It’s normal to have questions and concerns about SAT test scores. After all, this is an important exam that influences your college admissions results and, consequently, your long-term career. Getting a high mark on the SAT is one of many factors that can help make your application more competitive.
So what is a perfect SAT score? And how do you get the highest possible score for you? Read on to find out more about what makes an SAT score good — plus how to prepare for this important exam.
What Is a Perfect SAT Score?
Many colleges and universities require high school students to take the SAT exam, which helps assess learner aptitude and college readiness. While many high school students also take the ACT exam and submit ACT scores in conjunction with the SAT, the SAT is more widespread and often bears more weight than the ACT.
Students who are aiming to attend Ivy League schools like Harvard University, Stanford University, or MIT are likely all asking the same question: What is a perfect SAT score? While a perfect score is extremely rare, it can help understand the facts around an ideal score (and how you can aim high).
What Is the Highest Possible SAT Score?
The SAT is divided into two subject tests: the math section and the evidence-based reading and writing section. Both the SAT math portion and the SAT writing portion have a total of 800 possible points. When these two section scores are combined, it results in a total score of 1600. There’s also an SAT essay, which is optional and doesn’t factor into the overall score.
The highest possible SAT score is 1600, meaning that a person had the correct answer to every SAT reading and SAT math question. According to College Board’s 2019 results, only 1% of students scored between a 1550 and a 1600. The percentage of students who received the highest possible SAT score isn’t disclosed, yet we can use the data to determine that less than 1% of students scored a 1600.
What Is a Great or Good SAT Score?
Higher scores do make a person more competitive when applying to college. But since perfection is difficult to achieve, what score range is classified as good? Understanding the answer to this question requires an overview of the SAT scoring process.
According to the College Board, student success is determined by their percentile rank — how they compare to other students who took the test. For example, let’s say a student scores in the 70th percentile with a total score of 1200. This means that 70% of the students who took the same test scored equal to or below that student’s score. 1200 is a good score because it means the person scored better than most students. Anything above 1200 would be considered a great score.
What Is an Average SAT Score?
The majority of students score in the middle percentile, around 50%. In 2019, this meant the average SAT score was between 1050 and 1100. Anything above this score would be considered good, and anything below it might cause concern. Even if you’ve scored in the average percentile, you may want to retake the test to see if you can aim higher and stand out to college admissions officers.
Regardless, it’s important to remember that the SAT exam isn’t the only deciding factor when applying to selective colleges. Even students with perfect scores have been turned away because it’s really only one piece of a larger puzzle. If it’s your dream to attend a school like Yale or Cornell, keep in mind that these admissions committees look for well-rounded applications that show promise in academics, social life, extracurriculars, and all other areas of life.
What Is a Bad SAT Score?
The lowest possible score someone can get on the SAT is a 400, which would mean that both writing and math scores were tallied at 200. And while it all depends on the percentile that other students scored in, the benchmark for evidence-based reading is 480 and the benchmark for math is 530, totaling 1010.
The benchmark is used as a baseline. This is the very lowest that a student should score to be considered ready for college. And, anything lower than average (1050) is considered low. Getting a total score between 400 and 1000 on the SAT denotes that a student isn’t fully prepared for college-level courses or workshops of a similar nature. Fortunately, students always have the option to retake the exam if they’d like to try for a higher score — especially new SAT test takers who are doing it for the first time.
How to Prep for the SAT
SAT test takers can prepare for the official SAT in a number of ways. These include taking practice tests, engaging in extracurriculars, signing up for a prep course, and hiring a private tutor. These steps ensure that you know what to expect from the exam, and that you’re familiar with the question types that will appear on the standardized test. Let’s take a look at how each test prep strategy can help you get your highest score possible on the SAT.
Taking practice tests is by far the best way to prepare for the SAT. Why? Because these practice tests help you see what it takes to get at least an average score on the SAT. Specifically, the PSAT offers the best SAT practice because it gets your mind familiar with the format and layout of the test. Familiarizing yourself with the format of the questions enables you to dissect the questions and find the right answer, even when you’re not completely sure. Taking these tests helps you address your areas of weakness and strength, so you can decide where to direct your energy when studying for the SAT.
An SAT prep course can also get you ready to take the SAT test. In addition to building your confidence about the exam, an SAT prep course offers guided studying. This means there’s an expert teacher helping you through each problem to ensure that you reach the correct answer — and understand why. Kaplan, Oxford Academy, and Khan Academy offer popular SAT prep courses online and in-person.
Hiring a private tutor might be the right choice for someone aiming to attend an Ivy League school, as this one-on-one support can help foster deep understanding of the exam and its questions. Someone who needs support in a specific subject area, like math or writing, might also benefit from a private tutor.
The advantage of a tutor is that you’ll have someone to hold you accountable for studying, learning, and taking practice tests to ensure you’re on track. Private tutors don’t give you the answers. Instead, they help enrich your understanding of the subject matter in a meaningful way that you can remember and apply on the exam.
What a Perfect SAT Score Means
Studying for the SAT is one of the most stressful aspects of high school. But taking steps to prepare yourself for this important exam can help you understand what to expect and what score you should aim for.
Whether or not a perfect SAT score is in reach for you, preparing yourself with SAT prep courses and practice exams can familiarize you with the types of questions on the SAT. In turn, this will ensure that you get the highest score possible — whatever that looks like for you. Knowing what to expect from the test can greatly increase preparedness on test day.