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SAT Score Range, Percentiles & Explanation

Perhaps one of the most common SAT difficulties is understanding its scores and components. And it is important to understand what does your score say about you and how to compare your score to others. Today, WriteAnyPapers, a great research paper writing service, is trying to give you a clear answer on what is the bad, the good and the perfect SAT score. Shall we begin?

SAT score components

Scholastic Aptitude Test or simply SAT is a nightmare of any student, because it is complex, demanding, and greatly influences the lives of those, who are willing to get a higher education. At the moment, SAT scores equal 1600 at the highest (while the old system scored out of 2400) and there is a variety of sub scores and cross-section scores that aim to evaluate your school performance. Here are the components you will be dealing with to prove your college readiness:

  • Your total score is a combination of section scores. The highest possible score is 1600 (800+800), while the average is 1000;
  • Section scores are your individual scores for the two main categories: math and reading/writing. Every category gives you maximum 800 scores, and they are summed up to calculate your total score;
  • An essay is now an optional part of the sat test and is not added to the total score. Scores for an essay are shown in the report separately;
  • If you choose to write an essay, it will be evaluated according to your reading, writing, and analysis skills. In each of these three areas, you will get a 2-8 score to show the college board how good your writing skills are.

SAT score range

Let us start by getting familiar with your percentiles. They show how well your exam went comparing to other students, who took an exam the same day. For example, if you are in the 20th percentile, you did better than 20% of the students, who completed the test the same day. If you are in the 80th percentile, this means that your results are better than the results of 80% of other students.

You can use SAT percentiles to compare your results with others and to see how good or bad your score is.  Basically, any mark below 50% is considered a bad result. If you are in a 50-80th percentile – you did a good job, and if your percentile is above 90th, this means that your scoring is great. Below is the chart, where SAT results are lined up with a corresponding percentile. You need to remember that such percentiles can slightly vary depending on when you are taking the exam.

SAT ScorePercentile

While it is useful to pay attention to SAT score range percentile and to compare your score with the results of others, US colleges have different expectations. For example, the University of Oregon may take 1290 for a perfect sat score, but if you are trying to get into Harvard, be ready to reach the average 1540 score.

This means that the only way you can see whether your score is good enough is to compare it to the average score of the university you are applying to. Though, if you want to know more, you can read our college application guide.

What is a bad SAT score?

If you are planning to take the SAT you are surely interested in how the scores are evaluated and how your results are compared to results of other students. However, it may become a bit difficult to be objective, when evaluating your own score, because college admissions may have different expectations and what’s good for one university, may be completely bad for another one.

That is why we will analyze bad, good, and great scores based on the average results. In 2016 it was 1080, where 508 points were from the Math section and 494 – from reading and writing.

This means that a ‘bad’ score can be anything below the average result.  You will show worse results than half of the other students, and basically, such a score can’t be called a successful one. In most of the cases, you will find it difficult to enter colleges and universities with a score, which is lower than 1080.

What is a good SAT score?

Now, when you know the average score and percentile ranking, it is quite simple to distinguish what makes a good result.  If you are in a 50th to 80th percentile, you can congratulate yourself with good results. This means that your score is better than scores of 50 or 80% of other students, and you have high chances of being accepted to the college of your dreams.

However, many students ask what is a good sat score, forgetting that everything depends on the requirements of a particular college. Here is the 75th percentile for various US colleges:

  • 1590 at Princeton University;
  • 1600 at Harvard University;
  • 1570 at University of Pennsylvania.

While the average score of these universities is 1520, 1540 and 1510 respectively, is your good SAT score not high enough for the dream college? Don’t worry, the admission board has lots of other selection criteria, and you will get a chance to prove that you are the right fit!

What is a perfect SAT score?

As mentioned above, good sat scores are those, which put you in the 50th-80th percentile. Everything that is above that result (meaning that your score is better than 80% of students) is considered the highest sat score.

However, as you see from the comparison of three colleges above, the highest score of selective schools is basically the maximum one. If you have 1600 scores, you can easily apply to any college or university in the country. Although there may be thousands of applicants with exactly the same result, so you will need to think carefully of the ways to attract admission board to your candidacy with a strong application letter, references and (optionally) a letter of recommendation for college.

SAT score percentiles

When students are getting ready for their SAT, they carefully study information, trying to find score reports and to understand what results others had the previous year. Although they may differ from one year to another, there is only a slight change, so you will understand what to expect based on the score release of previous years

Let us compare the results of SAT testing in 2016, 2017, and 2018 years across the US. The table below consists of four columns: SAT score and percentiles of 2016, 2017, and 2018 years.  There is nothing difficult in analyzing the results and understanding what to expect from your standardized test results.

In 2016 the ‘great result’ (above the 80th percentile) was 1250, while in 2017 and 2018 80th percentile made up 1230 and 1240 respectively. So what does it mean? It means that 20% of 2016 test takers got a 1250 result, while in the following two years the score was a bit lower – 1230 and 1240.

99th percentile in 2016 was equal to 1510, while in 2017 it was 1480. What does it tell us? Obviously that the test prep in 2016 was better than in the following years. Unfortunately, bad results (those which were lower than the average sat score) obtained half of the students. 1100 points got 57th, 61th and 60th percentiles respectively.

This shows that the difference in scores is quite significant even though only three years’ period is shown. That is why if you want to achieve great results, it is better to take sat tutoring and to find a teacher, who understands the peculiarities of the test.

However, if you didn’t get the grade you had expected, don’t worry! You can improve your results, impressing the board with your personal letter and of course to apply for merit scholarships if your achievements and hobbies can be of use for the college.

Average SAT score

Every year over a million US students complete the SAT test, which is backed with an online score report and results of scholars across the country. This greatly helps to understand what to expect during the next test, what results can be considered good or bad, and how not to fall into despair if you didn’t get the result you have expected.

In 2018 the average SAT result across the states was 1068, where 536 points were for the reading and writing section, and 531 – for math.

So how the situation looks across the states, considering the highest result, high participation, involvement, and other important details? Let us find out!

Minnesota is the first one when it comes to the highest average result with 1298 points. It is 230 points higher than across the US! However, Minnesota can also ‘boast’ the lowest participation with only 4%. In other words, in 2018, only 2,500 high school graduates took the test.

Such results can be explained by the fact that most of the Minnesota students take the ACT, while the SAT is passed only by the most ambitious and prepared students. 100% of students from Idaho, Colorado, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut took the SAT test. However, it is very simple to explain: the SAT is required by all of the higher institutions in the area.

Here are only some of the average SAT results in 2018 in different states:

  • 1116 in Alabama;
  • 1014 in Florida;
  • 1099 in Hawaii;
  • 1265 in Kansas;
  • 1080 in Maryland;
  • 1140 in Nevada.

Now you know everything about the SAT, so find out the test date and go for it! However, if you are additionally planning to take the SAT essay exam, you should read our guide on “how to write a SAT essay“. Knowing all the tricks of the SAT essay writing will definitely be a great plus for you.

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