SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

What Is the Average SAT Score?

Posted by Allen Cheng | Sep 27, 2020 11:00:00 AM

SAT General Info

 

feature_average.jpg

If you've taken the SAT, you're probably curious about how your score stacks up against the average SAT scores. There are lots of different ways to look at averages on the SAT. What is the average SAT score overall? How many types of average SAT scores are there? And which SAT score averages are important for you?

We'll answer all of these questions and more to tell you which SAT average scores actually matter for your future. We'll review data from 2020.

So what is an average SAT score? That really depends on which group of people you're looking at. Below, we look at national averages as well as averages by gender, ethnicity, family income, high school type, and state. Plus,

 

National SAT Average Score

According to the College Board's 2019 total group report, the national SAT average scores (for all 2020 high school graduates) are as follows:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 528
  • Math: 523
  • Total: 1051

As you can see, if you score higher than 1060 on the SAT, you'll be above the national average and will have scored better than most test takers. If you score less than 1050, however, you'll be below the national average and will have scored lower than most test takers.

Bonus: Review how to find the average of a set of numbers for yourself here.

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

 

The Average SAT Scores by Gender

The College Board has also calculated the average SAT scores by gender. These averages are based on members of the class of 2019 who took the SAT.

There are two sections on the SAT: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each section is out of 800 points and then combined for a total score out of 1600.

Gender EBRW Math Total
Female 532 516 1048
Male 523 531 1055
No Response 499 468 967

 

As you can see, males outperform females on Math by 15 points, while females exceed males on EBRW by 9 points.

According to a statistical significance test (t-test), the differences in EBRW and math scores here are considered extremely significant (in technical terms, the P value is less than 0.0001, meaning roughly that it is very unlikely these differences are due to chance).

The difference between genders in math* test scores has been explored by academic researchers and has been a controversial topic. It should be a goal of the educational system to close this achievement gap between genders, and is only one of several factors regarding equity that we have to consider when asking what is an average SAT score.

*I looked for research to back up the differences between EBRW scores for students identifying as male vs those identifying as females but was unable to find anything both relevant and peer-reviewed from the last 15 years. We'll update this article with more information as and when it comes out.

 

The Average SAT Scores by Ethnicity

When registering for the SAT, the College Board gives you the option to specify your ethnicity, with most students opting to share it. Here are the average SAT scores by ethnicity:

Ethnicity

# of Test Takers

EBRW

Math

Total

American Indian/Alaska Native 14,050 456 447 902
Asian 223,451 585 632 1217
Black/African American 261,326 473 454 927
Hispanic/Latino 569,370 491 478 969
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 5,107 478 470 948
White 909,987 557 547 1104
Two or More Races 89,656 552 539 1091
No Response 125,513 488 507 996
Total 2,198,460 528 523 1051

Source: Total Group Report 2020

The implications of these results are important to consider. The black-white test score gap, for example, has been researched extensively to try to find the root causes of it. In the other direction, Asians have the highest SAT score averages, which has led some to question whether colleges discriminate against Asians. (Of course, the disparity in sizes of the different groups taking the SAT and socioeconomic inequality also play a key role in creating these differences.)

As with gender, reducing achievement gaps between ethnicities is a critical priority for educators.

 

The Average SAT Score by Fee Waiver Use

Historically, the SAT has had problems with students from lower-income households scoring lower on average than students from higher-income households. While the College Board no longer publicly reports data on family income and SAT scores, they do include information on scores for students who have and have never used a fee waiver to take the SAT.

 

SAT Fee Waiver

Number of test-takers

EBRW

Math

Total

Used at any time 376,468 503 491 996
Didn't use 1,821,992 533 430 1063

Source: Total Group Report 2020

As you can see, a higher average score on the SAT is typically associated students who never used a fee waiver, which in turn is associated with higher family income. This is a trend that's been observed for some time.

There are many reasons why those from higher-income families tend to score higher on the SAT—they are likely to attend better schools and have more resources to devote to preparation, to name a couple. This is another key equity issue facing educators, and another factor we have to consider when asked what is an average SAT score.

One of the stated reasons for the SAT redesign was to try to make test results less correlated with income, but so far, at least, it's unclear how successful the College Board has been.

 

The Average SAT Score by School Type

Average SAT scores also differ by school type. Again, these averages come from 2016 and use the old 2400-point SAT scale (the 2017-2020 reports did not release information for school type).

School Type

Reading

Math

Writing

Total

Public 487 494 472 1453
Religiously Affiliated 532 537 525 1594
Independent 530 579 536 1645
Other or Unknown 491 580 498 1569

Source: Total Group Profile Report 2016

As you can see, students at independent schools have the highest averages, followed by those at religious private schools, other or unknown schools, and finally public schools.

This trend is unsurprising since private school attendance is typically expensive—certainly more expensive than public school. Thus, the pattern here is clearly correlated with income, which we already saw made a big difference in average SAT scores.

Educational achievement is an incredibly complex issue, with environmental, social, and economic factors all at play. Reducing achievement gaps by gender, ethnicity, and income is a big priority for educators.

See below for the converted average scores for your reference:

School Type

Math (New)

EBRW

New Total

Public 520 540 1060
Religiously Affiliated 560 590 1150
Independent 560 590 1150
Other or Unknown 520 550 1070

 

 

The Average SAT Score by State

Below, I've given the 2020 average SAT scores by state (as well as for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC).

State (% of students taking the SAT)

# of Test Takers

EBRW

Math

Total

Alabama (7%) 3,201 576 561 1127
Alaska (37%) 2,822 555 543 1098
Arizona (29%) 19,634 571 568 1139
Arkansas (4%) 1,300 590 567 1157
California (67%) 284,631 527 522 1049
Colorado (100%) 59,781 511 501 1012
Connecticut (100%) 42,939 527 512 1039
Delaware (100%) 10,960 497 481 978
District of Columbia (100%) 5,090 498 482 979
Florida (100%) 186,321 512 479 992
Georgia (68%) 72,535 537 516 1053
Hawaii (51%) 7,237 549 546 1095
Idaho (100)% 20,640 500 484 984
Illinois (98%) 140,785 504 503 1007
Indiana (64%) 45,911 540 534 1074
Iowa (3%) 934 611 609 1220
Kansas (4%) 1,330 617 620 1237
Kentucky (4%) 1,853 609 598 1207
Louisiana (5%) 2,172 597 573 1170
Maine (98%) 13,578 504 491 995
Maryland (88%) 56,687 522 507 1029
Massachusetts (80%) 57,755 560 559 1119
Michigan (100%) 106,863 503 495 998
Minnesota (4%) 2,601 624 633 1257
Mississippi (3%) 790 610 593 1203
Missouri (4%) 2,548 610 603 1212
Montana (10%) 933 598 587 1185
Nebraska (3%) 626 615 614 1226
Nevada (17%) 4,164 579 571 1150
New Hampshire (93%) 14,116 531 524 1055
New Jersey (82%) 82,988 541 540 1081
New Mexico (19%) 3,883 533 522 1055
New York (79%) 160,484 528 530 1058
North Carolina (48%) 50,595 553 544 1096
North Dakota (2%) 132 615 617 1231
Ohio (21%) 25,190 536 534 1070
Oklahoma (20%) 8,471 490 481 971
Oregon (51%) 18,336 557 547 1104
Pennsylvania (67%) 90,486 543 534 1078
Puerto Rico 3,483 511 481 993
Rhode Island (100%) 11,484 501 489 990
South Carolina (68%) 30,867 524 503 1026
South Dakota (3%) 238 609 610 1218
Tennessee (7%) 4,445 601 585 1186
Texas (73%) 252,019 510 500 1010
Utah (3%) 1,286 601 603 1204
Vermont (63%) 4,147 559 545 1103
Virginia (65%) 58,485 567 549 1116
Virgin Islands, US 676 474 437 912
Washington (69%) 47,393 539 534 1073
West Virginia (98%) 17,139 480 456 936
Wisconsin (3%) 1,913 615 628 1243
Wyoming (2%) 137 614 606 1220

Source: The College Board

There's a lot of variation in average SAT scores by state. This is due to a lot of factors, but one big one is whether or not the state requires all public school students to take the SAT. In these cases, scores tend to be lower because even students who might not typically take the SAT (or prepare for it) must take it in school.

By contrast, in states where the SAT is not required, students who take the SAT take it specifically to prepare their college applications. As a result, the subsample of students who take the SAT will, in general, be more prepared and get higher scores.

For more info on this topic, check out our complete guide to average SAT scores by state.

 

What Average SAT Scores Really Matter for YOU?

While we've gone through a lot of interesting SAT data based on gender, ethnicity, family income, school type, and state, most of it won't be particularly relevant to your own interests and goals. It's helpful to know what an average SAT score is nationally, or what the average SAT score is according to the data above, there's more you need to know in order to get into your top school.

The truth is, what SAT score you need depends entirely on the schools you're applying to. The average SAT scores that matter most for you are the averages for the colleges you're interested in. If you can score above a school's average SAT score, you'll have a far better chance of getting in.

But what score should you aim for specifically? The score you need to hit to give yourself your best chance of admission is your SAT goal score. We explain more about how to find this in our article on what makes a good SAT score.

Briefly, though, here's what you'll need to do: on a chart, record the 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores (i.e., the middle 50% or average range) for each of the schools you're applying to. Once you've filled everything out, look for the highest 75th percentile score to get your goal score.

Hit this score on test day, and you'll have a great shot at getting into your dream school!

 

What's Next?

Not sure whether you should take the SAT? Here are 10 reasons to consider taking the test.

Want to know the average SAT scores from past years? Maybe you want help predicting your own SAT score, or are wondering whether there's a minimum SAT score requirement for college.

Need help preparing for the SAT? Then check out our total guide to studying for the test. We also have a one-month cramming plan and some tips for balancing your test prep with school!

 

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.

Click on the button below to try it out!

Sign Up!

 

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Allen Cheng
About the Author

As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. He's committed to providing the highest quality resources to help you succeed. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and earned two perfect scores on the SAT (1600 in 2004, and 2400 in 2014) and a perfect score on the ACT. You can also find Allen on his personal website, Shortform, or the Shortform blog.



Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!