You’ve busted your butt for weeks, maybe even months, taken the SAT, and have your results in your possession. Maybe you’re being hard on yourself, because you didn’t hit that perfect 1600 or maybe you genuinely have no idea, but you’re probably wondering what is a good SAT score at this point? If you want answers to this question and how to know if you have good enough score for the schools you’re applying to, then keep reading.

So, What is a Good SAT Score?

I get asked this question at least once by every student I work with. And it’s a good question. But the answer to what is a good SAT score depends on what you’re comparing yourself to. You can imagine how frustrating that gets for students who need a direct answer, a number they can aim for, but what is a good SAT score is very subjective. I’ve broken down the answer to this popular question so you can see the differences for yourself.

What is a Good SAT Score Compared to the Rest of the Country?

Just to make sure we’re all one the same page, when I talk about the SAT in this post, I’m referring to the redesigned SAT that was released by College Board in March 2016. I have still included the old SAT scores for this section, because there are colleges that still accept it.

Generally speaking, 1000 is the answer for what is a good SAT score when you’re comparing yourself to the rest of the country. This translates to a 1500 on the old SAT. If you scored above that, then your SAT score is really good. If you scored below that number, then I strongly encourage you to consider retaking the exam. You can reference the chart below if you’re curious about where your score falls.

Your Score is… If You Hit This Number on the New SAT If You Hit This Number on the Old SAT
Excellent (top 25%) 1200 1800
Good (Average) 1000 1500
Poor (lowest 25%) 840 1260

When people talk about SAT scores, they talk about something called percentiles. A good rule of thumb for this is the higher the number for your percentile, the better your score. For an official breakdown of what score falls into which percentile, check out this chart from College Board, the company responsible for the SAT.

What is a Good SAT Score for You Personally?

By now you know that the SAT is one of the tests used to evaluate you by colleges that receive your application. In order to figure out what is a good SAT score for the dream schools and the safe schools you’re applying to, you’ll need to do a little bit of research. I’m going to walk you through step by step so you know exactly what information to look for and how to use it to your advantage!

1) Make a List of Schools

It’s completely okay if this list changes or if you use schools you’ve only heard of. Just get some names down. For this example, I’m going to use MIT.

2) Google Search

For each school you’ve written down, you’re going to do specific search. Continuing with our example of MIT, we’re going to Google “MIT student profile.” Depending on the school, you may need to try “[school name] freshman profile” or “[school name] admissions statistics” to find the information we’re looking for. Luckily for us, there’s a link called “Admissions Statistics | MIT Admissions.”

3) Make Note of the SAT Scores

The information you’re looking at is for the most recent accepted batch of students. Each school will list their SAT scores differently. Some offer percentiles, others the middle 50% range, and others will simply offer an average. Some schools will give you multiple ways to look at the data, like MIT, while others will offer you only partial information. In this case, MIT does give us a lot of numbers, but we’re going to focus on the table with the percentiles.

It looks something like this:

SAT Reasoning Test – Math [760, 800]
SAT Reasoning Test – Critical Reading [710, 800]
SAT Reasoning Test – Writing [700, 790]

4) Optional – Find SAT Concordance Tables or a Converter

Because the SAT was only recently redesigned, many schools are still reporting information based on the 2400 scale version of the test and not the1600. That’s the case with this MIT data.

How can I tell?

In the older version of the SAT, the current Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section was two separate sections called Critical Reading and Writing. If you use the SAT converter provided by the College Board, you can get a rough estimate on what these scores would translate to on the new SAT scale. The numbers then look like this

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing [740, 800]
SAT Math [780, 800]

5) Look at the Data

So how do you use this to your advantage? Because once you know the range of scores that typically get you into the school of your choice, you’ll be able to aim for that target number. If you hit the lower number, you know that you’ll have a tougher time getting in, whereas the higher number means you’ll be taken more seriously as a candidate. This way when you study with your top-scoring SAT tutor, you’ll have a range in mind and be able focus your studies on achieving this goal.

Answering the question what is a good SAT score can be challenging. The answer all depends on what you’re comparing your scores to; the rest of the country or the colleges you’re interested in applying to. I recommend you focus your comparisons on the schools you’re looking to attend. This gives you a set number to keep in mind while you’re studying and makes achieving your goal feel possible when you’re aiming for a tangible number.

How do you feel about your SAT score? Not sure if you should re-test? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comment section below.