If you prefer to spread out your studying more, you might start studying six months in advance and schedule out one or two hours a week for SAT prep.

 

I’m Looking to Improve by Around 300 Points

This will require about 60-80 hours of studying on average. You should plan out your studying at least three or four months in advance and be prepared to study for five hours every week. In this case it would probably be easier to start studying six months or more before the test.

If you think you might need longer study time because you often get distracted or have difficulty learning quickly from your mistakes, you should definitely plan on starting six months in advance and studying at least two or three hours a week.

 

I’m Looking to Improve by 500+ Points

This is a big goal, so you should be prepared to study for 150+ hours to reach it. If you start six months before the test and study for five hours a week or so, that should be enough to get you close to a 500 point improvement.

Remember, though, if you want to improve by this much, your studying has to be super high-quality! Mark any questions you don’t understand on practice tests and figure out what the problem is that’s causing you to make mistakes. Fully understanding your mistakes and figuring out how to correct them is the key to making significant improvements!

 

Summary

Here are some of the main points you should know about SAT scores:

  • Composite scores range from 600 to 2400
  • Critical Reading, Math, and Writing are each worth 200 to 800 points
  • Nationally, the average SAT score is about 1500

You should check the average scores for the schools you’re applying to, and try to aim for the 75th percentile score as a goal for yourself. Everyone has a different target score! You can make a study plan depending on how much you need to improve, so your scores will be in the right range by the time you take the real test.

 

What's Next?

Trying to decide when to take the SAT? Read this article to find the best test date for your situation. 

If you plan on taking the new SAT but have been practicing with the old SAT, take a look at the charts in this article to convert your scores and see where you might fall within the new 1600 point score range.

Score choice and superscoring are two policies that might impact your test taking and studying plans for the SAT. Read more about these policies and the difference between them.

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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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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