graduateshotline logo
Last Updated: November 18, 2023

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 keep changing.

Average SAT scores with respect to the country and the different states can only help candidates 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.

The SAT will be entirely digital beginning in January 2024.

Determining a Good SAT Score Range

Colleges/universities in the Ivy League and Public Universities generally let 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 candidates have already received their SAT report and want to know how well they have performed, they can again collect the same data and determine whether they 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 one’s choice and that any score that is above average can be considered good enough to attain a decent college admission.

Join the Best Prep Courses for a Good Score.

Digital SAT Scoring

The SAT is going digital in 2024, but that does not affect the score range. The scoring scheme is the same as the SAT on paper and pencil. SAT is scored as the total sum of the scores in the two different sections of the test- Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Mathematics.

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 on the difficulty level of the paper. This adjustment that is done during the conversion process enables students/parents/colleges to compare scores from different SATs taken over time since the scores have been "scaled" according to their difficulty level.

Students will receive score reports from the digital tests in a matter of days, as compared to waiting weeks for results. Percentile rankings and a breakdown of a student's score typically are included in reports. They've also offered details on scholarships and four-year universities. The College Board intends to increase that under the new format by adding materials about nearby community colleges, workforce development, and career options.

SAT Score Ranges

Score ranges are an estimate made by the SAT by deriving from the error of measurement to understand how one’s scores would technically vary if the test was taken under different circumstances.

It provides an idea of the candidate’s 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 measurement error 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 the number of figures present in the report. But it should always start with cross-checking the candidate’s personal information to ensure that the report one has received is their own.

Total Score - Candidates can then begin with the total score shown on the left-hand side of the report. This total score is the sum of both the individual scores the candidate has received in the two sections. The total score will be considered out of 1600.

Section Scores - Then, one can move on to the section scores which will be given exactly below the total score. This will show what exact mark the candidate has 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 one can obtain.

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

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

Sub-scores - For further details regarding the scores one can look into the sub-scores which will be available at the bottom of the first page of 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 scored 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, candidates will also be able to see their old SAT scores.

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

The benchmark indicators will be present on the right-hand side of the 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 the candidate has 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, the national average SAT score was 1050, and anything below that would be considered bad in relative terms. On the other hand, a score of 1350 or greater would put the candidate in the top 10% of the students taking the test. In terms of the separate sections available, the scores below 527 and 522 respectively for ERW and Math would be considered low since those are the national averages for each section.

On the other hand, an actual bad score on the SAT would be scoring below the 25th percentile range since it implies that the candidate has 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 the candidate when it comes to what colleges deem to be a bad score. This means that despite scoring above the national average, their score might be "bad" in the sense that it might not be enough to secure admission to the college of their choice. Placing the score in the context of the college matters more than receiving scores just above the national average.

For More Information on SAT, click here.

2024 SAT Test Dates


SAT Prep - Tips

PSAT as a Stepping Stone to SAT

SAT Math