The SAT / ACT is incredibly important for many students. It's used to determine admissions into talent programs like Duke's TIP or Johns Hopkins CTY. It's also a good predictor of future college potential.
But how do you know what a good SAT / ACT score is for someone in middle school? Here, Dr. Fred Zhang does a novel analysis on two data sets to find what is considered a good score for middle school students.
The ACT and SAT Are Made for High School Students. What Does This Mean for You?
First, a bit of background is needed. The ACT / SAT is primarily used as a high school test for college admissions. This means a few things. The SAT is normed at 500 points per section, while the ACT is normed around a 20. Norms are enforced average scores for high school students. Check out these links if you want to know more about what's a good ACT score for a high school student, or what's a good SAT score for a high school student.
If you use a table for high school students to examine a middle school student's score, your results will be completely wrong. You need to use a guide, like this one, that is specifically crafted for middle school students.
Also, remember that the content on the ACT / SAT is high-school level, including geometry and topics usually tested in US high schools. Therefore, performing badly on these tests in middle school should not be taken as a lack of ability — sometimes it's just the result of never having learned the content.
How We Found the Data
Few 7th graders take the SAT / ACT, so finding out what's a good or bad score is not as easy as looking at a table of percentiles from the test makers. Instead, we use two unique data sets: the Duke TIP program data set and the John Hopkins CTY data set. (In regards to the new SAT, we came up with these estimates based on data from the old version of the SAT, but we expect them to stay pretty accurate for the new version of the test that will have its first administration in March 2016.)
These are groups of very talented 7th graders who take the SAT / ACT, so we can't just take the average and distribution of these data sets to look for an average for all 7th graders. Instead, we used a statistical technique called quantile matching / maximum likelihood to infer the distribution of all 7th graders. The two data sets agree, and here are the results.
Results: Distribution of 7th Grade ACT / SAT Scores
The average scores of a 7th grade student are lower than those of a high school student. In fact, we find that the scores on the SAT are a full 400 points lower, while the scores on the ACT are about 10 points lower. Therefore, the SAT score of the median 7th grader is about a 300 per section on the SAT, while the ACT score of the median 7th grader is about a 10. A standard deviation in the SAT is around 100 points per section, and is around a 6 on the ACT.
This means that the scores translate as follows:
|Interpretation||Percentile||ACT Score||SAT Score|
What this data shows us is that, if you score about an 10 on the ACT or a 300 on each section of the SAT (or a 600 with both sections combined), you're getting about the average score for a 7th grader. If you score around a 4 on the ACT or a 200 for each SAT section, then about three-quarters of other 7th graders would have a higher score than you.
What's a Good SAT / ACT Score for a 7th Grader?
From the table above, we can conclude that a good SAT / ACT score for 7th graders, a score that beats three-quarters of similar students in the USA, is a 16 on the ACT and an 800 on the SAT.
However, as I warned above, the SAT / ACT is not intended to evaluate 7th graders, so don't despair if your score is lower than this. You can always boost it later by learning the content and studying more.
How Can 7th Graders Prepare for the SAT / ACT?
Now that you know what a good standardized test score for a 7th grader is, how can you keep improving your score until it's where you want it to be?
We have a lots of guides to help you understand the SAT and ACT. First, you will want to decide if you should start preparing for the SAT or ACT in 7th grade. If you decide to take one of these tests in 7th grade, check out this guide that explains how 7th graders can begin their test preparation for the SAT or ACT.
Practice tests are very important for standardized test prep as well, and we have many free and official SAT practice tests and ACT practice tests.
You might also be interested in preparing for standardized tests that students typically take before the SAT and ACT. We have complete guides to both the new PSAT and the ACT Aspire tests.
Use these resources and you'll be well on your way to getting a strong score the next time you take the SAT or ACT!
The college admissions process has become so competitive that it's helpful to plan well in advance for SAT/ACT prep during high school. Here are a few guides to help your thinking:
How long before the SAT should you study?
Can you start test prep even in middle school? Is it appropriate?
Want to score a perfect SAT or ACT score? Read our guide to scoring the maximum SAT score possible, written by our resident perfect scorer. (ACT edition here).
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?
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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.