# SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

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 41 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, while the other is a combined Reading and Writing score called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW).

As you would expect, the higher your score, the better you did compared to 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, you need to know exactly how SAT scoring works. Your total score out of 1600 (as well as your two section scores out of 800) corresponds to a percentile ranking. Your SAT percentile tells you what percentage of students you scored better than. So 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 1068. 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 531, and the average score for EBRW is 536.

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 2018 SAT composite scores so you can check out the score distribution for yourself:

 SAT Composite Score (Out of 1600) Percentile 1600 99+ 1550 99+ 1500 99 1450 97 1400 94 1350 91 1300 87 1250 81 1200 74 1150 67 1100 58 1050 49 1000 39 950 31 900 23 850 15 800 10 750 5 700 2 650 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 39th to the 58th 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 10%, from the 81st to the 91st percentile. Finally, moving from 1450 to 1550, a 100-point margin near the top of the scale, nets you only about 2%!

In terms of what makes for good SAT scores based on this chart, you already know that 1070 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 9%, making it a strong score. A 1400 is in the 94th percentile, the top 6% of all test takers. And any score 1500+ puts you in the coveted top 1%!

By contrast, anything lower than a 1070 is a below-average score. For example, a 950, which is in the 31st percentile, places you in the bottom third of test takers. And a 900, which is in the 23rd percentile, places you in the bottom fourth. Not so great comparatively.

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

For example, fewer people do really, really well on EBRW than on Math. You can tell this is the case because a 750 is a 99th percentile score for EBRW, meaning you're in the top 1% of test takers. But that same score is in the 96th percentile for Math, placing you only in the top 4%.

 SAT Score (Out of 800) Math Percentile EBRW Percentile 800 99+ 99+ 750 96 99 700 92 94 650 85 86 600 75 72 550 61 56 500 40 38 450 25 22 400 13 9 350 4 2 300 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 shows 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 you scored better than 84% of test takers. Thus, a 1280 would be a solid score for schools such as the University of Cincinnati (average SAT score: 1233), ASU (average: 1232), and Temple University (average: 1221).

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 super selective schools. A score of 1040 (just below the 1070 average) is solid for less selective colleges such as Indiana University Northwest (average SAT score: 1015) and CSU Stanislaus (average: 1005).

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/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!)

Does this puppy have competitive scores for your heart?

## How to Find Your SAT Goal Score: 5-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 only requires 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.

### 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, teacher, or counselors.

However, I recommend taking the time to do some research into 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 1050; this means that 25% of admitted students have a score of 1050 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: Calculate Your Final SAT Target Score

To calculate your target SAT goal score, look at the 75th percentile column. Find the highest SAT score in that column; that’s 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 is 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.

Puppies are also a great motivator.

## 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 2018 for 41 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 1430 1570 1 6% Harvard 1460 1590 2 5% Columbia 1450 1580 3 6% MIT 1490 1570 3 7% U of Chicago 1480 1580 3 9% Yale 1420 1590 3 7% Stanford 1390 1540 7 5% Duke 1390 1580 8 10% Penn 1420 1560 8 9% Johns Hopkins 1460 1580 10 12% Northwestern 1420 1560 10 9% Caltech 1530 1590 12 8% Dartmouth 1430 1560 12 10% Brown 1405 1570 14 9% Cornell 1390 1550 16 13% Rice 1490 1580 16 16% Notre Dame 1370 1520 18 19% UCLA 1240 1490 19 16% WUSTL 1470 1570 19 16% Emory 1350 1520 21 22% Georgetown 1350 1520 22 16% UC Berkeley 1330 1530 22 17% USC 1300 1500 22 16% Carnegie Mellon 1430 1560 25 22% U of Michigan 1330 1500 27 27% NYU 1290 1490 30 28% UC Santa Barbara 1270 1500 30 33% Georgia Tech 1090 1520 35 23% U of Florida 1240 1410 35 42% Boston College 1320 1490 38 32% Boston U 1300 1480 42 25% Tulane 1330 1490 44 21% UT Austin 1160 1390 49 36% Penn State 1160 1340 59 50% U of Washington 1190 1420 59 46% George Washington 1280 1440 63 41% BYU 1210 1410 66 52% Clemson 1220 1390 66 47% American 1180 1350 78 29% Baylor 1190 1360 78 39% Indiana University 1140 1350 89 76%

## What If My SAT Score Is Too Low? 3 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.

However, 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:

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

### Strategy 2: Don’t Worry About It

If you were just under your goal score (think 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, Dartmouth, 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 in your list of schools. While 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 be in like 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%: 1290-1490) 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%: 1270-1430) 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%: 1180-1350) and Penn State (middle 50%: 1160-1340).

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

Thankfully, all puppies are safety puppies.

## 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 1068.

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 41 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 got 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.

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:

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