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).
Average SAT Scores for State School Admissions and 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!
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|
|47||District of Columbia||1012|
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|
|2||University of Chicago||1504|
|8||The University of Washington||1474|
|17||The University of Pennsylvania||1442|
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.
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