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.
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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 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.
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:
# of Test Takers
|American Indian/Alaska Native||14,050||456||447||902|
|Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander||5,107||478||470||948|
|Two or More Races||89,656||552||539||1091|
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
|Used at any time||376,468||503||491||996|
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).
|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:
|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
|District of Columbia (100%)||5,090||498||482||979|
|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|
|Rhode Island (100%)||11,484||501||489||990|
|South Carolina (68%)||30,867||524||503||1026|
|South Dakota (3%)||238||609||610||1218|
|Virgin Islands, US||676||474||437||912|
|West Virginia (98%)||17,139||480||456||936|
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!
Not sure whether you should take the SAT? Here are 10 reasons to consider taking the test.
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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.