What’s a “Good” Score on the SAT?


When parents call our office to arrange for SAT tutoring, they often ask, “What does my child need on the SAT to get into her dream school?” The answer differs from student to student based on her aspirations, but one thing remains true, the SAT is one of the most stressful aspects of the college application process for parents and students alike.

Though the SAT is just one aspect of the college application process, it can make or break an application. The test is comprised of four different parts: The Essay, Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. The essay aside, each section’s scores range from 200-800, making the combined perfect score 2400. The national average score for each section is around 500, meaning the “average” student will score somewhere in the 1500 range.

Though math tends to be a subject of worry for many students, statistically it’s the section on which students score the highest. Of the 1.65 million students who took the SAT in 2011, the mean scores were: 497 for critical reading, 514 for math, and 489 for writing, leveling out to a total score of 1500.

What Scores Do Colleges Want?

Now that we have a grasp on what is average we can try to answer the question, what is good? What is defined as a “good SAT score” really varies from school to school. Some universities weigh SAT scores more heavily than others in their admissions process. It’s always best to look up the school’s SAT range for admitted students from the previous academic year.

SAT score ranges are available on a number of websites, but one of the most popular is collegeboard.com. Students can search for colleges based on specific criteria (geographic location, SAT score range, GPA, collegiate sports, etc.). Once they’ve identified schools of interest, the site generates a calendar with application deadlines and displays a whole lot of data about every college and university in the U.S. It also displays SAT ranges, and saves a student’s SAT scores, so he can see if he’s within or outside of the SAT score range for his desired schools. The site even does the same for ACT scores!

When thinking about score ranges, keep in mind that each school takes the scores of the middle 50% of their admitted students. But also be aware that 25% of students who were admitted scored below the lowest numbers on their range. On paper, a school may seem out of reach, but if the student’s application is strong in other ways, he or she may still be in the ballpark.

Scores for Local Schools

Take a look at the score ranges for several universities and colleges.

• American University: Critical Reading: 600-700 Mathematics: 570-670 Writing: 580-680
• Georgetown University: Critical Reading: 640-750 Mathematics: 650-750
• James Madison University: Critical Reading: 540-640 Mathematics: 550-650 Writing: 540-640
• Old Dominion University: Critical Reading: 460-560 Mathematics: 460-550 Writing: 440-550
• Towson University: Critical Reading: 490-580 Mathematics: 500-590 Writing: 500-590
• University of Maryland: Critical Reading: 580-680 Mathematics: 610-710
• University of Virginia: Critical Reading: 610-720 Mathematics: 630-740 Writing: 620-720
• William and Mary: Critical Reading: 620-730 Mathematics: 620-720 Writing: 620-720

You may have noticed that not every school includes the writing score in its SAT range. This is because the writing portion of the SAT is relatively new, and it’s becoming more and more accepted over time. Writing skills however, should not be overlooked as they are a crucial part of the admissions process, and a student’s success in college.

Might Be Cliché, but There Is a College for Everyone

Although each institution has its own definition of what’s “good”, SAT scores by no means determine a student’s acceptance or denial to a university. Knowing your student’s perspective schools’ SAT range, can help the student prepare for the SAT, set goals for herself, and make a solid list of safety, reach and target schools.

Let us know if you think your child might need assistance preparing for the SAT or ACT. We’re here to help!


Learn more about our services at: https://ectutoring.com/tutoring/test-prep/
Ann Dolin, M.Ed. [email protected] 703-934-8282 or 301-469-6060