SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

What's a Good SAT Score for 2021?

author image
Posted by Christine Sarikas | Oct 29, 2020 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

feature_2021

Planning on taking the SAT soon? If so, you're probably wondering, "What's a good SAT score for 2021?" In this in-depth guide, we explain the three ways you can determine whether an SAT score is good or not. We also explain why it's so important to set a goal score and how the coronavirus pandemic and new school score policies have affected 2021 SAT scores.

 

What's a Good SAT Score for 2021 Overall?

To put it simply, a "good" SAT score is one that gets you accepted to the colleges you're applying to. However, a good SAT score overall is one that is considered high compared to other test takers. This means that we need to look at score averages and percentiles to be able to determine a good 2021 SAT score.

The rough rule of thumb is that any SAT score that places you in the top half of test takers is considered "good." The higher above average your score is, the better it's considered. Similarly, SAT scores that place you in the bottom half of test takers are considered not so good, and the further below average you score, the less impressive your performance is.

The current average SAT score for 2020 is 1051 (out of 1600). The average score for the Math section is 523, whereas the average score for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section is 528. This means that, if you score a 1051 or higher on the SAT in 2021, you can consider your SAT score "good" because you scored higher than most other test takers. 

The following chart tells you more specifically what SAT scores can be considered poor, good, and great. It's based on data from high school students who graduated in 2020. A percentile tells you what percentage of other test takers you scored the same as or better than on the SAT. For example, an 85th percentile score means you scored the same as or better than 85% of test takers.

Percentile
EBRW
Math
Total
99th (Best)
760 and above
790 and above
1520 and above
90th (Excellent)
670
690
1350
75th (Good)
600-610
600
1200-1210
50th (Average)
530
520
1050
25th (Poor)
450-460
440-450
900
10th (Poorer)
390-400
380
790
1st (Poorest)
330 and below
310 and below
670 and below

 

As you can see from the chart, you need to score at least 1350 to break into the top 10% of test takers. So a perfect 1600 isn't required to get an excellent score! You don't even need to break 1400.

By contrast, a score of 790 or below puts you in the bottom 10% of test takers and doesn't look impressive on college applications. Even if you managed to raise your score from 790 to 900, you'd still be in the bottom 25%, meaning that 3 out of 4 students did better than you on the SAT. As a result, we can say that any SAT score at or below the 25th percentile is poor.

However, percentiles aren't the only thing to consider when it comes to determining a good SAT score. You also need to pay attention to how strong your scores are for the specific colleges you're applying to.

 

body-good-wall-art

 

What's a Good 2021 SAT Score for You?

While knowing averages and percentiles can give you a general idea of what a good SAT score is for the general population. However, the key information you need isn't just how you compare to other test takers, but what SAT score you need to get into your dream school. At PrepScholar, we call this your SAT goal score. If you hit that score, you'll have a great shot at giving into every college you're applying to.

Obviously, your SAT goal score will depend on the colleges you're applying to. If you're applying to Ivy League schools, your goal score may end up being close to a perfect 1600. If you're looking at less competitive schools, your goal score may be several hundred points lower.

To determine your own SAT goal score for 2021, you'll need to know the average SAT scores of admitted students for the colleges you're applying to. In the next section, we walk you through each step you need to follow to gather this information.

 

3 Steps to Choosing Your SAT Goal Score for 2021

In order to find your SAT goal score for 2021, follow these three steps.

 

Step 1: Make a Schools Chart

First, you want to make a chart like the one below. It'll contain all the schools you're applying to. You can make the chart yourself or download ours by clicking the thumbnail.

body_sat_target_score_worksheet_thumbnail

This is what the chart will look like with the school names filled in:

School Name
25th Percentile SAT Score
75th Percentile SAT Score
University of Florida
 
 
University of Miami
 
 
Florida State University
 
 
University of Tampa
 
 

 

Step 2: Find SAT Score Information for Your Schools

Next, you'll need to do some research to find average SAT scores of admitted students for each of your schools. Specifically, you'll want to look for the middle 50%, or average, range of scores--i.e., the 25th and 75th percentile scores--for each school.

Many schools list this information on their admissions pages, but the easiest way to get this information is to use our PrepScholar college database. Search "[school name] PrepScholar SAT" and click on the link to the school's page. Here's an example for the University of Miami:

miamisat1-1

 

Once you're on that school's page, scroll down to find the school's SAT information. You'll need the 25th and 75th percentile scores. Here's what this information looks like on our page for the University of Miami:

miamisat2

Record the 25th and 75th percentile information in your chart. In this case, the 25th percentile is 1280, and the 75th percentile is 1420.

If you can't find your school in our PrepScholar database, check on the school's official website, and look for any page that has information on student facts and figures, admissions data, etc. You can also try searching for "[school name] average SAT scores" or something similar.

Once you've found this information for each of your schools, your chart should look similar to this:

School Name
25th Percentile SAT Score
75th Percentile SAT Score
1280
1440
1280
1420
1220
1330
1090
1250

 

Step 3: Determine Your SAT Goal Score

Now you have all the information you need to figure out what SAT score to aim for. Find the highest 75th percentile score in your chart. This will be your SAT goal score. If you reach it, you have a great chance of getting into all the schools you're applying to.

In our sample chart, the highest 75th percentile score is a 1440 at the University of Florida. That means this student's goal score is a 1440. This is quite a lofty goal score, as it puts you in the top 4% of all test takers.

If your SAT goal score feels like too much of a reach for you, then you can lower it slightly to a score between the highest and 2nd highest 75th percentile score in your chart, or just use your 2nd highest 75th percentile score as your goal score. In this case, that would make this student's goal score a 1420, which is slightly lower, but still in the 95th percentile.

Once you have your SAT goal score, you can divide this score in half to know what to aim for on both the Math and EBRW sections. For our example of a goal score of 1440, that would be a 720 on each section.

 

body_good_ok_bad_rankings

 

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

 

Good SAT Scores in 2021 Compared to Past Years

Now we know multiple ways of defining good SAT scores. But are these scores different from what were considered good years in previous years? 

The short answer is no, not really. While percentiles and averages can shift a bit each year, they rarely change dramatically. In general, what's considered a good SAT score (based on averages or percentiles) is going to stay fairly consistent from year to year.

The current version of the SAT came out in 2016, so we only have a few years of data we can use to determine how good SAT scores might have changed since then.

The following chart shows past and present SAT averages from 2017 through 2020:

Year
Avg EBRW
Avg Math
AVG TOTAL
528
523
1051
531
528
1059
536
531
1068
533
527
1060

 

As you can see, average SAT scores have changed minimally over the past four years. The last two years have seen a small decline in average scores, but 2018 also had higher averages that 2017.  This means that a good SAT score in 2021 is slightly lower than what was considered good in 2020 (if we're defining what's good using averages). Overall, however, average SAT composite scores have stayed in the 1050-1070 range.

But what about percentiles? Remember that percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers you scored the same as or higher than on the SAT.

This chart shows past and present SAT score percentiles from 2017 through 2020:

Year
90th %ile
75th %ile
50th %ile
25th %ile
10th %ile
1350
1200-1210
1050
900
790
1340
1200-1210
1050-1060
910
800
1340
1200-1210
1050-1060
910-920
800
1320-1330
1190-1200
1050-1060
910-920
800-810

 

Here, we can see that, like the average scores above, SAT percentiles really haven't changed much at all. Many percentiles are staying nearly the same, while others shifted up or down by only 10 or 20 points. 

With such little change between each year, it's hard to say whether there will be any big changes in percentiles and averages in future testing years. For now, we can confidently say the definition of a good SAT score hasn't changed really since 2017—and likely won't for a while.

 

How Has COVID-19 Affected What a Good 2021 SAT Score Is?

The coronavirus pandemic caused an upheaval for students, including how and even if they can take the SAT. As a result of SAT exam cancellations, many colleges are no longer requiring standardized test scores for the 2020/2021 admissions cycle.

As we've seen in the previous section, what a good SAT score is doesn't change much from year to year based on average scores and percentiles. However, COVID-19 has dramatically changed whether you even need an SAT score at all to get into your dream school.

However, just because many schools are temporarily test-optional doesn't mean that SAT scores no longer matter. If you are unable or prefer not to take the SAT or submit your scores, your application won't be negatively impacted; other aspects of it (particularly your grades) will just be given more weight. But, if you do choose to submit SAT scores, a high score will still be a boost to your application, and a low score may make admissions teams wary.

So, if you're applying to colleges this year, first consider whether or not you want to take the SAT and submit those scores. If you don't want to, that's perfectly fine; just make sure other areas of your application, like your GPA, letters of rec, extracurriculars, etc. are as strong as you can make them. If you decide to submit SAT scores, keep your goal score the same. Competitive colleges will still expect competitive SAT scores from students who are applying. It's possible that they will accept more students with lower SAT scores than they have in past years because of how difficult the pandemic has made it to study and take the SAT, but your best bet is to keep your original goal score. Aim for that score, and you'll be putting yourself in a great place with your applications.

If you're curious about other ways COVID-19 is impacting college applications, check out our guide that explains five ways the pandemic has changed college admissions.

 

body_good_luck

 

Conclusion: What's a Good SAT Score for 2021?

There are three main ways to define what a good SAT score is for 2021.

The simplest way is to look at the national average, which is 1051. Any score above this threshold can be considered a good score, as it means you've scored higher than the majority of test takers.

Another way of defining good SAT scores is to look at SAT score percentiles. These compare your performance with those of other test takers. The higher your percentile, the better you did relative to other students. In general, scores in the 50th percentile (1050) are average, while scores in the 75th percentile (1200-1210) and 90th percentile (1350) are good and excellent, respectively.

The final (and by far most important!) way that you can define good SAT scores for 2021 is to figure out what scores are good for you based on the colleges you're applying to. Look for SAT score data for each of your schools. Once you have that, the highest 75th percentile score will be your target score—that is, what's considered a good score for you and you alone.

Once you know what score to aim for on the SAT, you can get started on coming up with your very own SAT study plan!

 

What's Next?

Need help getting a super-high SAT score? Then check out our expert guides on how to get that elusive 1600 (written by a real full scorer!) and the best SAT prep books. We also have an ultimate SAT prep guide filled with tons of links to our most helpful SAT articles!

You know what a good SAT score is—but what about a bad SAT score? Learn about what kinds of scores are considered bad by national standards here.

Confused about how the SAT is scored? Our in-depth guides will teach you how raw scores work and how the SAT is scored by section.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

Check out our 5-day free trial today:

Improve Your SAT Score by 160+ Points, Guaranteed

 

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!


author image
Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.



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

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

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