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What’s A Good SAT or ACT Score?

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 1058
  • Only 20% of students earned between a 1200-1600
  • Only 7% of students earned a 1400-1600
  • Only 1% of students earned a 1500-1600

* Data from Understanding SAT Scores

The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 – 36. Last year, 1.9 million students took the official ACT.

Out of those students:

  • The average score was 20.8
  • 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 that school.

For example:

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 2019 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 #56. While not as competitive as Princeton, its relatively high rank means that successful admission will still require a top 20% 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 set your SAT goal about 50 points higher than your school’s average and your ACT goal at least 2 points higher.

As example: For Princeton, this would be SAT 1570, ACT 36; for Rutgers, SAT 1350, ACT 30; and for Montclair, SAT 1130, ACT 22.

Here is a list of SAT and ACT averages for top-ranked universities:

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 GPA. 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.


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.

Additional Achievements:

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 FREE practice SAT or ACT test to see how close or far away you are from your goal. At MEK Review, we offer free full-length practice tests in Bergen County, New Jersey, 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?

Explore MEK Review’s SAT and ACT Prep courses in Closter and Palisades Park, NJ, to find out how.


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Katie Weisman

Katie Weisman is a driven, dedicated English teacher at MEK Review, who leads group test prep classes, as well as one-on-one sessions with students. Her passion for teaching, in-depth knowledge of test content, and use of our systematic approach to test preparation helps her guide students to high test scores, strong writing skills and their full potential.


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