Last Updated: February 04, 2021

What is a Good SAT Score?

Determining a good SAT score involves a considerable number of variables and estimates given the fact that though the system remains the same the students who attempt it keeps changing. In the year 2021, especially a good range of SAT scores will be difficult to determine due to the change in policies regarding SAT Subject Tests and the optional Essay.

Average scores with respect to the country and the different states can only help you determine a good score to an extent. The real understanding of a good SAT score comes from the strategic planning a student has in figuring out the average scores accepted by desired colleges and then comparing it to their score.

Colleges/ universities in the Ivy League and Public Universities put out information regarding the 25th and 75th percentiles of students who were admitted into their academic spaces during the previous year. One should collect these scores and then estimate a target score ideally before even preparing for the test. But if you have already received your SAT report and you want to know how you have performed, you can again collect the same list and determine whether you stand a chance in applying to that particular college.

Generally speaking, considering that the highest possible grade attainable in SAT is 1600, a score of 1400 and above can be considered to be a good score. Anything lesser than 1000 can be considered a bad score since the national average has been above 1000 for the past 5 years which would imply that more than half the people who have attempted the test have received a score above 1000. One should keep in mind that a good score would be one that surpasses at least the performances of more than 75% of people who have taken the test and then prepare accordingly.

What should be understood is that ultimately a good score would be one prescribed by the college of your choice and that any score that is above average can be considered good enough to attain a decent college admission.

SAT Scoring

SAT is scored as a total sum of the scores in the two different sections of the test- Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Mathematics. The optional SAT Essay(discontinued from June 2021) is scored separately and hence does not affect an overall SAT score.

Raw Score - The raw score, which is the mark achieved for each correct answer, is added up in each section first. Since there is no negative marking the score that is received for correct answers will remain the same and includes only addition.

Scaled Score - The raw score is then converted into a scaled score between 200 and 800 for each section. What is implied while saying the score is scaled is that minor adjustments are made to the scores depending upon the difficulty of the paper. This adjustment done during the conversion process enables students/ parents/ colleges in comparing scores from different SAT tests taken over time since the scores have been "scaled" according to their difficulty level.

SAT Score Ranges

Score ranges are an estimate made by SAT by deriving from the error of measurement to understand how your scores would technically vary if the test was taken under different circumstances.>br>
It provides an idea of your overall skills and at the same time recognizes the fact that certain choices in the test might have been guesswork(due to the lack of negative marking) and that some other choices may have been mismarked despite knowing the right answer in the long run. This error in judgment is accounted for through the error in measurement and a total score range of +/-40 points will be provided in the score report.

Section scores will have a margin of +/-30 points and the other scores namely test scores, sub-scores, and cross-test scores will have a margin of +/-2 points. Colleges/ universities generally look into the score range rather than the ultimate score provided in the report.

Interpret SAT Scores

Interpreting SAT scores from a score report might seem a little intimidating due to a large number of figures present in the report. But it should always start with cross-checking your personal information to ensure that the report you have received is your own.

Total Score - You can, then move on to the total score shown on the left-hand side of the report. This total score is the sum of both the individual scores you have received in the two sections. The total score will be considered out of 1600.

Section Scores - Then, move on to the section scores which will be given exactly below the total score. This will show what exact mark you received for the Evidence-based Reading and Writing section and the Mathematics section. The range of each of these scores will be between 200 and 800 where 800 is the maximum you can obtain.

These two scores are the primary scores you will need to remember as your SAT scores. But if you want to further understand the nuances of the scoring system and where you could have improved, you can analyze the rest of the scores given in the report.

Individual Test Scores - The individual test scores are based on the marks you have scored in the subdivisions of the two parts of the exam. If you have a more diagnostic approach toward the exam you can find how much you have scored in various parts of the SAT.

Sub-scores - For further details regarding the scores you can look into the sub-scores which will be available at the bottom of the first page in the score report. This will be scored on a scale between 1-15.

The concepts that are assessed for sub-scores are those in questions dealing with command in evidence, words in context, expression of ideas, expression of ideas, Standard English Conventions, algebraic concepts, problem-solving, and data analysis along with advanced Math.

Cross-test Scores - The cross-test scores are the scores that are for the areas called Analysis in History and Analysis in Science. These areas are not explicitly asked in the test and hence are scores for questions that come close to these subjects. It appears in the lower half of the front page of the score report and is scaled between 10-40. Apart from all these scores, you will also be able to see your old SAT scores .

SAT User Percentile - After going through the scores, you can review your percentiles where the SAT User Percentile stands for your percentile with respect to the test-takers in your year.

The benchmark indicators will be present on the right-hand side of your section scores as color-coded symbols. Receiving a green checkmark indicates that the benchmark has been met. On the other hand, receiving a yellow exclamation mark indicates that you have not performed on an above-average scale.

What is a Bad SAT Score?

A bad SAT score would be receiving a composite score that is below the national average. For the year 2020, for instance, a score of less than 1050 would be considered bad in relative terms. In terms of the separate sections available, the scores of 527 and 522 respectively for ERW and Maths would be considered low since those are the National averages for each section.

On the other hand, an actual bad score in SAT would be scoring below the 25th percentile range since it implies that you have scored less than 75% of all test-takers in that particular year. This is a general take on what a bad SAT score is.

Scoring badly affects you when it comes to what colleges deem to be a bad score. This means that despite scoring above the national average, your score might be "bad" in the sense that it might not be enough to secure your admission in your college of choice. Placing the score in the context of your college matters more than receiving scores just above the national average.


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