SAT scores are by no means the determining factor in college admissions, but they play a significant role in narrowing down the applicant pool. Admissions teams receive more applications than they can read, so they begin by looking at course rigor, GPA, and standardized test scores. If your scores, in conjunction with these other two factors, are high enough to clear this initial hurdle, admissions counselors will read your personal statement, discover your extracurricular passions, and get a well-rounded sense of who you are.
What is high enough to clear that hurdle? That depends on where you apply.
What do my SAT scores mean?
SAT Score Overview:
SAT scores range from 400 to 1600. This overall score breaks down into two section scores —Evidence Based Reading & Writing and Math — each with a potential score range from 200 to 800. In 2016 the average SAT score was a 1080. At some schools, a 1080 is high enough — at other schools, you’ll need to score significantly higher in order to secure admittance.
What do the percentiles on my score report mean? Good question! Percentile rankings compare your performance to other test takers nationwide. If you scored a 1080, you would fall in the 50th percentile, meaning that you scored higher than 50% of 11th and 12th graders.*
* SAT score reports include two percentile rankings: National Percentile and SAT User Percentile. The National Percentile compares your results to study samples of 11th and 12th grade students throughout the U.S. The SAT User Percentile compares your scores to study samples of college-bound 11th and 12th graders nationwide. We’ve used SAT User Percentile ranges below.
Highly Competitive Scores (Top 10%) | Composite 1340-1600 | EBRW 670-800 | Math 680-800
Scoring in the top 10% of test takers makes you a strong candidate at top state schools, such as UVA and UNC, and at competitive private schools ranging from bustling NYU to serene Davidson College. In order to be competitive at top private schools like Georgetown and U. Chicago or at the Ivy Leagues, you’ll need to score in the in the mid-1400’s or higher. Successful candidates at Yale, for example, typically have an EBRW score of 710-800 and a Math score of 710-790.
Competitive Scores (Top 25%) | Composite 1220-1600 | EBRW 620-800 | Math 610-800
If your score lands you in the top 25% of test takers, you’ll be a compelling candidate at competitive state schools, like UGA and UCLA, and at strong private schools including Wake Forest, Fordham, and Boston University. Paired with leadership experience or excellence in extracurriculars, you could land a spot at a top institution, so add a reach school or two to your list.
Above Average Scores (50%+) | Composite 1080-1600 | EBRW 540-800| Math 530-800
If you rank in the 50th percentile or above, you will be a strong candidate at a wide range of colleges, from sprawling state schools, like the University of Alabama and FSU, to moderately competitive schools, such as Clemson, Syracuse, and Rhodes College.
Below the 50th Percentile | Composite 1070 or lower | EBRW 540 or lower | Math 550 or lower
If your score is below average, you still have a lot of college options to explore. Every state has smaller-scale state universities — Valdosta State in Georgia or Bowie State just east of Washington, D.C. — and most major state universities are located near a community college. Often, students start at a community college, bulk up their GPA, and transfer into another institution sophomore year.
How is the SAT Scored?
The grading process begins with your raw scores — the number of questions you got correct in each section. The highest raw score you can get on the math section, for example, is a 58, because there are 58 questions.
Next, your raw score gets converted to a scaled score. A raw score of 58 converts to a scaled Math section score of 800, a 57 converts to a 790, and so on down the line. Graders add your Reading and Writing raw scores (each ranging from 1 to 40) together. So, if you got every EBRW question correct you would get a raw score of 80, which converts to a scaled section score of 800.
Last but not least, your Math and EBRW scores are added to achieve your total score out of 1600.
The SAT does not deduct points for wrong answers, so you should always guess if you’re not sure about a question or if time begins to run out.
Tip from our experts: Guess the same letter every time — this strategy will increase your chances of selecting the right answer. Guessing might sound like a cop-out, but it’s actually a powerful strategy! If you guessed on 10 of the math questions and got 3 of them right, you would boost your math score by 30 points. That’s right, guessing could be the difference between a 570 and a 600.
How is the essay scored?
Two graders read your SAT essay, and each of them assigns you a score (ranging from 1-4) in three categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The first category assesses your understanding of the prose passage in the prompt. The second category evaluates the effectiveness of the rhetorical analysis in your essay. The final category considers the clarity and diversity of your writing style. After each grader tallies up, they add their scores together, and give you three essay scores, each ranging from 2 to 8.
How Applerouth Can Help You Achieve Higher Scores
Want to know the great thing about SAT scores? They aren’t set in stone. You can study for this test and achieve major score gains if you plan ahead, practice often, and prepare effectively. We can help you with all of the above – it’s kind of our thing. If you’ve taken an official test and want to improve, or if you just want to try your hand at a practice test to learn what this whole SAT thing is all about, we would love to answer your questions throughout this process. Contact one of our specialists at 404-728-0661 or explore our SAT test prep options.
What Else is Important in College Admissions?
We get excited about helping you achieve your dream score, but, when all is said and done, it’s only one factor in college admissions. The classes that inspire you, the grades you achieve, the exciting, creative, ambitious things you pursue outside of school — all of that matters too! In the end the important thing is that you end up at a school where you can thrive. Students like you find that place by paying attention to what they love and giving it their all.