Is there an ideal SAT score?

The SAT score ranges from 400 to 1600 in total and from 200 to 800 for each of the two scoring sections. One of these notes is from the Mathematics section, while the other is a combined Reading and Writing score called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). As you might expect, the higher your score, the better you will do on the test. But is there an ideal note from SAT? That is exactly what we are going to discuss in this text!

What is the ideal grade of the SAT

What is the ideal grade of the SAT?

To determine an “ideal SAT score”, in general terms, you need to know exactly how the test score works. Your total score, 1600 (as well as the scores in the two 800 sections), corresponds to a percentage rating. Your SAT percentile indicates the percentage of students that you scored equal or better. For example, if you obtained a score of the 60th percentile, it means that you scored more than 60% of all test participants!

According to TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA, the overall average SAT score is 1059. Note that the test was designed just so that the average score is around 1000 on the 1600 point scale – about 500 per section. Separately, the average score in the Mathematics section is 528 and the EBRW score is 531.

In the table below you can see the percentiles in which each SAT note fit, in 2019.

Total score Percentile (2019)
1600 99+
1550 99+
1500 98
1450 96
1400 94
1350 91
1300 86
1250 81
1200 74
1150 67
1100 58
1050 49
1000 40
950 31
900 23
850 16
800 10
750 5
700 2
650 1
600 or less 1-

As you can see in the percentiles and corresponding scores, most students score in the middle of the scale, not at the top or bottom. For example, a jump in the score from 1000 to 1100 (100 points) can move you from the 40th to the 58th percentile, which means that you have overturned almost a fifth of the test participants! But going from 1250 to 1350 (also 100 points) improves only 10% of your placement, from the 81th percentile to 91. Finally, going from 1450 to 1550, a margin of 100 points near the top of the scale, generates only about 3% improvement!

So, if we are going to talk about an ideal grade from the SAT, you should at least be above 50% of the candidates (that is, above the average), which, according to the table, would be any grade above 1070. On the other hand, any score less than 1060 is below average.

In this other table, you will find the percentiles of SAT scores for the Mathematics and EBRW sections. The distributions are very similar, but there are some minor differences. For example, fewer people do very well in EBRW than in the Mathematics section.

Note (up to 800) Math Percentiles (2019) EBRW Percentiles (2019)
800 99+ 99+
750 96 99
700 92 94
650 84 86
600 75 73
550 61 56
500 41 39
450 26 23
400 13 10
350 4 2
300 1 1-
250 or less 1- 1-

But, after all, what is the ideal SAT score for you, specifically?

So far we’ve discussed we’ve discussed the ideal SAT score from the average test scores and percentiles you fit into. But how you will perform compared to the other test participants is not the most important thing to consider. What defines the ideal grade of the SAT, in particular, are the universities that you are interested in applying.

Chicago University

For example, 1280 is a score of the 84th percentile , which means that you will get the same score or do better than 84% of the test participants. So that would be a good score for institutions like Arizona State University (average SAT score: 1250) and Temple University (average: 1230). However, it would be a very low score for very selective universities, such as MIT, Caltech, Duke, University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins.

Of course, not everyone wants to apply for a super selective institution. A score of 1040, for example, just below the average, is enough to enter colleges like Indiana University Northwest (average SAT score: 1000) and CSU Stanislaus (average: 1000).

In short, the ideal grade of SAT is the one that makes you competitive for the selection process of the institution you are interested in.

It is also worth mentioning that the higher your test scores, the more likely it is that colleges will offer you scholarships. Another thing to take into consideration is that a high SAT score can help you to be admitted to some universities, if you have a lower than recommended GPA. However, this will not help much in very selective institutions – they expect students to get high marks in all sections of the application!