What Is an Average SAT Score?

What is an average SAT score?

It is difficult to give a true “average” score on the SAT because of the wide range of tests supplied and the variety of student’s taking SAT tests. Not all students who take the SAT are “college bound seniors” — many students take the SAT test as early as their Sophomore year, to get an idea of what the test is like, and to prepare them for future testing. Also, there isn’t just one “SAT test”. The inclusion of “SAT subject tests” would skew the “average” quite a bit. To get an idea of what an “average SAT score is” you’d have to consider what age you are, and what SAT tests you’re taking.

Having said that, the organization that runs SAT testing, The College Board, has recently released “averages” for “college bound seniors” on the general SAT test as well as the SAT “subject tests”. For 2008, college bound seniors averaged the following scores on the generic test:

Critical reading: 502
Mathematics: 515
Writing: 494
It is important to remember that SAT scores are just one of the many criteria used by colleges to make admissions decisions. Often, a student with a “poor” SAT score may be accepted into a program based on other academic performance, extra curricular emphasis, a solid portfolio (for creative programs like writing, theatre, dance, art, etc), and even reccomendations from teachers. Nevertheless, the importance of the SAT shouldn’t be completely underestimated.

As much as admissions officers say they take an “open minded” and “holistic” approach to their decisions, a good SAT score can in fact make or break an application. Let’s face it, it is easier to compare numerical data than it is to decide whether a student’s Eagle scout project should be ranked higher than a student who won the state science fair.

Don’t forget that schools usually make their SAT data public, and these schools know that their reputations depend upon high numbers. A college won’t be considered “highly selective” or “elite” if its students have an average SAT math score of 470.

So what is a good SAT score? The exam consists of three parts: Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing. The scores from each section can range from 200 to 800, so the best possible total score is 2400. The average score for each section is roughly 500, so the average total score is about 1500.

Understand what “average” means — a score of around 1500 would lump you in with the majority of students applying to school, and wouldn’t give a school much reason to pick you out of the crowd for admission. Therefore, students should definitely aim for a score that is much higher than this number. An SAT score of 2100 is an example of a number that would almost guarantee acceptance into the college of your choice — this score puts the student in the 90th percentile, which means that the test taker did better than 90% of the other people that took the test.

Students that have an SAT score below the average of 1500 should definitely retake the test — this score puts you at a serious competitive disadvantage. Having said all that, it is important that a student doesn’t get too caught up in getting that high number SAT score. As we said before, the SAT score is not the only thing that admission officials look at. If you spend your entire junior and senior years doing test prep, and forget to take part in extra curricular activities or outside projects to put on your college application, you’re missing the point of a college application. In fact, more and more colleges are saying that standardized tests play a “very small role” in their admission decision. This trend implies that colleges are looking for students who have more than “book smarts”.

So what is an average SAT score? Technically, the “average” would be 1511 — however, earning this “average” score doesn’t put you at any distinct advantage. Combine an average SAT score with a stellar college application, one that is full of solid reccomendations, extra projects, extra curricular participation, and solid essays, and THEN you’ll be more likely to get into the college of your choice.

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