SAT Scores – What is Good Enough?

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SAT Scores — What is Good Enough?

A perfect SAT score is 800 on the verbal, and 800 on the math.  The real question is how good is good enough?

This chart shows that half of all SAT scores fall between 800 and 1100, and the middle is around 950.


The chart below takes combined math and verbal scores and converts them into percentiles.  The data here is a little bit different.  The midway mark is at 1080, and 50% of all scores fall between 950 and 1220.

Clearly higher scores are better, but the real question is what do colleges require?

It varies tremendously.  According to the following chart, on average 75% of the students admitted to these top schools had SAT scores better than 1455 and 25% had scores below that.  Nationally, 1455 is the 97th %ile, so that is pretty stiff competition.


State schools are not typically going to be as picky.  It will differ markedly from school to school.


Financial aid comes with its own requirements.

You will have to research the requirements for the schools that you are interested in.   Clearly higher scores will always mean more choices and better opportunities.


A Comparison of SAT scores for the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, and Stanford

Doing a comparison of four schools, U of A, CU, U of M, and Stanford, the University of Arizona is the easiest school to get into.  U of A doesn’t even require SAT scores for graduating high school seniors.  The University of Colorado and the University of Michigan are both more selective than the University of Arizona.  Stanford, of course, is more selective than any of these state schools.

Compare the acceptance charts of the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado, the Univeristy of Michigan and Stanford :


University of Arizona acceptance based on grades and test scores:




University of Colorado acceptance based on grades and test scores :




Univeristy of Michigan acceptance based on grades and test scores :




Stanford acceptance based on grades and test scores :




The charts provide another way of looking at the importance of a student’s GPA and test scores.  Some school are much more selective than others.  And the more selective the school, the better your chances of acceptance are with a good GPA and higher test scores.


What do I need to do to get a good SAT score?  

Practice, practice practice!  There is no substitute for hard work.

There are 8 practice tests, and very few students are going to run out of material if they take the time drill deeply into the material on each test, .

Students with an exceptional academic background may be able to simply waltz into the SAT and pull off a high score with little or no preparation, but that is certainly not going to be the case for most ordinary mortal high school Juniors and Seniors.

Most students will benefit by spending time working on test prep on and off for a year or more.  This dovetails well with the common practice of taking the SAT multiple times in order to improve one’s score.

For students that don’t start off with stellar scores, upping their game isn’t going to be easy, but it is possible.  And the gains will come with a stronger academic foundation that will serve them well for many years to come.



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