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What Is a Good SAT Score? A Bad SAT Score? An Excellent SAT Score?

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Posted by Dr. Fred Zhang | Aug 22, 2023 11:00:00 AM

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What is a good SAT score? You took the SAT, got your scores back, and now want to know how you did. Or maybe you want to know what score to aim for next time.

In this guide, we discuss how to figure out how your SAT scores stack up against those of all the other test takers. We'll then help you determine what a good SAT score for you is based on the colleges you are interested in. Finally, we provide the SAT score ranges of more than 50 popular schools and discuss what to do if your score turns out to be lower than you expected.


What's a Good SAT Score Compared to the Entire Country?

The SAT score range is 400–1600 for your total score and 200–800 for each of your two section scores. One section score is Math; the other is Reading and Writing.

As you would expect, the higher your score, the better you did compared with all the other test takers. But is there a certain SAT score cutoff that marks a "good" score?

To determine what makes for good SAT scores relative to everyone else's, you need to know exactly how SAT scoring works. Your total score out of 1600 (and each of your two section scores out of 800) corresponds to a percentile ranking. Your SAT percentile tells you what percentage of students you scored the same as or better than. So, for example, if you got a 60th percentile score, you've scored better than 60% of all test takers!

The mean, or average, SAT composite score is 1050. Note that the test is deliberately designed so that the mean score hovers around 1000 on the 1600-point scale—about 500 per section. The average score for Math is 521, and the average score for Reading and Writing is 529.

SAT scores follow a normal distribution. This means that student performance tends to cluster around the middle of the scale (1000 is the halfway point between the minimum score of 400 and the maximum score of 1600). Far fewer test takers score toward the higher and lower ends of the scale.

Here's an abbreviated SAT score chart with percentiles for 2022 SAT composite scores so you can check out the score distribution for yourself:

SAT Composite Score (Out of 1600) Percentile (2021)
1600 99+
1550 99
1500 98
1450 96
1400 93
1350 90
1300 86
1250 81
1200 75
1150 68
1100 60
1050 51
1000 43
950 35
900 27
850 19
800 13
750 7
700 3
650 1
600 and below 1–


As you can see from the percentiles and corresponding scores, more students score toward the middle of the scale than at the top or bottom.

For example, a score jump from 1000 to 1100 (100 points) moves you from the 43rd to the 60th percentile—so you've moved up past nearly an entire fifth of test takers! But moving 100 points from 1250 to 1350 only brings you up about 10%, from the 81st to the 90th percentile. Finally, moving from 1450 to 1550, a 100-point margin near the top of the scale, nets you only about 3%!

In terms of what makes for good SAT scores based on this chart, you already know that 1050 is about average, so anything above that would be an above-average score. A 1250 places you in the 81st percentile—that is, in the top fifth of test takers—which is very good. A 1350 puts you in the top 10%, making it a strong score. A 1400 is in the 93rd percentile, or the top 7% of all test takers. And any score 1500+ puts you in the coveted top 1%–2%!

By contrast, anything lower than a 1050 is a below-average score. For example, a 950, which is in the 35th percentile, places you in the bottom third of test takers. And a 900, which is in the 27th percentile, places you nearly in the bottom fourth—not so great comparatively.

Here's a chart showing the SAT score percentiles for both the Math and Reading and Writing sections. The distributions are pretty similar, but there are some slight differences.

For example, fewer people do really, really well on Reading and Writing than on Math. You can tell this is the case because a 750 is a 98th percentile score for Reading and Writing, meaning you're in the top 2% of test takers. But that same score is in the 95th percentile for Math, placing you only in the top 5%.

SAT Score (Out of 800) Math Percentile (2022) Reading and Writing Percentile (2022)
800 99 99+
750 95 98
700 91 93
650 84 85
600 75 73
550 62 58
500 44 42
450 30 26
400 16 12
350 6 3
300 1 1
250 and below 1– 1–


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What's a Good SAT Score for You?

So far, we've discussed how your SAT score and corresponding percentile ranking show how you compare with other test takers. But how well you did compared with everyone else isn't the most important thing for you.

What is more important is what makes a good SAT score for you personally, based on the schools you are interested in.

A 1280 is an 84th percentile score, meaning that you scored the same as or better than 84% of test takers; therefore, this would be a solid score for schools such as Arizona State University (average SAT score: 1245) and Temple University (average SAT score: 1238).

However, it would be a very low score for highly selective institutions, such as MIT, Caltech, Duke, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins.

Of course, not everyone is trying to get into highly selective schools. A score of 1040 (just below the 1050 average) is solid for less selective colleges such as Indiana University Northwest (average SAT score: 1000) and California State University Stanislaus (average SAT score: 1000).

To sum up, a good SAT score is a score that makes you competitive for the schools you want to attend.

It's also worth noting that the higher your test scores are, the more likely colleges offering merit scholarships are to give one to you. For the purposes of this guide, we're going to focus primarily on figuring out the score you need for admission (not scholarships), but it's something to keep in mind. For more information, check out our guide to scholarships based on SAT and ACT scores.

Another thing to consider is that a high test score can help you get admitted to certain schools if you have a lower GPA than what their typical admits have. (However, this won't help you so much at highly selective institutions—they expect students to have high marks across the board!)

SAT Score 1600


How to Find Your SAT Goal Score: A Five-Step Guide

In this section, we'll walk you through how to figure out what makes a good SAT score for you based on the schools you're applying to. Our quick five-step process requires only a worksheet (linked below), a writing utensil, and an internet-browsing device!


Step 1: Download This Worksheet

First, you'll need to download our worksheet so you can fill it out with information for your schools of interest. Click here to download it, or click the image below.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 9.29.51 PM.png


Step 2: Fill in the Schools You're Applying To

Next, fill in all the schools you want to apply to in the leftmost column. If you don't know what schools you're aiming for yet, feel free to use ones that have been suggested to you by parents, friends, teachers, or counselors.

Nevertheless, I recommend taking the time to do some research on schools you might want to attend first so that you have a realistic SAT goal score. The more your list reflects the schools you actually end up applying to, the more accurate your target score will be.


Step 3: For Each School, Google "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT"

For example, if I'm interested in the University of Alabama, I'd do the following search:


Click on the link to our SAT Scores and GPA page (or our Admission Requirements page—they'll both have the information you need), and scroll down to the 25th- and 75th-percentile composite SAT scores. The 25th–75th percentile range describes the scores of the middle 50% of all students admitted to a particular school.

For the University of Alabama, you'll find that the 25th percentile SAT score is 1060; this means that 25% of admitted students have a score of 1060 on the SAT. That would be a below-average score for admitted students to Alabama.

The 75th percentile SAT score for Alabama is 1280. That means that students with that score did better than 75% of all other admits. In other words, scoring at 1280 or above puts you in the top quarter of admits, giving you a very competitive score for admission!

If you score at or above the 75th percentile for any school, you'll have an excellent chance of getting in (assuming your other credentials are on point for the school). So that's a good SAT score for that school. If you're at the 25th percentile, however, you'll need to have a particularly strong application to boost your odds of getting in.

For each school on your list, Google the PrepScholar SAT score information, and write down the 25th- and 75th-percentile scores in the appropriate row for that school on your goal score sheet.


Step 4: Find Your Final SAT Target Score

To determine your target SAT goal score, look at the 75th percentile column. Find the highest SAT score in that column; that'll be your SAT score goal. By scoring at the 75th-percentile level for the most competitive school on your list, you'll be competitive at all the schools you're applying to. So that's a good SAT score for you!

Another advantage of choosing a high goal score is that if you end up falling 10–50 points short, it's not a huge deal because you'll still be competitive for most of your schools.

You might be thinking, "Hey, wait! Why did I fill out that entire sheet if I was just going to pick the highest 75th percentile score?" Well, the advantage of filling out this information is that you now have it handy as a reference. You'll be able to compare your own SAT score with the 25th–75th percentile ranges of all your schools of interest as soon as you get your scores back.


Step 5: Make Your Goal Known

As a last step, I suggest that you do two things with your target SAT score:

#1: Share it with your parents. This can turn into a helpful conversation about your personal goals and how you want to achieve your target SAT score. Plus, your parents can help hold you accountable throughout the test-prep process!

#2: Tape it to your wall. This will keep your goal score front and center in your mind, encouraging you to stay motivated to keep up with your SAT study schedule.





Good SAT Scores for Popular Schools

To help you determine your goal score, we're giving you an SAT score chart with the 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores for 2022 for over 50 popular schools. I've also provided the current US News ranking and acceptance rate to give you an idea of how selective each school is. All schools are arranged in order of ranking.

For an even longer list, check out our collection of good SAT scores for 101 popular schools.

School 25th-Percentile SAT Score 75th-Percentile SAT Score US News Ranking Acceptance Rate
Princeton 1440 1570 1 6%
MIT 1500 1570 2 7%
Harvard 1460 1580 3 5%
Stanford 1440 1550 3 4%
Yale 1470 1560 3 4%
UChicago 1470 1570 6 6%
Johns Hopkins 1450 1560 7 7%
Penn 1440 1560 7 7%
Caltech 1530 1570 9 3%
Duke 1450 1570 10 6%
Northwestern 1450 1540 10 7%
Dartmouth 1450 1550 12 8%
Brown 1420 1550 13 5%
Vanderbilt 1450 1560 13 7%
Rice 1450 1560 15 8%
Washington U St. Louis 1470 1570 15 11%
Cornell 1420 1540 17 11%
Columbia 1450 1560 18 5%
Notre Dame 1400 1550 18 15%
UC Berkeley 1300 1530 20 11%
UCLA 1290 1510 20 9%
Carnegie Mellon 1460 1560 22 11%
Emory 1350 1520 22 15%
Georgetown 1370 1530 22 12%
NYU 1370 1510 25 12%
U of Michigan 1340 1530 25 20%
U of Southern California 1350 1530 25 10%
University of Virginia 1340 1500 25 21%
U of Florida 1280 1440 29 30%
UNC Chapel Hill 1300 1470 29 23%
Wake Forest University 1310 1470 29 29%
Tufts 1390 1540 32 10%
UC Santa Barbara 1230 1480 32 32%
UC Irvine 1180 1440 34 21%
UC San Diego 1250 1470 34 24%
Boston College 1370 1490 36 16%
U of Rochester 1340 1500 36 36%
UC Davis 1150 1410 38 46%
UT Austin 1240 1470 38 31%
U of Wisconsin 1300 1480 38 50%
Boston U 1340 1500 41 14%
U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 1220 1480 41 45%
William & Mary 1230 1510 41 34%
Brandeis 1280 1500 44 29%
Case Western  1350 1520 44 27%
Georgia Tech 1390 1540 44 16%
Northeastern 1390 1540 44 7%
Tulane 1350 1490 44 12%
The Ohio State University 1300 1420 49 57%
U of Georgia 1240 1410 49 40%
Lehigh 1300 1430 51 37%
Purdue University 1190 1440 51 69%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 1220 1420 51 53%
Villanova University 1330 1460 51 21%



What If My SAT Score Is Too Low? Three Strategies

What if your SAT score ends up being lower than your goal score? What should you do? In this situation, you have a few options to consider. We'll go over them here and help you figure out which one is best for you.


Strategy 1: Retake the SAT

If you have the time to do additional preparation for the SAT and retake it, this is probably your most straightforward strategy.

That said, keep in mind that if you really want a better SAT score, you'll need to invest a lot of time into prep and really work on shoring up your weaknesses. These are the estimated time estimates for different total score improvements (not per section) on the SAT:

  • 0- to 30-point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30- to 70-point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70- to 130-point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130- to 200-point improvement: 80 hours
  • 200- to 330-point improvement: 150+ hours


Strategy 2: Don't Worry About It

If you were just under your goal score (i.e., within 50 points), you might not actually need to do anything if that slightly lower score is still competitive. For example, if you were aiming for a 1560 for your most selective school but got a 1530, you'd definitely still be in the competitive range for that school.

Depending on how soon you'll be applying to college, it might make more sense to use the time and energy you'd spend preparing for and retaking the test on other parts of your application.

If you were more than 50 points short of your SAT goal score, consider Strategy 1 or 3.


Strategy 3: Adjust Your List of Schools

If you're 50+ points short of your goal score and don't have time to retake the test, you might need to make some adjustments to your list of schools. Although you definitely should still apply to your dream schools as reach schools, it's wise to pad out your list of match and safety schools to align with the lower scores.

For instance, maybe you were going for 1510 but got 1410 instead. With your goal score, you had NYU (middle 50%: 1370–1510) as one of your match schools. But with an actual score of 1410, this school is now more of a reach (its 75th percentile is more than 50 points higher than your score).

You also had Lehigh University (middle 50%: 1300–1430) as a safety school, but with your current score, it's better as a match school.

Finally, you might consider adding some additional safety schools that align better with your 1410 score, such as American University (middle 50%: 1220–1380) and Penn State (middle 50%: 1160–1370).

Read our guide to learn more about choosing appropriate safety, match, and reach schools.




Review: What Is a Good SAT Score for You?

So what are good SAT scores? Your total SAT score out of 1600 corresponds to a percentile ranking that compares you to everyone else who took the test. The current mean, or average, SAT score is 1050.

What is a good SAT score for you, though? The answer to this question depends on what schools you want to attend. In this article, we described a five-step process to figure out good SAT scores for you based on the middle 50% of scores for the colleges you're applying to. We also listed SAT score ranges for 50 popular schools.

Finally, we provided some advice on what to do if you don't hit your goal score. You can retake the test, do nothing (if you were pretty close to your goal score), or adjust your list of schools based on what kinds of SAT scores they're looking for.

All in all, what is a good SAT score? The most important thing to remember is that good SAT scores are specific to you. You won't necessarily need the same scores as your friends or peers, so don't feel the need to compare your goals with those of other people. What ultimately matters is that your SAT score is high enough to get you into the college of your dreams!


What's Next?


If you received a low SAT score, we have a low score guide! We can also help you figure out whether or not you should retake the SAT.

Aiming for a high SAT score? Then check out our expert guide to getting a perfect 1600, written by an actual full 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


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

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Dr. Fred Zhang
About the Author

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.

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