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What Is the Average SAT Score?

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Posted by Allen Cheng | Oct 22, 2021 11:00:00 AM

SAT General Info

 

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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 the most recent data available, from 2021.

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.

 

National SAT Average Score

According to the College Board's 2021 total group report, the national SAT average scores (for all 2021 high school graduates) are as follows:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 533
  • Math: 528
  • Total: 1060

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 1060, 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.

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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 2021 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 535 519 1054
Male 530 537 1067
No Response 540 501 1041

 

As you can see, males outperform females on Math by 18 points, while females exceed males on EBRW by 5 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 male and female students 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 10,288 468 459 927
Asian 167,208 597 642 1239
Black/African American 168,454 477 457 934
Hispanic/Latino 352,094 490 477 967
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 3,015 481 469 950
White 635,486 562 550 1112
Two or More Races 54,961 565 551 1116
No Response 117,627 483 493 976
Total 1,509,133 515 512 1028

Source: Total Group Report 2021

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 106,936 517 501 1018
Didn't use 1,402,197 534 530 1064

Source: Total Group Report 2021

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. NOTE: these averages come from 2016 and use the old 2400-point SAT scale (the 2017-2021 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 2020-2021 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 (3%) 1,706 591 568 1159
Alaska (23%) 1,842 567 553 1119
Arizona (11%) 9,010 592 589 1181
Arkansas (2%) 792 610 584 1194
California (24%) 116,394 527 530 1057
Colorado (56%) 34,952 544 528 1072
Connecticut (69%) 30,487 545 527 1072
Delaware (96%) 10,289 499 485 984
District of Columbia (90%) 4,117 500 487 987
Florida (81%) 172,869 513 480 993
Georgia (41%) 49,170 551 534 1086
Hawaii (26%) 3,848 572 572 1144
Idaho (90)% 19,211 502 483 985
Illinois (80%) 119,086 508 498 1007
Indiana (43%) 32,671 551 544 1095
Iowa (2%) 625 623 620 1243
Kansas (2%) 1,080 616 623 1219
Kentucky (4%) 1,853 609 603 1207
Louisiana (3%) 1,409 605 583 1188
Maine (29%) 4,177 558 541 1099
Maryland (47%) 33,457 542 531 1073
Massachusetts (34%) 27,255 591 593 1184
Michigan (68%) 71,935 523 508 1031
Minnesota (2%) 1,709 626 636 1263
Mississippi (1%) 423 612 589 1202
Missouri (2%) 1,796 614 606 1219
Montana (5%) 489 618 607 1225
Nebraska (2%) 379 625 620 1246
Nevada (4%) 1,295 596 598 1195
New Hampshire (71%) 11,050 540 526 1065
New Jersey (48%) 54,415 562 563 1125
New Mexico (30%) 6,270 508 488 996
New York (55%) 116,219 526 531 1057
North Carolina (23%) 26,520 578 571 1150
North Dakota (1%) 96 631 628 1258
Ohio (15%) 19,639 525 523 1048
Oklahoma (6%) 2,631 535 507 1042
Oregon (17%) 7,176 565 554 1119
Pennsylvania (39%) 56,934 566 557 1123
Puerto Rico not provided 2,383 511 483 994
Rhode Island (68%) 7,833 514 497 1011
South Carolina (48%) 25,595 529 507 1036
South Dakota (1%) 139 605 610 1215
Tennessee (4%) 2,625 618 602 1220
Texas (59%) 225,685 505 498 1003
Utah (1%) 654 621 617 1238
Vermont (41%) 2,633 571 553 1124
Virginia (41%) 38,927 584 567 1151
Virgin Islands, US not provided 478 484 435 920
Washington (27%) 19,979 537 535 1072
West Virginia (45%) 8,073 520 487 1007
Wisconsin (1%) 874 604 611 1215
Wyoming (2%) 99 626 607 1233

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.

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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.



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