What Is a Good SAT Score for Top Universities in 2024?

16/10/202329 minute read
What Is a Good SAT Score for Top Universities in 2024?

When counseling students, a common question we encounter is whether their SAT scores meet the standards of their target colleges. While there's no quick answer to this inquiry — especially without reviewing the entire application — there are several ways we can gauge how good your SAT score is.

So what exactly constitutes a "good" SAT score? And how does this differ between different universities?


Despite a momentary shift to test-optional policies, the SAT remains relevant, with many schools reinstating SAT scores as a requirement in their admissions process

The definition of a good SAT score can vary depending on the competitiveness of the colleges you are applying to. Generally, a good score is one that places you in the competitive range for your dream colleges and reflects well on your academic abilities - which is usually in the 75th percentile. 

To determine what makes a good SAT score, we’ll examine the average SAT score of admitted students to different top colleges. 

What is a Good Overall SAT Score?

Here's the quickest answer to this question: a good SAT score is any score in the 75th percentile or higher. Let's take a look at what this means.

According to The College Board, the national average score for the SAT is around 1050. When applying to schools, a score within the average range is unlikely to stand out to college admissions officers. To get into a top university, youl’l need a score well above average. 

When you receive your scores, you’ll be given a percentile rank - a number between 1 and 99 that tells you the percentage of students who got an equal or lower score than yours.

Percentiles give you an idea as to how your score ranks among SAT takers in general. For example, if your percentile rank is 57th, that means 57% of students scored the same or lower than you. In general, the higher your percentile rank, the better it looks on college applications.

SAT Composite Score vs. Percentile Score
SAT Composite ScorePercentile Score
1530-160099+%
1500-152098%
1450-149096-97%
1410-144094-95%
1380-140092-93%
1350-137090-91%
1310-134087-91%
1240-130080-86%
1190-123074-79%
1150-118069-73%
1080-113058-66%
1030-106050-56%
970-102040-48%
900-96029-39%
830-89019-28%
770-82010-17%
680-7602-9%
660 or lower1% or lower

While anything above the 50th percentile is technically above average, you’ll need a much higher score to be competitive at top universities. That’s why we consider a good SAT score to be any score that is in the 75th percentile at the very least. 

If your score is around or below average, it might be a good idea to retake the exam, or for test-optional colleges, you may decide not to submit your SAT scores, and instead focus on perfecting other aspects of your application, or take other measures to improve your score

What Is a Good SAT Score for Top Universities?

To determine this, we’ll analyze the average SAT scores of admitted students at the top 25 universities from our ranking list. It’s a good idea to use these average scores as a benchmark to evaluate your own performance compared to admitted applicants, and to determine how competitive you are when applying to any of these top schools.

Below is a table showing the average SAT scores for each university:

SAT Scores of Admitted Students at Top Universities
UNIVERSITY25th Percentile Score75th Percentile Score
Stanford University15001560
Massachusetts Institute of Technology15201580
Harvard University15001580
Princeton University15101570
Yale University15001560
Columbia University 15101530
University of Pennsylvania15001570
Brown University15101560
Northwestern University 14901570
University of Chicago15101560
University of California, Berkeley13301520
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor13501530
University of Notre Dame14401540
University of Southern California13701520
Vanderbilt University15001560
Dartmouth College15001580
Duke University14901570
University of California, Los Angeles12901510
John Hopkins University15301560
Cornell University14701550
University of Texas, Austin12301500
Rice University15001560
University of Virginia14001540
Washington University at St. Louis15001570
Georgetown University13901530
Average of all SAT scores1453.61551.2

Source: Most recent common data sets as of 21 Jun 2024

Students admitted to top universities have an SAT score of around 1450-1550. Based on this data, a good SAT score to top universities is around at least 1550.

While achieving a score at or above 1450 can strengthen your application depending on the university, keep in mind that this is on the lower end of admitted students' range. Most top universities will require a score closer to the average 75th percentile score of 1550.

Admissions committees at these universities often use SAT scores as one of the benchmarks to assess academic readiness and potential, alongside other factors such as GPA, essays, and extracurricular achievements.

“For test-optional schools, keep in mind that SAT scores are a helpful data point for us to use, but if your score is outside of the range, it might be worth considering that including it might hurt more than it would help.”

- Steve Han, Former Admissions Officer and Crimson Education Expert

What Is a Good SAT Score for the Ivy League?

Now, let's dive into what makes a good SAT score specifically for the Ivy League. The Ivy League universities are known for their rigorous academic standards and selective admissions processes, so achieving a score that impresses Ivy League admissions is generally impressive to all colleges.

Compare your SAT score to these averages of admitted students at the Ivy League, and if your SAT score is low, retaking the exam is worth it - especially because Ivy League schools are slowly reinstating SATs as a requirement in the application process. 

Ivy League SAT Scores
University25th Percentile Score75th Percentile Score
Harvard15001580
Princeton15101570
Yale15001560
U Penn15001570
Cornell14701550
Columbia15101530
Brown15101560
Dartmouth15001580
Average of all SAT scores15001562.2

Based on this data, a good SAT score for Ivy League universities is typically around 1560. This score would put you in the 75th percentile of all admitted students to the Ivy League; meaning your score is higher than 75% of all applicants. This gives you a competitive advantage when applying to the Ivy League.

Similarly, a score of 1500 would put you in the 25th percentile of all test-takers. While this is on the lower end of scores, it might still be worth submitting your results.

How is the SAT Score Calculated?

The test is segmented into two critical sections, each bearing its own weight and influence on the cumulative score:

  • Math
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW)

Your total SAT score is a number between 400 and 1600 - this score is the total of your scores in both sections. Each section has a possible score range of 200-800 points. 

The way the College Board scores your SAT is by first adding up the total number of questions you answered correctly (each question is worth 1 point), then converting your raw score from a 1-40 scale to section scores on a 200-800 range per section.

The College Board does this conversion using specific equating formulas that take into account the difficulty of the version of the SAT exams you took. 

The SAT employs a ‘rights-only’ scoring approach, meaning there are no deductions for incorrect answers, and there is no penalty for guessing the answer in multiple choice questions! 

Superscoring

Superscoring is a practice used by many colleges and universities to consider a student's highest section scores across multiple SAT test dates.

Instead of looking at your highest total SAT score from a single test date, superscoring involves combining your highest section scores from different test dates to create a new, higher total score.

For example, let's say you took the SAT twice. On your first attempt, you scored 600 in the Math section and 700 in the Reading and Writing section. On your second attempt, you improved your Math score to 650 but your Reading and Writing section score dropped to 680.

With superscoring, colleges would take your highest Math score (650) from the second test and your highest Reading and Writing score (700) from the first test, resulting in a superscore of 1350 (650 + 700).

This practice allows you to showcase your best performances in each section across multiple test dates, potentially improving your overall SAT score and increasing your chances of admission to your dream college.

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What to do if your SAT score is low?

1. Retake the Exam

One of the most straightforward solutions to a low SAT score is to retake the exam. Many students find that their scores improve on a second or even third attempt. 

The first time you take the SAT, it’s often a learning experience. You get a sense of the test format, the types of questions asked, and the pacing required. Armed with this knowledge, you can better prepare for subsequent attempts.

The main significant advantage of retaking the SAT is the opportunity to take advantage of superscoring - this can be a huge benefit, as it allows you to showcase your best performance in each section.

2. Hire tutors

Collaborating with expert tutors can significantly enhance your SAT preparation experience. Here’s how:

Expert tutors bring specialized knowledge and experience to tailor your SAT preparation plan according to your strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. They assess your initial skills through diagnostic tests and customize a study schedule that targets your specific areas of improvement. 

Tutors offer insights into effective test-taking strategies that are crucial for optimizing your SAT performance. They teach you how to approach different question types, manage time effectively during each section, and reduce test anxiety through strategic preparation techniques. 

  • Some of the best teachers in the world tutor with us. Book a free consultation and work with our expert tutors to get the perfect score. 

3. Consider the ACTs 

If the SAT isn’t yielding the results you hoped for, it might be worth considering the ACT as an alternative. While both tests are widely accepted by colleges, they have different formats and may play to different strengths.

The SAT and ACT, while similar in many ways, have distinct differences in their formats and focus areas. The ACT includes a Science section, which the SAT does not, and it generally has more straightforward questions but a faster pace. 

If you’re stronger in science reasoning or if you find the pacing and style of the ACT more compatible with your test-taking skills, you might score higher on the ACT. 

4. Prepare for your next sitting 

If you’re retaking the test, you can maximize your chances by preparing thoroughly. 

Start by familiarizing yourself with the test format and scoring. Create a detailed study plan that targets your weaknesses and incorporates regular practice tests to simulate the actual exam environment.
Develop effective test-taking strategies, such as time management and process of elimination, to improve your efficiency. Consider utilizing prep courses or tutoring for additional guidance and support. 

By staying organized, consistent, and motivated, you can significantly improve your performance on your next test sitting.

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Final Thoughts

Embarking on your college journey is a pivotal milestone, intertwining excitement, ambition, and, naturally, a dose of apprehension. Your SAT score, while influential, is one piece of your vibrant, multifaceted application.

Leverage our SAT practice tests and tutoring services to sharpen your skills, and utilize our college admissions calculator to tailor your college list.

Above all, embrace the journey with optimism and authenticity. Your path to college is not merely about scores and percentiles but your story, aspirations, and the unique impact only you can make on a college campus.

To further navigate your path with expert guidance, book a free consultation with our admissions experts. Let’s pave your journey to college together, making informed decisions and preparing strategically at every step.

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