What’s a Good SAT Score? – SAT Score Percentiles and Rankings

Student taking a multiple-choice exam like the SAT, and wondering what a "good" SAT score is.

Source: Flickr user albertogp123.

What’s a “Good” SAT Score?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Of course, this isn’t as straight forward of a question as just having a single answer. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t see how your score compares to your peers–and to other students at the colleges, you’re hoping to attend.

Whether the score is “good” or not depends on how you define “good”. Are you hoping to score higher than other students? Hoping to come in somewhere near average? Or do you just want to know what your adds of acceptance are at a specific college with your current 2050 SAT score?

What Is A Good Sat Score?

Whatever a “good” SAT score means to you, there are some numbers that you can use as a benchmark to see if you’ve met your goals. Because, ultimately, what matters is that you’re happy with the score you’ve received.

SAT Score Requirements

Most schools don’t publish a “required” SAT score for admission. Instead, students can look at the scores of other students who have been admitted to get an idea for how selective the college is in terms of admission.

Generally, these figures are reported as a distribution of the 25th and 75th percentile of the SAT scores of admitted students. In other words, it gives you a way to determine, roughly, what an “average” score might look like for students at that college.

On the Swarthmore College admissions page on College Raptor, you can see the 25th and 75th percentile of SAT scores for admitted students:

Swarthmore College average SAT score -- good SAT score

As a student, you can see how your SAT score stacks up against other students at this college by seeing where you fall in this distribution. If you’re near the middle of this range (median SAT), then you can expect about an average chance of being admitted. At Swarthmore, a student with an SAT of about 1540, you can expect about a 75% chance to be admitted.

Your individual chances of admission will change based on the rest of your application. Things like extracurricular activities, volunteer work, recommendation letters, GPA, rigor of schedule, and more will obviously play a role in whether or not you’re accepted.

Merit Aid and SAT Scores

Your SAT score can be worth a lot–literally.

Beyond just looking better on your college applications, a higher SAT score can mean that you qualify for more scholarships. Many colleges offer specific merit awards–even some that are not competitive–based on academic achievement. So, even a small improvement in your SAT score could mean that you earn thousands of dollars in financial aid from some colleges.

It’s worth investigating. Check out college websites or talk to their admissions or financial aid office to see which scholarships you might be eligible for based on your SAT score.

This table from the University of the Ozarks website shows merit scholarships and requirements for consideration, including specific SAT score requirements:

Table showing some of the merit scholarships at the University of the Ozarks based on a student's SAT score -- good SAT score

Source: Ozarks.edu

SAT Score Distribution

Want to just know how your SAT score compares to all other students? Then you’ll want to look at the distribution of SAT scores. Luckily, College Board publishes these every year to help students understand how they scored.

Here’s the distribution of SAT scores from 2018:

SAT Composite Score Range Percentile Score
1550-1600 99+
1500-1550 99 to 99+
1450-1500 97 to 99
1400-1450 94 to 97
1350-1400 91 to 94
1300-1350 87 to 91
1250-1300 81 to 87
1200-1250 74 to 81
1150-1200 67 to 74
1100-1150 58 to 67
1050-1100 49 to 58
1000-1050 39 to 49
950-1000 31 to 39
900-950 23 to 31
850-900 15 to 23
800-850 10 to 15
750-800 5 to 10
700-750 2 to 5
650-700 1 to 2
600-650 1- to 1
550-600 1-
500-550 1-
450-500 1-
400-450 1-

As you can see from this table, the 50th percentile falls right around 1500 out of 2400–the median score.

On tests like the SAT, the median score is generally considered to represent an “average”, although it’s not the mean score.

Check out how your SAT score affects your acceptance odds with College Raptor!

Tyler Hakes

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