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What’s a Good SAT Score?

The straight answer is: it depends. It depends on where you want to go (or who you want to impress). According to the College Board’s table of 2013 SAT percentiles, the median SAT score for college-bound seniors was around 1500 combined. So maybe a ‘good SAT score’ is anything over that mark: you’ll be better than half of the students who took the test.

But as anyone who’s looked into applying to college knows, a 1500 won’t get you in everywhere, or even most of the top national universities. In fact, at the top schools you have no chance with a 1500. So how do you know what score you should shoot for? The easiest way to determine this is by looking at the SAT median for a school’s class of admits. The five best on Top Test Prep’s definitive rankings list all have SAT medians around 2200.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you need a 2200 to get into Yale or Princeton or Stanford: around 50% of admits received a score lower than 2200, just as around 50% scored above the median. 2200, instead, is a convenient goal: it represents a score that will get you firmly through the door at a top school and give you a good shot at admission.

Different schools will have different medians. Do the research yourself, for the schools on your list, and you’ll know what you’re up against (or rather what you’ll be pushing towards).

If you try the test once, or take a practice test, and you find you’re on the lower end of things, shoot for a 2000. Not only a nice round solid number, 2000 is also what you might call the floor at the top schools. Without a 2000, you won’t be considered by the best of the best. But with a 2000 you’ll have a slim chance with that hopeful, charitable admissions officer who opens your application as if on a whim, full of enthusiasm for a potential underdog.

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