The SAT / ACT is a good predictor of future college potential. During 8th grade these tests are looming ahead, but how do you know what's a good SAT / ACT score for someone at this grade level? Here, Dr. Fred Zhang does a novel analysis on two data sets to find what is considered a good score for middle school students.
How Do We Determine a Good SAT/ACT Score for 8th Graders?
The ACT / SAT is primarily used as a high school test for college admissions, and most students who take these exams are in 11th or 12th grade. This means a few things. The SAT is normed at 500 points, while the ACT is normed around a 20. Norms are enforced average scores for the normal high school student taking it — usually in 11th or 12th grade. If you're in these grades, check out these links for a good ACT score and a good SAT score.
If you use a table for high school students to examine a student in 8th grade, your results will be completely wrong. You need to use a guide like this, that is specifically crafted for 8th graders. Also, remember that the content on the ACT / SAT is at the high school level, and it includes geometry and other topics usually taught only in or near 11th grade. Therefore, performing badly on these tests in 8th grade should not be taken as a lack of ability — sometimes it's just a result of not having learned the content yet.
How We Found the Data
Few students younger than 11th graders (relatively speaking) take the SAT or ACT, so finding out how to gauge a good or bad score is not as easy as looking at a table of percentiles from the test makers. Instead, we used two unique data sets: the Duke TIP program data set, and the John Hopkins CTY data set. In regards to the new SAT (introduced in March 2016), 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 current version of the exam.
These are groups of very talented 7th graders who took the SAT / ACT, so we can't just take the average and distribution of these data sets. Instead, we used a statistical technique called quantile matching / maximum likelihood to infer the distribution of all 7th graders. Then, we used linear interpolation to determine good scores for 8th graders.
Results: Distribution of 8th Grade ACT / SAT Scores
The average SAT / ACT score of an 8th grade student is lower than that of a high school student. In fact, we find that the scores on the SAT are a full 450 points lower per section, while the scores on the ACT are about 7 points lower. Therefore, the SAT score of the median 8th grader is about a 350 per section, and the ACT score of the median 8th grader is about a 13. 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 a 13 on the ACT or a 350 on each section of the SAT (or a 700 with both sections combined), you're getting about the average score for an 8th grader. If you score around a 7 on the ACT or a 250 for each SAT section, then about three-quarters of other 8th graders would have a higher score than you.
What's a Good SAT / ACT Score for an 8th Grader?
From the table above, we can conclude that a good SAT / ACT score for 8th graders, which beats three-quarters of similar students in the U.S., is a 19 on the ACT and a 900 (over both sections) on the SAT.
Keep in mind that, as I warned above, the SAT / ACT is not intended to evaluate students before their college admissions timeline, so don't despair if your score is lower than this. You can always boost it later on by learning the content and studying more.
How Can 8th Graders Prepare for the SAT / ACT?
Now that you know what a good standardized test score for an 8th grader is, how can you meet your ideal score?
We have a lot 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 8th grade. 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.
Use these resources and you'll be well on your way to getting a great score the next time you take the SAT or ACT!
When should you start prepping for the SAT? Our expert guide gives you four key tips to help you figure out the best time to begin studying.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?
Check out our best-in-class online SAT and ACT prep classes. We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your SAT score by 160+ points or your ACT score by 4+ points.
Our classes are entirely online, and they're taught by experts. If you liked this article, you'll love our classes. Along with expert-led classes, you'll get personalized homework with thousands of practice problems organized by individual skills so you learn most effectively. We'll also give you a step-by-step, custom program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.
Try it risk-free today:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
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.