It’s currently possible to earn a combined SAT score anywhere between 400 and 1600 in ten-point increments. We all know it’s highly unusual to score only a 400 or to top out at the elusive, perfect 1600.
But what’s an average SAT score?
Ever since SAT scores were recentered in the 1990s, the test has been engineered so that the median SAT score is 1000, the sum of two scores of 500 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) section and Math section. The mean average scores on the SAT change, however–even annually.
In fact, that’s why the SAT was recentered in the first place: at that time the average SAT score was consistently well below the intended median. You can imagine the collective outrage from one group of students and elation from another after recentering: one year everyone’s average SAT score suddenly jumped.
As of 2018, the SAT official data showed that the average SAT score was slightly above 1000.
|MEAN TOTAL SCORE||ERW||MATH||# TEST TAKERS|
The College Board releases an annual report full of SAT data, so it’s relatively easy to view SAT scores through the several lenses we’ll use here. (You can read the full reports here.)
Naturally, you’ll want to know more than what the average SAT score is, and a snapshot of the percentiles for SAT scores can be useful for understanding how your scores stack up against those of other students. After all, most students who are applying to extremely competitive colleges and universities will be competing with students nationwide for admission.
You’ll see here that the SAT releases percentile scores that compare your score with those of all the students in the United States and just the students who took the SAT, the “SAT Users.”
|Score||Nationally Representative Sample||SAT User|
Find out more about what a good SAT score is here.
You can begin to better understand why it’s tricky to pinpoint the meaning of any given average SAT score when you consider SAT scores by state. Here we see that the average SAT score varies–as does the number of students who take the test in any given region.
This matters as colleges try to admit students from a wide variety of states; in other words, if you live in California or Texas, you’re competing with more students from your area and will also be compared to them. Your SAT score may be relatively strong or weak compared to the smaller population you’re competing with in your state.
This is also a great lesson on why the basics of statistics are included on the SAT test itself: you’ll see that the average SAT score in Alabama exceeds the average SAT score in California by 90 points. Only 2,878 students took the SAT in Alabama last year, though, so they probably have a different (and more consistent) profile than those students in California.
You’d also need to take averages in states like Maine and Florida with a grain of salt; most students in those states take the SAT because of graduation assessment requirements.
|STATE||AVERAGE SAT SCORE||ERW||MATH||# TEST TAKERS||# HS GRADUATES||% OF STUDENTS WHO TOOK THE SAT|
Is your state not listed in my samples? You can find every state’s individual report here.
Here’s a sampling of the average SAT Scores at some Ivy League Schools.
Remember that the average score at an Ivy League school is about as valuable to you as the published score range: there are always allowances for certain subsets of populations (major donors, students with significant legacy, recruited athletes, etc.), and while it’s not always the case, sometimes those students don’t score as high on the SAT as the average SAT score of students who do not enjoy those benefits while applying.
In other words, if you’re a regular student applying to an Ivy League school without “pull,” shoot for a score higher than the average SAT at that school.
Duke University has a famous Talent Identification Program that uses 7th grade SAT test scores to invite gifted young people to engage in a variety of academic enrichment programs. Duke seeks out students who test in the top five percent of their grade, and one of the ways they do that is through an early SAT test.
|Average SAT Score||500||480||980|
|Top SAT Score||780||800||1570|
You’d need a special registration to take the SAT this young; find out more about the Duke TIP Program here.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a program called the Study for Exceptional talent. This free program enrolls students who score at least a 700 on either the SAT Math or the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing by their 13th birthday or 700 plus increments of ten for every month beyond their 13th birthday.
Hopkins doesn’t release the average SAT score for students in the SET program, but you can be sure it’s at least 700.
You can find out more about Hopkins SET eligibility here.
Most community colleges don’t require SAT scores to enroll, so there isn’t information generally available about their average SAT scores. That being said, many community colleges use SAT scores in lieu of placement tests, which can help you get out of taking introductory classes, which saves you time and money.
Now that you know the average SAT score, you can set some goals and start prepping. Find out when you should take the SAT here.