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Planning and preparing for the SAT and ACT is tough proposition. Let our experts make it easier for you and your student by reviewing some of the many options available to improve scores, grow scholarship offers, and get into the best college!

What’s The Average SAT Score?

For starters, the total number of points on the SAT has changed several times over the past few years. For a long time, the exam was based out of 1600 points. A decade ago, however, the College Board made the essay section mandatory and added it to students’ scores, for a possible total of 2400 points. Then, just this past year, responding to competition from the ACT, the SAT was revised again, with the essay becoming optional once more, and the highest possible score returning to a 1600.

So the average SAT score depends a lot on which version of the test you took, and therefore which year you took it in. If you’re applying to college today, all that matters are the scores for the most recent version of the test. For the revised SAT, released this past year, the average student received a score of 1000, with the top 25 percent of test takers receiving a 1200 or higher, and the bottom 25 percent scoring an 840 or below. The lowest possible score on the new SAT is a 400 (200 base points for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 200 for Math).

We here at Prep Expert, will work with you or your child to make sure they have what it takes to get the best score possible. We offer great SAT prep courses that will improve their score tremendously.

Average SAT Scores For State School Admissions & Scholarship Programs

One reason you might be wondering about the average SAT score is because you’re applying for admission to a state college or university, or because you’re applying to a state-specific scholarship program. If so, and you think you need to improve your score, visit our SAT prep courses and see what’s available before your next test!

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A state’s average SAT score is affected by a variety of factors, such as its size, the total number of students taking the exam in that state, and the quality of its educational system. Here are the average SAT scores by state, ranked from highest to lowest:

Rank State Average SAT Score
1 Massachusetts 1130
2 Connecticut 1126
3 Minnesota 1107
4 New Jersey 1104
5 Illinois 1101
6 New Hampshire 1101
7 North Dakota 1099
8 Virgina 1099
9 South Dakota 1099
10 Iowa 1098
11 Wisconsin 1096
12 Vermont 1093
13 Colorado 1090
14 Missouri 1089
15 Michigan 1086
16 Kansas 1081
17 Georgia 1080
18 Indiana 1075
19 Florida 1073
20 Nebraska 1070
21 Wyoming 1067
22 Kentucky 1064
23 New York 1062
24 North Carolina 1062
25 Oregon 1058
26 Maryland 1057
27 Washington 1057
28 Idaho 1056
29 South Carolina 1056
30 Hawaii 1056
31 Tennessee 1054
32 California 1054
33 Ohio 1051
34 Arizona 1045
35 Pennsylvania 1044
36 Oklahona 1043
37 Rhode Island 1042
38 Montana 1039
39 Alaska 1037
40 Mississippi 1035
41 Arkansas 1034
42 Utah 1027
43 Texas 1026
44 Nevada 1017
45 New Mexico 1016
46 Delaware 1015
47 District of Columbia 1012
48 Louisiana 1011
49 Maine 1008
50 Alabama 998
51 West Virginia 963

So, based on the numbers above, if you’re applying to a college, university, or scholarship program in a state like Massachusetts, you face a more competitive environment than a student in, say, Louisiana. Just keep in mind, in these situations, it’s your state’s average SAT score, not the national average, that matters.

Now, How Much Does This All Matter?

Other than for the reasons mentioned above, not much. And that’s because overall, college and university admissions officials care little about national or state average SAT scores. What they care most about is the average SAT score of the students that apply to their schools. Generally, for more competitive schools, the average SAT score of admitted students will be higher than for less-competitive schools.

Where Do I Find This Information?

Most schools’ admissions websites will have score bands showing the average SAT scores of admitted students. Typically, these bands will list the average scores for the 25th percentile, 50th percentile and 75th percentile of admitted students.

Because your SAT score isn’t the only number admissions officers will be looking at, your GPA will play a role in how close to a particular percentile you’ll need to be in order to gain admission to a given school. Of course, it’s always best to shoot for the 50th percentile or higher. But, if you have a particularly high GPA, you might be able to get away with having an SAT score closer to the 25th percentile at a particular school, and still gain admission. (Conversely, students with comparatively low GPAs will want to shoot for the 75th percentile of SAT scores in order to consider themselves competitive candidates for admission at a given school.)

Another excellent resource for this sort of information is your high school guidance counselor. At most high schools, the guidance office will have records of all the students from your school who were admitted to, rejected from, or waitlisted at, particular colleges and universities in the past few years, with their average GPAs and SAT scores listed. At some schools today, this information is available online, through programs like Naviance.

In terms of gauging your chances for admission to a particular school, these numbers are the most useful. The average SAT scores of students at your high school, and their admissions results, much more accurately reflect what score colleges and universities will expect from you come application time. So don’t fret too much about these state and national numbers.

What’s The Average Score For My Dream School?

Below is a list of some of the most competitive colleges and universities, ranked in the order of highest 75th percentile SAT score to lowest:

Rank School Average SAT Score
1 CalTech 1534
2 University of Chicago 1504
3 MIT 1503
4 Harvard 1501
5 Yale 1497
6 Princeton 1495
7 Vanderbilt 1475
8 The University of Washington 1474
9 Columbia 1471
10 Stanford 1466
11 Northwestern 1458
12 Rice 1454
13 Pomona 1454
14 Notre Dame 1450
15 Dartmouth 1446
16 Duke 1444
17 The University of Pennsylvania 1442
18 Williams College 1439
19 Amherst 1434
20 Carnegie Mellon 1432
21 Tufts 1428
22 Brown 1425

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The schools with the highest 75th percentile scores aren’t necessarily the most competitive – those numbers are based on how many students are admitted out of those who apply. These percentiles do affect a school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking, though, so colleges and universities definitely care about how they stack up here.

To remind you once again, though, your SAT score isn’t the only thing colleges and universities look at when they evaluate your application. They’re also looking at your GPA, the competitiveness and rigor of your high school’s curriculum, your athletics and extracurriculars, your recommendations, and your personal statement. So, don’t focus too much on this one number. It’s just one piece of the admissions puzzle.

Where Should I Apply, Based On My SAT Score?

There are lots of things you should take into account when deciding which schools to apply to – what subject or area you’re interested in studying, finances, location, whether you’d like an urban or rural environment, and whether you prefer a large or small school, among other things.

Talking purely about SAT scores, though, you should make a list of between nine and 12 schools, among three categories – safety schools, competitive schools and reach schools. Safety schools are where your SAT score (and GPA) are in the 75th percentile of scores. Competitive schools (sometimes called target schools) are where your scores are right around the 50th percentile mark. And reach schools are where you’re at the 25th percentile or below. Try to have between three to four schools in each category to ensure you’ll be admitted somewhere for the fall.

Things To Keep In Mind

Average scores are based on the results of past administrations of the SAT. So, the average SAT score for the particular administration of the exam that you’re sitting for this time around will be different than the average scores you’re looking at now. When the results for your test are released, averages could go up or down (although chances are that they won’t fluctuate all that much).

When it comes to particular schools, though, the average scores for admitted students will change from year to year, and the trend is almost always up. If a particularly large number of students apply to a school in a given year, the average SAT score of admitted students could go way up, making that school much tougher to get into. So when you make your list, it’s probably a good idea to have at least a few ‘target’ schools where you’re closer to the 60th-70th percentile of SAT scores.

As always: study, study, study. Get a handle on the underlying academic concepts tested on the SAT, and bone up on the areas where you’re deficient. Then, you might want to consider signing up for a prep course, like those offered by Prep Expert. Prep Expert’s courses will teach you test-taking strategies – how to notice trap answers or read passages more effectively, for example – and can go a long way toward improving your score.

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies that we teach in our Prep Expert SAT and ACT courses.