The SAT is an essential part of the college admissions process for many universities. It measures a student’s knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and math and provides colleges with a consistent measure to compare students from different backgrounds.
A good SAT score can help you get into your dream school, but what exactly is a “good” score? The answer to that question depends on several factors, including the school you’re applying to and the average scores of admitted students at that school.
Generally speaking, though, higher scores are better than lower ones to make your application stand out among the competition. So, the goal is to get the highest score possible. We’ll explore good scores, explain how the scoring system works, and explain what you can do to ace the exam.
Overview of the SAT Exam
Before we discuss what makes a good SAT score, let’s take a quick look at the exam itself. The SAT comprises three sections: Reading (also called Evidence-based Reading & Writing or EBRW), Math, and an optional Essay section. The total test time for these sections is 3 hours and 50 minutes.
The Reading and Math sections are each scored on a scale of 200-800 points for a combined maximum score of 1600. The Essay section is graded separately from 0-12 points, but it is not included in the total score.
What Is a Good SAT Score?
A good SAT score reflects your current academic potential and sets you up for success at the college of your choice. A general rule of thumb is that anything over the average SAT score of 1059 (the 50th percentile) is good, with scores between 1400 and 1600 being excellent.
Also, look at the average SAT score for an admitted student at the school you are interested in to see what score you should aim for. The number might be higher or lower than the overall average.
Working hard to beat the average SAT score for your school is more important than tuition and other concerns, as it can make or break your chances of getting accepted. Focus less on saving and paying for college and more on achieving a good SAT score. After all, what good would it be to have the funds to pay for college if you don’t get accepted?
There’s more to SAT scores than we’ve provided above, and you’ll need to know the details to understand how it works and maximize your score. Here’s a breakdown of the seemingly complex scoring process.
Understanding the Scoring System for the SAT
Understand how the SAT scoring system works, so you can easily interpret your scores.
The total score on the SAT is based on two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. Each section has its range of scores from 200 to 800 points, with 400 being the lowest possible score and 1600 being the highest.
The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section comprises two tests—the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test—each contributing equally to the overall score. The Math section only includes one test.
Your total score is the overall score that colleges will use to adjudge whether or not to give you admission.
How Section Scores Are Calculated
Your raw score in each section determines your section scores, which is the number of questions you got correct. The raw score is converted into a scaled score between 200 and 800. This process helps to account for different test versions that may be slightly easier or harder than others.
As an example, the Math test always contains 58 questions. Depending on the test version a student takes, they could need 57 correct answers to obtain a scaled score of 800 or all 58 correct answers for the same result. This process is called equating and ensures similar scores across different test versions.
How Test Scores Are Calculated
Your test score is calculated on a scale of 10-40. Like the section scores, your overall score is determined by converting your raw score (number of questions answered correctly) into a scaled score within that range.
Additionally, the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section’s total score comes from multiplying the Reading, Writing, and Language scores by ten and then adding them together. To get the Math section’s total, multiply the test score by 20.
The SAT exam measures a student’s college readiness, and the test evaluates academic skills in three broad areas: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Each section is broken down into seven subscores with a possible score range from 1-15.
The number of questions on the test that contribute to each subscore varies depending on the subject matter. For example, there are 19 Heart of Algebra questions compared to 16 Passport to Advanced Math questions. Raw scores for each subscore are scaled between 1 and 15 to make them equivalent to ensure fairness across all students taking the exam.
The four subscores for skill areas in reading and writing are:
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions.
The three subscores for skill areas in Math are:
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem-solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math.
In addition to these individual test scores, two cross-test scores provide more insight into how well you performed on specific topics within each test. These cross-test scores are Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science.
Both scores consist of 35 questions, with 21 questions dedicated to the reading test, 6 for writing and language, and 8 for math. These raw scores are then converted into scaled scores ranging from 10 to 40 in each section.
How Colleges Use Your Scores in Their Admissions Process
When colleges review applications, they look for students with a proven track record of success. The SAT evaluates a student’s academic ability and college readiness, so a good score can show that the student is prepared for collegiate-level work.
Admissions officers may also use your scores to determine your eligibility for scholarships, programs, and course placements. So, this exam is worth putting in the time and effort. Give it your all and work diligently to get a score reflecting your knowledge and academic ability. With proper preparation, you can do it!
Also, it helps to understand the scoring system and how each part affects the overall score. Once you have a good grip on what the SAT is measuring, you can use that knowledge to prepare for the exam and increase your chances of achieving a good score.
Remember that while SAT scores are an important factor in the admissions process, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Colleges also consider other factors such as grades, application essays, extracurriculars, jobs, volunteer work, and letters of recommendation when deciding. Give each element the same attention, and you will have a much higher chance of success.
Tips for Improving Your Performance on the Exam
Test day is coming soon, and you may feel nervous about the upcoming exam. To help you do your best, here are some helpful tips:
- Start studying early and stick to a regular study schedule. Set aside regular, designated study time, separate from school work, jobs, or extracurricular activities. This practice will ensure you have enough time to tackle all the material and build confidence.
- Take practice tests so you can become familiar with the structure of the exam and get a feel for how to approach each question type. Doing this will also help you become accustomed to timing yourself, which is essential for success on test day.
- Utilize online resources and other materials to supplement your studying. This way, you can get additional practice and receive helpful feedback on areas that need improvement.
- Get plenty of rest the night before the exam so that you are well-rested and have a clear head test day.
- Finally, remember to stay calm while taking the exam and trust that you have done enough preparation. You can get through the SAT with flying colors with the right attitude.
Resources You Can Use to Prepare for the SAT
You don’t have to take the SAT alone! There are many resources you can use to help you prepare for the exam. Here are a few that can help you get started:
- The College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide – This guide contains full-length practice tests and helpful tips for improving your performance.
- Khan Academy – This site has hundreds of free resources for SAT prep, including video lessons and practice tests.
- Magoosh – This company offers online study guides, video lessons, and practice tests to help you become more confident with the exam.
- Private Tutors – If you need personalized assistance, consider hiring a private tutor to help you prepare.
- Online SAT Prep Courses – There are many online courses available that provide comprehensive instruction and practice materials.
The SAT is an important exam and can significantly impact your college admissions prospects. Use your knowledge of good SAT scores and the scoring system, and maximize the resources available to prepare for the exam.
While getting a good score can help you get into the college of your dreams, aim higher for an excellent score. Fantastic results can give you even more advantages, such as scholarships and other academic opportunities.
This article originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Josh is a financial expert with over 15 years of experience on Wall Street as a senior market strategist and trader. His career has spanned from working on the New York Stock Exchange floor to investment management and portfolio trading at Citibank, Chicago Trading Company, and Flow Traders.
Josh graduated from Cornell University with a degree from the Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management at the SC Johnson College of Business. He has held multiple professional licenses during his career, including FINRA Series 3, 7, 24, 55, Nasdaq OMX, Xetra & Eurex (German), and SIX (Swiss) trading licenses. Josh served as a senior trader and strategist, business partner, and head of futures in his former roles on Wall Street.
Josh's work and authoritative advice have appeared in major publications like Nasdaq, Forbes, The Sun, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News, Fortune, The Street, MSN Money, and Go Banking Rates. Josh currently holds areas of expertise in investing, wealth management, capital markets, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and personal finance.
Josh currently runs a wealth management business and investment firm. Additionally, he is the founder and CEO of Top Dollar, where he teaches others how to build 6-figure passive income with smart money strategies that he uses professionally.