What’s a Good SAT or ACT Score?
This blog post has been edited on January 30th, 2021, to reflect the most recent statistics.
Many high school students and their parents aren’t sure what qualifies as a “good” SAT or ACT score. It can be confusing trying to decide if you scored high enough to impress college admission officers or earn scholarships.
Here are a few easy steps to figuring out your ideal SAT or ACT score:
1. Look at SAT and ACT statistics.
Get an idea of how other students perform on college admissions tests. First of all, the SAT is scored using a 400 – 1600 score range. Last year, 2.1 million students completed an official SAT test.
Out of those students:
- The Average score was 1051
- Only 25% of students earned a 12oo or more
- Only 15% of students earned a 1300 or more
- Only 5% of students earned a 1400 or more
- Only 2% of students earned a 1500 or more
- Only 1% of students earned a 1510 or more
* Data from 2020 SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report
The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 – 36. Last year, 1.6 million students took the official ACT.
Out of those students:
- The average score was 20.6
- Only 20% of students earned a 26-36
- Only 10% of students earned a 30-36
- Only 1% of students earned a 35-36
*Data from ACT National Profile Report
This gives you a rough idea of what is average, above average, and stellar for test-takers. However, this is just the beginning.
2. Look at the colleges you want to attend.
The key to setting your SAT and ACT goal score is to look at the colleges you are interested in. A good score is simply a score that will help you gain admission to the university you want to attend. Do some research and find out the average SAT or ACT scores for students accepted to your prospective college.
Here some examples from popular schools right here in New Jersey:
As you can see, the more competitive the school, the higher your score needs to be.
Princeton University is currently ranked as the #1 Best College, according to the 2020 U.S. News and World Report. With a 5% acceptance rank, it makes sense that you would need to score in the top 1% of test-takers to have a shot at admission. Rutgers University is ranked #62. While not as competitive as Princeton, its high rank means that successful admission will still require a top 15% score.
Generally, you need to aim to score ABOVE your prospective college’s average score.
Remember, you are competing for admission with students who may have a higher GPA or more impressive accolades than you. So to increase your chances, you should research not only the average score of accepted students but also the 75th percentile scores of accepted students.
A 75th percentile score is the score that 75% of students scored equal to or less than. In other words, earning a 75th percentile score, roughly places you in the top 25% of incoming students’ scores. This will increase your chances of being considered a competitive candidate.
To give you an idea, here are examples of the 75th percentile score of a few top 100 colleges:
3. Look at your college application.
Finally, you need to look at the major or program you are applying to, your GPA, and your additional achievements.
The most important factor college admission officers take into consideration is your grades. So, as a good rule of thumb, the lower your GPA, the more impressive your SAT score needs to be. Research the average GPA for incoming freshman of your prospective college and raise your SAT or ACT goal score if you are below the average.
Keep in mind, however, that a high SAT score won’t automatically erase lower grades. So if you still have time to raise your grade average, make boosting your GPA your #1 priority.
Of course, you will also need to consider your major and the program within the university you are applying to.
For instance, if you want to major in English, your score for the Reading and Writing section of your SAT will count for more than your Math section score. If you are applying to New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, for example, the Science and Math section of the ACT will matter more than the English and Reading section.
Set your goals appropriately. For instance, in the second example, you may have a SAT goal for NYU of 1420, but a Math Section goal of 750.
Consider other aspects of your resume. Are you a nationally ranked polo player? Do you have a remarkable art portfolio? Have you won a statewide debate competition?
Obviously, the more impressive your extracurricular activities, the better your chances of admissions. However, this doesn’t mean you can slack on test scores. A college still wants to know that you have the academic and test skills to succeed. But if you are short on achievements, you will need to make up for it with a top SAT or ACT score.
Now, put it all together!
With our guidelines and a little bit of Google research regarding your potential colleges, you can easily set your SAT and ACT goal score!
So what are your next steps?
Figure out how close or far away you are from your target score.
Take a practice SAT or ACT test to see how close or far away you are from your goal. At MEK Review, we offer on-site and virtual full-length practice tests at select dates throughout the year, so you can see where you stand. And we don’t just give you your score! You’ll get our free detailed signature score report, so you can see exactly how and where you need to improve.
Ready to close the gap and reach your goal score?
In the meantime, take a look at MEK Review’s College Test Prep courses to explore what we can offer you.