What DO SAT scores mean

What do SAT scores mean? Deciphering the Numbers

When you’re thinking about applying to college, you might hear a lot about SAT scores. The College Board, the group that makes the SAT, gives you a report that tells you how you did.


But what do SAT scores mean? And how do you know if you have a good score?


Here’s a quick breakdown:


  • The SAT has different parts, and when you add up your scores from these parts, you get a total score. This total score can be as low as 400 or as high as 1600.
  • There are two main parts of the SAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. Each of these can score between 200 and 800.
  • The raw score is just a count of how many questions you got right. From this, they figure out your final scores for each section.
  • There’s something called percentiles. This tells you how your score compares to other students. For example, if your percentile is 70, it means you did better than 70% of students.
  • The SAT score report also tells you if you’re ready for college. If your score is above a certain number, it’s a good sign. This number is called a benchmark.
  • The report also has other scores like test scores, cross-test scores, and subscores. These help you see what subjects you’re strong in and which ones you might need to work on.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your total SAT score is between 400 and 1600.
  • You get scores for Reading and Writing and for Math. Both can be between 200 and 800.
  • Percentiles show how you did compared to other students.
  • Benchmarks tell you if you’re on the right track for college.
  • The SAT score report has lots of details to help you understand your strengths and what you might need to work on.

What is a Good SAT Score? (Score Reports)

When you get your SAT score report from the College Board, you might wonder, “Is this a good score?” Let’s break it down and see what a good SAT score looks like.

First, remember that the highest total score you can get on the SAT is 1600. This comes from adding up your two section scores: one for EBRW and one for Math. Each of these sections can score between 200 and 800.


Now, what’s considered a “good” score? Well, it can vary.


Some people might say a score above 1050 is good because it’s above the average SAT score. Others might aim for a “strong score” in the top 25% of test takers, which would be above the 75th percentile.


Colleges also have their own ideas about what a good SAT score is. Some colleges might be happy with scores around 1050, while others, especially more competitive schools. You can often find this information on a college’s website.


Another thing to consider is the SAT suite, which includes other tests like the PSAT. These can give you an idea of how you’re doing and what areas you might need to work on before taking the SAT.


If you’re aiming for a specific college or program, it’s a good idea to find out the average score of students they accept. This can be your “target score.” If you’re close to or above this score, you’re on the right track!

What is a Bad SAT Score

When you get your SAT score report, you might be wondering if your score is good or bad. Let’s talk about what might be considered a “bad” SAT score and what you can do about it.


First, remember the SAT score range: the lowest total score is 400, and the highest is 1600. This comes from adding your two section scores from EBRW and Math. Each of these can be between 200 and 800.


Now, what’s a “bad” score? Well, it’s not just about the number. It’s about what you want to do with it. If you’re aiming to get into a very competitive college, a score below the average accepted score might be considered low for that school. But for another college, that same score might be just fine!


A score in the lower 25th percentile might be seen as below average. This means if your score is there, you did better than only 25% of students who took the test. But remember, the SAT is just one test in one day. It doesn’t measure everything about you!


  • Retaking the SAT: Many students take the SAT more than once. With more practice and maybe some help, like from Khan Academy or a tutor, you can improve your score.
  • Focus on Other Parts of Your Application: Your SAT score is just one piece. Good grades, activities, and a strong personal essay can also be very important when applying to college.
  • Look at Different Colleges: Every college has its own idea of a good SAT score. Some might be looking for really high scores, but others might be more interested in other things about you.


Lastly, remember that everyone has strengths and areas they can improve in. If you’re not happy with your SAT score, there are always ways to work on it and other parts of your college application.

Understanding the Total Score

The total SAT score is an important metric that colleges consider during the admissions process. It is a sum of the section scores for EBRW and Math. The range for the total score is 400 to 1600, with each section score ranging from 200 to 800. This score reflects a student’s overall performance on the SAT and provides colleges with a snapshot of their academic abilities.


Breaking down the total SAT score further, the section scores for EBRW and Math help identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses in specific areas. These section scores are derived from the raw score, which is then converted to a scaled score. By understanding their section scores, students can gain insights into their performance and focus on improving specific skills.


“The total SAT score represents a student’s overall performance on the exam and is a key factor considered by colleges during the admissions process.”

It’s essential to note that the total SAT score is just one aspect of a student’s college application. Colleges also consider other factors such as extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation. However, a strong total SAT score can demonstrate a student’s academic potential and readiness for college.

SAT Trophy

Making Sense of Section Scores and Percentiles

When it comes to understanding SAT scores, section scores, and percentiles play a crucial role. Section scores provide a detailed breakdown of a student’s performance in specific areas, such as Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math.


These scores are derived from the raw score, which represents the number of questions answered correctly. By analyzing section scores, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to focus on areas that may need improvement.


Percentiles, on the other hand, give students a valuable perspective by comparing their scores to those of other test-takers. Higher percentiles indicate a higher rank, meaning a student performed better than a larger percentage of test-takers.


The Nationally Representative Sample percentile compares a student’s scores to typical 11th and 12th-grade U.S. students, while the SAT User Percentile compares their scores to recent high school graduates who took the SAT.


“Section scores and percentiles provide a comprehensive view of a student’s performance on the SAT,” says Dr. Jessica Adams, an education expert. “They allow students to understand their strengths and weaknesses in specific subject areas while also providing a benchmark for how they compare to their peers.”

Interpreting section scores and percentiles can help students gauge their readiness for college and identify areas for improvement. Understanding these scores and percentiles can provide valuable insights that can guide students toward academic success.

What is an Average SAT Score For college admissions?

When interpreting SAT scores, it’s crucial to understand the benchmarks and score ranges. Benchmarks provide a clear indication of whether a student is on track for college readiness.


For the EBRW section, the average is set at 480, while for Math, it’s set at 530. Scoring at or above these averages is a positive sign that a student is well-prepared for college after high school graduation. It’s important to note that they are designed to measure readiness, not guarantee admission to specific colleges.


Score ranges, on the other hand, offer a more comprehensive representation of a student’s true ability. They account for the variability that may occur with repeated testing.


When colleges receive SAT scores, they also receive score ranges to assess a student’s performance in context. These score ranges provide colleges with a more nuanced understanding of a student’s capabilities and potential.

By aiming to meet or exceed the benchmarks and being aware of their score ranges, students can better evaluate their progress and identify areas for improvement.


It’s crucial to remember that SAT scores should be considered alongside other aspects of the college application, such as extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendation letters.

How to Improve Your SAT Score

So, you’ve taken the SAT and got your grade. Maybe you’re happy with your score, or maybe you think you can do even better. Either way, it’s always good to know how you can improve. Here are some steps to help you boost your SAT score:


  1. Understand Your Report: The College Board gives you a detailed SAT report. This isn’t just about your total score. It also shows your two-section scores for Evidence-Based Reading Writing and Math. Look at where you did well and where you can improve.
  2. Practice, Practice, Practice: The more familiar you are with the test, the better you’ll do. Use resources like Khan Academy, which offers free SAT prep. They have practice questions and even full tests you can take.
  3. Focus on Weak Areas: Did the math section trip you up? Or maybe the evidence-based reading and writing? Spend extra time on the parts that were tough for you. Remember, each section score can range from 200 to 800, so there’s a lot of room to grow.
  4. Consider Retaking the SAT: Many students take the SAT more than once. If you think you can do better, why not try again? Especially if you’ve spent time practicing and studying.
  5. Join a Study Group: Sometimes, studying with friends can help. You can quiz each other, share tips, and make a study schedule together.
  6. Get a Tutor: If you’re really serious about improving, consider getting a tutor. They can give you one-on-one help and share strategies that work for other students.
  7. Stay Calm and Confident: Test anxiety is real. On the day of the test, take deep breaths, believe in yourself, and remember all the hard work you’ve put in.
  8. Plan Ahead: If you’re thinking of retaking the SAT, make sure you know the dates. For example, if you’re considering the October 7th SAT, start preparing well in advance.


Understanding SAT scores is crucial for both students and colleges. SAT scores provide valuable insights into a student’s academic abilities and their preparedness for college.


By deciphering the numbers and analyzing section scores, percentiles, benchmarks, and score ranges, students can gain a comprehensive understanding of their performance and take the necessary steps to enhance their skills.


Colleges consider various other factors, such as extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. Therefore, while SAT scores are significant, they do not solely determine a student’s admission into college.


Ultimately, SAT scores serve as a tool to assess a student’s readiness for higher education. By utilizing the information provided in SAT reports, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses, focus on areas that require improvement, and strive towards achieving their academic goals.

Can I get into Harvard with a 1500 SAT?

While a 1500 SAT score is above the national average and is considered a strong score, Harvard University is one of the most competitive institutions in the world. For the class of 2023, the middle 50% SAT score range for admitted students was between 1460 and 1580. This means that 1500 falls within this range, but it’s closer to the lower end. It’s important to note that admissions decisions are based on a holistic review of an applicant’s profile, including GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendation, and more. So, while a 1500 SAT score alone won’t guarantee admission, it doesn’t rule it out either.

Can I get into Yale with a 1500 SAT?

Yale University, like Harvard, is also highly competitive. For recent classes, the middle 50% SAT score range for admitted students was similar to Harvard’s, with scores typically ranging from the mid-1400s to the upper 1500s. Again, a 1500 would place an applicant within this range but towards the lower end. As with Harvard, Yale’s admissions process is holistic, so other factors will play a significant role in the decision-making process.

How many can you get wrong on SAT reading for a 1500?

On average, if you get 14 questions incorrect on the SAT Reading section and answer all other sections correctly, you can still achieve a score of 1500. However, missing 14 questions on the math section typically results in an average drop of 40 points more compared to the reading section for the same number of incorrect answers.

Does it look bad if you take the SAT multiple times?

Most colleges and universities, including the Ivy League schools, have a policy of considering the highest SAT scores submitted by applicants, whether it’s the highest score from a single test date or the highest section scores from multiple test dates (known as “superscoring”). Taking the SAT multiple times won’t necessarily look bad, especially if there’s a noticeable improvement in scores. However, if a student takes the test an excessive number of times without much improvement, it might raise questions about their preparation strategy. It’s generally recommended for students to take the SAT 2-3 times at most.