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What is an average SAT score?


For many high school seniors, the SAT score serves as a goal post that would influence their college track. Education experts claim that one’s performance in the SAT is an indication of college readiness, and students who achieve stellar SAT scores are most likely to succeed in the rigorous environment of post-secondary academic institutions. The full measure of SAT performance as it relates to academic success remains debatable, and an acceptable SAT score depends on this consideration: Is the SAT score sufficient for consideration and admission to the student’s college of choice?

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Understanding SAT Scores

The content of the SAT is written by professional test writers of the nonprofit Educational Testing Service. The College Board takes charge of test administration, scoring standards, and other issues. The test consists of a multiple-choice, 52-questions Reading test, a Writing and Language test consisting of 44 multiple-choice questions, and a Math component divided into a no-calculator section of 20 questions and a calculator section with 38 questions. The essay portion is optional for most, but many students choose to take it in case the college admissions committee of their preferred colleges ask to see the essay score.

Results of the Reading test are combined with the results of the Writing and Language test to generate the Evidence-based Reading and Writing score or EBRW. The Math test score will reflect the results of the calculator and no-calculator components. The highest possible SAT score would be 1600 with ERW contributing 200 to 800 and the Math test score accounting for the other half.

The College Board defines the College and Career Readiness Benchmarks as the score at which test takers have a 75 percent chance of earning a C in the first semester, college-level courses in algebra, statistics, precalculus, calculus, history, literature, social science, and writing. The SAT Benchmarks are 480 for the ERW section and 530 for the Math section. Out of 1,715,481 12th graders who took the SAT in 2017, the mean scores were 533 for the ERW section and 527 for the Math section.

Performance Metrics Based on Groupings

SAT scores may be valuable when considered in the context of demographics. The College Board breaks down the performance metrics, so the numbers are more useful when identifying how to provide more support for test takers who may require specialized assistance for test preparations.

These are the mean scores based on race or ethnicity.

Race/Ethnicity (Self-reported)ERW Mean ScoreMath Mean ScoreTotal Mean
American Indian/Alaska Native486477963
African American470462941
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander498488986
Mixed Race5605441103

About 5 percent of test takers opted not to report their race or ethnicity. This group earned a mean average of 475 on the ERW and 485 on the Math section for an overall mean of 961.

Based on gender, mean scores did not vary greatly between male and female test takers.

GenderERW MeanMath MeanTotal

SAT scores were also consistent with academic performance in high school. The following table will show that students who earned the higher GPA or Grade Point Average also performed better in the SAT.

GPAERW MeanMath MeanTotal
A+ (97-100)6266281254
A (93-96)5955921187
A- (90-92)5645581122
B (80-89)5084971005
C (70-79)456444899
D, E, F (Below 70)429421850

In this grouping, 7 percent of test takers opted not to provide their GPA information. This group earned mean scores of 489 for the ERW and 498 in Math for a total of 987.

Socioeconomic background played a role in SAT performance as well. Test takers were asked to report the highest academic achievement of their parents or guardians, and the results indicated that this is a factor that should be considered in planning assistive programs with special attention paid to students who required the most help.

Highest Educational Attainment of ParentsERW MeanMath MeanTotal
No High School472472944
High School Graduate5074971003
Associate Degree5255111036
Bachelor’s Degree5625561118
Graduate Degree5915861177

Understanding The Freshman Admit Profile

Hard driving students aim for the perfect score of 1600, which may be unnecessary in most cases. The acceptable SAT score is one that will put the student in the pool for possible admits. The label may vary from one school to another, but it is possible to find out the college’s Freshman Admit Profile or the 25th/75th percentile.

The 25th percentile score indicates that 25 percent of those admitted scored below this number and 75 percent scored above it. The 75th percentile score shows that 75 percent of admits scored below this level and 25 percent scored above it. The 75th percentile number is an appropriate goal post for students seeking admission to the college. An SAT score that is at or above this number combined with a strong transcript and supporting documentation will improve one’s chances for admission. Some colleges may use an average SAT score instead of the 25/75 numbers. In this case, it is advisable to aim for an SAT score at least 100 points above the given average to improve your chances of falling within the top 25 percent of potential admits.

SAT performance is a crucial component of the college admission process. Understanding average SAT scores and how this number factors into one’s chances for admission is key to preparing efficiently and eventually gaining admission to the preferred college.