By this point in your life, you’ve spent years in school. You’ve studied for countless hours and completed what probably feels like a bajillion assignments. Now, it’s time to test your knowledge by taking the SAT® test, which many colleges and universities use for making admission decisions.
Taking the test can be stressful because everyone wants to get a good score. But what exactly is considered “good?”
Frankly, a good score for one student might not be a good score for another. Why? Quite simply, not every student is applying to the same school. A good SAT test score for you is whichever score you need to be a competitive college applicant at the schools on your list. So, in order to determine what score you should shoot for, you need to first take a look at how the SAT test is scored, and then consider the average score ranges for the schools you’d like to apply to.
Navigate through this article:
Recognizing the Importance of a Good SAT Test Score
It’s definitely important to get a good SAT test score. Not only may it help you get into the schools on your short list, but it can also help you qualify to apply for merit-based scholarships. And, while most people hardly give their SAT test score a second thought after they’ve graduated from college, some companies have been known to request standardized test scores from potential new hires.
Although a good score is important, it’s equally as important to keep it in context. Your score won’t dictate the path of your life. Getting a high score won’t automatically mean you’ll have a career that pays a salary of $150K, and conversely, getting a low score doesn’t mean you won’t eventually land a well-paying job. So, try not to stress out about it too much. Just focus on doing the best you can with your test preparation.
Understanding the SAT Test Grading System
The SAT test is divided into two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. On each of those sections, you could have a score from 200 to 800, for a total combined score of 400 to 1600. You will not incur a penalty for skipping a question. However, you also won’t incur a penalty for giving a wrong answer, so it’s to your advantage to make a guess if you don’t know the answer to a question.
For both sections, you’ll generate a raw score. Then, College Board will turn your raw scores into your overall scaled score. In other words, if you score 600 on each section, your final score might not necessarily be 1200. The final scaled score may be adjusted slightly to account for degree of difficulty differences across the various tests administered. For example, if Student A scores 500 on Math in March and Student B scores 550 on Math in May, Student B might not have a significantly higher scaled score if the May test was found to be easier than the March test.
Keep in mind, the test is going digital in 2023. Find out how to be ready for these new SAT test changes.
Considering the Average SAT Test Scores
One way to evaluate your own SAT test score is to compare it to the average scores of everyone else taking the test in any given year. During 2021, 1.5 million students took the test, and in 2022, 1.7 million students sat for it. The average total score for the class of 2021 was 1060. For the class of 2022, it was 1050.
When you receive your score report, it will state which percentile your score is in for your class. Your percentile is a way to compare your score to everyone else who took the exam. For example, if you scored in the 75th percentile, it means that 75% of test takers received either the same or a lower score than you. The higher your percentile is, the better your score is. You’ll receive an overall percentile, as well as individual percentiles for the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections.
Exploring Good SAT Test Scores for Specific Schools
Remember that defining a good SAT test score requires a consideration of the schools you want to apply to. You’ll need a high test score to get into the most competitive schools, but a lower score will do for less competitive colleges. Here’s a look at the average SAT test scores for applicants accepted to the following colleges, which are generally considered to be highly competitive colleges:
- Dartmouth College — 1440-1560
- Colorado School of Mines — 1320-1460
- Georgetown University – 1380-1530
- Hamilton College – 1440-1520
- Amherst College – 1440-1540
- Cornell University – 1410-1530
- New York University – 1390-1510
- Brown University – 1470-1550
- Princeton University – 1460-1570
- Harvard University – 1480-1580
- Yale University – 1480-1560
- Stanford University – 1470-1560
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 1510-1570
- California Institute of Technology— 1470-1560
- Rice University — 1490-1570
- Washington University in St. Louis —1480-1560
- Emory University — 1430-1530
- Johns Hopkins University — 1510-1560
- Georgia Institute of Technology — 1370-1520
- University of Wisconsin-Madison — 1350-1480
- Northeastern University — 1440-1530
And here are some other well-known colleges and their average SAT test score ranges:
- Baylor University – 1170-1350
- Chapman University – 1223-1400
- Drexel University – 1210-1400
- Florida State University — 1200-1330
- Indiana University Bloomington – 1170-1370
- Michigan State University – 1110-1310
- Pace University – 1120-1290
- Southern Methodist University — 1250-1440
- Texas A&M University – 1160-1370
- Texas Christian University — 1140-1345
- Texas Tech University — 1110-1280
- University of Alabama — 1080-1370
- University of Colorado-Colorado Springs — 1030-1200
- University of Texas at Austin — 1230-1480
- University of Texas at Dallas — 1190-1410
- Pepperdine University — 1280-1430
- University of Pittsburgh — 1250-1470
- University of Arizona – 1140-1360
- Virginia Tech – 1210-1410
- University of Oklahoma — 1150-1330
Most of the score range above were obtained from recent Common Data Set reports, which are often available on a college’s website. We found some ranges on College Board’s College Search feature. We recommend that students also aim to be within the middle 50% of accepted freshmen. Remember, the average score for any given university can change over time. You should visit the websites of the colleges you’ve chosen to find the most recent data available.
Identifying SAT Test Score Release Dates
Once you’ve finally taken the exam, it can be nerve-wracking to wait for your test scores! Adding to the anxiety is the fact that students will wait different lengths of time to receive their scores, depending on exactly when they take the test. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to receive your scores about two to four weeks following your exam date. You can see estimated score release dates on the College Board website.
If you took the SAT test during the summer, you may need to wait closer to four weeks. If you take it during the school year, your wait time may be closer to two weeks.
When your scores are available, you’ll receive an email from College Board. You’ll need to navigate to Student Score Reports and sign in with your College Board login to view your score report. If you didn’t create an online account, you’ll receive your scores via snail mail.
The colleges you chose will receive your SAT test scores within 10 days of when you do.
Taking a Look at SAT Test Retakes
So, you received your SAT test scores (finally!), and you think you could have performed a bit better. Perhaps you didn’t quite break into the percentile you wanted or maybe your scores are lower than the scores of students your chosen colleges typically accept. Try not to stress out about it. Many things in life do not offer re-do options, but the SAT test does. You can always retake the exam if you’d like to boost your scores.
There is no hard limit on how many times you can retake the test. You’re only limited by the number of test dates offered each year. It is our recommendation for students to plan to take the SAT test at least twice and give the ACT® test a try as well, if time allows. We advise that students plan ahead and finish testing by the end of junior year to allow time to focus on college applications.
The SAT test is administered seven times each year. However, you should not necessarily take the exam seven times in one year, as you’ll pay more in exam fees and have more exams to fret about. Instead, focus on the quality of your preparation between exam attempts. Reflect upon what you struggled with during the previous attempt, address those problem areas, and take one or more practice tests.
It’s also a good idea to work through a structured prep program for the SAT test, either online or in-person. At KD College Prep, our programs include various practice tests designed to help students practice consistently for the SAT test.
Remembering That Colleges Look Beyond SAT Test Scores
In the end, it’s important to remind yourself that your SAT test scores are only one part of your total college application package. College admissions personnel understand that a standardized test score is a general assessment of a student’s abilities compared to the sum total of their academic work.
Colleges often give more weight to students’ transcripts, which can show them if a student initially struggled but put in the effort to improve over time or chose to take more rigorous classes. The admissions personnel will also consider your essay or personal statement, letters of recommendation, community service, and extracurricular activities.
Should I take the SAT test if it’s optional?
The pandemic prompted a slew of schools to announce that they would make the SAT test optional for students who were applying during the 2021-2022 application cycle. Many of them have continued to apply this policy moving forward.
This is great news for you if you happen to dislike taking tests—but should you persist in taking it even if your chosen schools have gone test-optional? Well, it depends. If you do take the SAT test even if it’s optional, then you could qualify to apply for certain scholarships. Even if a particular scholarship doesn’t strictly require SAT test scores, they may help influence the final decision. Plus, getting a high score can help you get into a college, even if the college is test optional.
For many colleges, scores may be optional for general admission but required for some students, like those applying to honor’s colleges, scholarships, or a competitive degree program within the college. It’s also important to note that some colleges, like Georgetown and MIT, have returned to requiring test scores.
The majority of colleges will still consider test scores if you submit them, and, in some cases, they can give you an advantage over someone who chose not to submit them. For example, let’s say a college admissions officer is choosing between two applications: one with test scores and one without. Every other aspect of the application is almost identical: same GPA, same class rank, same level of coursework, similar essays, etc. In the end, the student who submitted test scores is the one that stands out.
Do colleges care if you retake the SAT test?
Colleges won’t mind if you retake the SAT test. In fact, retaking it demonstrates that you are determined to succeed. It shows that you care about being a good student—and no college will penalize you for that.
However, you will want to be mindful about your results. If your third testing attempt didn’t yield a significantly higher score than your first and second attempts, then it’s probably time to look for some one-on-one guidance with a college prep advisor or test prep tutor. An exception is if you took and retook the test very early on in your high school years—such as your freshman or sophomore years. Then, you’ll definitely want to retake it again as an 11th grader . The reason is that by the time you become a junior, you will have been exposed to more of the material found on the exam.
Is it worth it to retake the SAT test?
If you weren’t satisfied with your first score, and your first score falls short of the average scores of students accepted by your chosen colleges, then yes, it’s worth it to retake the test. Remember we recommend planning to take the SAT® test at least twice.
College Board notes that the majority of students who retake the test get a higher score on the second attempt. Plus, if you improve your total score by at least 100 points, you could be eligible for the Improve Your Score scholarship offered by College Board. At KD College Prep, our students typically see a 100 to 400-point increase with consistent prep.
What happens if I retake the SAT test and get a lower score?
Many colleges allow students to “superscore” their SAT test scores. While the practice of superscoring might sound like something out of a superhero movie, it’s actually pretty practical. Essentially, superscoring is the practice of mixing and matching your best scores across multiple sittings.
For example, let’s say you sat for the test in March and scored 550 in Math and 680 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. You take the test again in May and drive your Math section score up to 620, but your other score drops to 610. Using superscoring, you can submit a Math score of 620 and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 680.
Interested in raising your SAT test score?
Whether you’re preparing to take the SAT test for the first time or you’re thinking about retaking it, you can find the support and resources you need at KD College Prep. We offer a wide range of test prep programs for students in 7th-12th grade. You can complete our test prep programs online or attend in-person activities at a campus near you. Contact us today to request a free consultation.