Last Updated: July 20, 2021

Average SAT Score

SAT tests are generally scored from 400 to 1600 where 1600 makes a perfect score. It has two sections, namely, Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Mathematics each of which is marked within the range of 200 to 800. A score report will contain a lot of information and numbers that have to be figured out in order to understand the report. It usually contains mean scores, percentiles, and even benchmarks with sub-scores and cross-test scores all of which enable a college/university to judge the candidate's readiness for higher studies. But it should be understood that this "figuring out" is necessary because there is no particular passing score and hence averages with regard to state, top universities, public schools, etc. matter in determining the scope for admission.

Determining if the SAT Score is Good.

Calculating Average SAT Score

The average SAT score is determined by adding individual scores of students who attempted the test and then dividing it with the number of examinees who took the test. On a National Level, in 2020, this average was 1051. And according to specific sections, it was 528 for the Evidence-based Reading section and 523 for the Math section. As is evident, the averages of specific sections are nearly the same and that emphasizes the similarities in difficulty levels between sections and the level at which marks can be obtained.

While considering national SAT score averages, tracing it backward for at least 3 years gives an idea of how the average varies and how this can reflect into the next test as well. In 2019, the average score was 1059 with a 531 for ERW and 528 for Math. As for the year 2018, the national average was 1068 with 536 for ERW and 531 for Math. The graph then shows a steady decline in the national averages which can be due to an increase in the difficulty level of the test or a decrease in the number of people who are taking the test.

SAT Score Percentiles

When national SAT score averages provide a distinct idea of how the grades have been declining, it generally leaves the option for speculating the reasons behind the same. This is where one should understand the importance of national percentiles. Percentiles are calculated to give candidates an idea of where they stand in relation to all the test takers who attempted alongside them. It ranges from 1 to 99 and a higher percentile implies a better performance in the test.

The two percentiles that are available in the score report is the nationally representative sample percentile and the SAT user percentile. Here, the sample percentile reflects the percentile that the candidate would have received if all high school graduating students had taken the test. Considering that a lot of students do not attempt the test, the College Board estimates their percentile and then provides one with the sample percentile. On the other hand, the user percentile reflects on the actual position the candidate is in after comparing them to the test takers.

If the candidate received a 65 as their user percentile, it means that they have scored better than 65% of the people who attempted the test. Thus, comparing percentiles and prior knowledge about percentiles of students accepted into universities will be helpful in estimating one’s target score.

Average SAT Score by State

Average SAT scores are calculated according to States and are generally awarded State SAT Awards. These awards are based on certain categories like Highest SAT Score, Team Players with 100 Participation, Highest SAT Score with over 20% Participation, Lowest SAT Score, and Most Variation Between SAT Sections.

In the year 2020, the highest score was recorded in Minnesota with an SAT score of 1257. Since the National average is 1051, this score is 206 points higher. But the factors that have to be considered is that the participation rate for the exam is extremely low in this State and so only very ambitious students who have been preparing for SAT probably for years attempt the test. This creates a significant increase in the average they achieve.

The State that got the award for having the highest score with around 29% participation in the year 2020 in Arizona. The average SAT score here is 1139 which is again considerably higher than the national average. The States like Colorado, Delaware, DC, Florida, Rhode Island, etc. on the other hand, has a 100% participation rate which mostly implies that the high schools in these places have made SAT mandatory. Among these places, only Florida had a 100% participation rate without the test being mandatory.

The lowest score among all the states was received by West Virginia which was 936. Since taking SAT is mandatory here, the fairest conclusion will be that students who do not wish to pursue their education are also forced to take the test without a purpose thereby causing a decline in the overall average calculated.

The State that showed the highest variation between sections was Florida where students on average got 479 in Math and a 512 for Evidence-based Reading and Writing. Considering the participation level in Florida this discrepancy stands out more than most other States.

Average SAT Score in Top Universities

National averages and State averages are good enough facts to learn about, but having prior knowledge about them does not really increase one's chances of entering into their desired college. Here, what will be necessary is the skill to identify a target score for preparing for the exam. This target score should be based on the 25th and 75th percentiles of the colleges the candidate is aiming to apply for. A table has been provided below-containing information regarding the percentiles of various top universities. The general information that has been accumulated here can be used to create a target score that can be aimed for during test preparation.

University/CollegeReading / Writing
25 percentile
Reading / Writing
75 percentile
Math
25 percentile
Math
75 percentile
Harvard University720780740800
California Institute of Technology750800780800
Yale University745770770800
University of Chicago745770775800
Rice University730760775800
Johns Hopkins University735760770800
Vanderbilt University730760775800
Washington University in St Louis740770780800
Massachusetts Institute of Technology730780790800
Carnegie Mellon University700750750800
Williams College710760700790
Brown University730760755790
Columbia University in the City of New York710760740800
Princeton University740770765800
Amherst College660750670780
Dartmouth College740770760790
University of Pennsylvania690760730790
Northwestern University730760765790
Cornell University680750710790
Duke University710770710790
Swarthmore College680760700790
Stanford University700770720800
Tufts University700760710780
Emory University660730690790
Wellesley College670740660780
Pomona College700760700780
Carleton College670750680780
Northeastern University670750690790
Grinnell College640740670770
Claremont McKenna College660740680770
University of Southern California660740690790
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor660730670780
Georgetown University715750735780
Middlebury College710750735780
Barnard College670760670740
University of California-Los Angeles620710600740
Davidson College682720690730
United States Military Academy585690600710
United States Air Force Academy600690610700


It should be understood while perusing the table that the 75th percentile denotes the score that made those students outperform 75% of the students who took the test. Ideally, one should aim for a score higher than the 75th percentile and otherwise one should aim for a score nearly the same in order to be able to get admission to that particular college/university.

But this doesn't mean that a high SAT score is sufficient to procure a college seat. Perfect SAT scores have still been rejected by universities if the other parts of the application appear weak. In other words, even if one’s SAT score is below average, with great letters of recommendation and an exemplary college application, they will be able to get the seat that they desire.

SAT Scores-General Information

Reading the score report may require extra learning. The report will have red/yellow/green symbols next to the section scores. This shows the candidate’s readiness for going to college/university after they graduate. And obviously, only the green symbol conveys that the candidate is ready for college. The yellow depicts the idea that more work has to be put in whereas the red conveys the message that they are not quite ready for stepping into higher education as of now. Do NOT take the report as a fact since it is not an IQ test but only reflects the amount of information that has been retained from school.

There will be a score range in the report portraying how the score can vary upon retaking the test at multiple periods in time. Colleges, therefore, look at the score range instead of the exact score to understand the candidate’s skills better than relying on a one-time test score entirely.

The score that one will mostly receive before graduation will be a clear indicator of skills that can be improved and skills that they already excel in. Taking the test earlier helps the candidate and their teacher understand their weak points and work on them to eventually take a retest or to balance their profile with other aspects.

Find out more from SAT FAQs.


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