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What is a good SAT score and how do I get it?

JUL 01, 2017 • 10 min read

While it's mostly true that no one cares about your SAT score after college, they certainly care about it before you get in.

Well, at least admissions officers do.

Your SAT score is just one part of your application, but it plays a big role because it allows admissions officers to quickly compare you to the rest of the applicants, of which there are thousands.

Plus, having a student body with a high SAT average makes any school look good, so admissions officers certainly have incentive to let you in with that near-perfect score.

Do you have a good SAT score right now, or is there room for improvement? And if you need to improve your SAT score, where do you begin?

Start here.

The new SAT scale: 2400 > 1600

1600 2400 Sat

Before you prepare for the SAT, you need to know about the new scale.

Otherwise, finding out your score can get pretty confusing if you're still stuck on the old scale.

The new scale was released in 2016, and this time, it only goes up to 1600. So, get the old top score of 2400 out of your head, because you can't get that number now.

Just like before, each section is worth 800 points, but now there are only two sections instead of three. They are "Evidence-Based Reading & Writing" and "Mathematics."

For each section, the SAT score range is 200 to 800, with 400 to 1600 being the SAT score range for the entire test.

So as usual, getting a 0 on this test is impossible, no matter how much you might joke about it while you nervously await your test results.

So, before you get your scores back, remember these numbers:

  • 1600 is the new score to aim for.
  • There are only two sections now.
  • There's no longer any way to get a score of 2400… or 0.

The SAT score range you need for a good college

Sat Score

So, what SAT score range should you be hoping for if you want to get into a good school?

Well, it depends on which college you want to go to. In general, the more highly ranked the school is, the better SAT scores you'll need to get accepted.

A good SAT score differs from a good ACT score range.

For example, the following are the scores in the 25th-75th percentile for schools in the Ivy League:

Brown University:


Columbia University:


Cornell University:


Dartmouth College:


Harvard University:


Princeton University:


University of Pennsylvania:


Yale University:


Nervous about your scores now?

Don't be.

The Ivy League is known for being particularly demanding when it comes to SAT scores, but rest assured that most other colleges don't expect this score range from applicants.

And even if the Ivy League is where you want to be, you're going to need to apply to a few safety schools with slightly lower expectations for the SATs anyway.

Here are the average scores from several other popular schools, along with some facts you need to know about them:

Baylor University


Located in Texas and is the biggest Baptist college in the world.

Boston College


Private Catholic research university in, well, Boston, MA.

Brandeis University

1360-1520 Another highly-ranked private research university in Boston.

Georgetown University

1390-1560 This private research university in Washington, DC is known for its international relations program.

New York University

1320-1500 Top research university with a campus spread throughout NYC.

Pepperdine University

1180-1400 Selective private university near Los Angeles with a campus that overlooks the Pacific.

Tulane University

1320-1470 Somehow known as both selective and a "party school," maybe because it's located in New Orleans.

University of California - Los Angeles

1280-1520 Known as UCLA, this giant public research university has a great athletic program.

What about some places you've never even heard of!

If you're hoping to go to a lesser-known but still highly-rated school, here are some average SAT scores and basic facts about several colleges of this type:

Creighton University

1140-1350 Private, Catholic school in Omaha, NE, that's mostly known for its College of Arts & Sciences.

Emerson College

1220-1380 Small Boston school with a focus on communication and the arts.

Fordham University

1230-1420 A medium-sized research university in NYC with a strong focus on liberal arts.

Ithaca College

1170-1360 A private liberal arts college in upstate New York with dozens of famous singers, actors, and news anchors as alumni.

Lewis & Clark College

1260-1410 A small, surprisingly affordable private liberal arts college in Portland, OR.

Seattle University

1150-1340 Jesuit Catholic university in the northwest that's known for its macroeconomics and legal writing programs.

Villanova University

1280-1470 Private research university near Philadelphia with excellent nursing, law, and business programs.

Willamette University

1170-1370 Small, private liberal arts college in Salem, OR that has the honor of being the oldest college in the western US.

Overall, what's a good SAT score? It depends.

For an Ivy League school, it's about 1550.

For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400.

For most other colleges, 1300 and up will make you a competitive applicant.

How to Improve Your SAT Score

Now that you know the SAT score range to aim for, it's time to find out how to get there. Here's how to get started:

1. Be wary of the "no change" answer

The writing section of the SAT is rife with questions that feature "no change" as a possible answer when you're supposed to be finding grammar problems within sentences.

Don't fall for it. The answer is rarely "no change," so if you keep coming up with this response, look at the sentence again to make sure.

2. Brush up your reading comprehension before the test

How can you do this? By reading, a lot!

It's that simple.

You can really drill down on your reading comprehension skills by browsing an SAT reading passage daily and answering the questions. You'll become a pro at picking out crucial details in no time.

3. Beef up your vocabulary

There's bound to be a word or two you don't know on the reading & writing section ... unless you work on expanding your vocabulary months before you take the test.

You can buy a word-a-day calendar so you have a little something to look forward to every day, and that's stumping your friends with a word they've never heard, of course. You can also buy books and flash cards packed with SAT vocab words to study.

4. Make sure your math answers fit

Don't forget about the math portion of the test. When you're taking the SAT and aren't sure about a math problem, take advantage of the fact that it's multiple choice by plugging in each answer until you find the one that works.

Even if you're pretty sure you're right, you can use this method to check your work, assuming you have time during the test.

5. Skip the hard questions

Speaking of time, there's a chance you'll run out of it during the test.

Avoid this possibility by leaving the really difficult questions for the end. Circle them and then come back to them at the end of the test if you have time.

6. Practice, practice, practice

And practice some more! It's not a fun way to improve SAT scores, but it's effective. You can find sample tests to take online or from your school's resource center.

After you've taken a few tests "for fun," work on mimicking the setting you'll be in for the actual SAT test. So set up in a fairly quiet room with no distractions and use only the resources you'll have during the test, such as a pencil and approved calculator.

No snacks, no cell phone, no headphones blasting music.

Just bring your brain, a graphing calculator and a No. 2 pencil, and you'll be prepared for the real test.

Final Thoughts

So now you know the top score you can get on the SAT these days, and you have an idea of what scores colleges expect and how to achieve them.

Now what?

Well, it's time to put the above tips into practice. And if you run into any trouble while studying for the SATs, come to Crimson for personalised tutoring from our experts. With your newfound knowledge on the SAT test and our help with any areas where you're struggling, you'll be a force to be reckoned with on your path to college!

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