The College Board is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1900. Their mission was simple – to expand access to higher education. That being said, the College Board is probably best known for creating the SAT.
The SAT is very important for applying to colleges, so high school students and their parents need to know the average SAT scores when they are trying to figure out what their target SAT score should be for the schools they are applying to.
In this article, we will interpret some of the data provided by the College Board to help answer the million dollar question most students and parents have: “What is a good SAT score?”
Average SAT Scores by Year up to 2021
The SAT has gone through changes since it started. For example, the Writing section wasn’t added to the test until 2006, so up until then, scores were out of 1600.
From 2006-2016 a perfect score was 2400, but then in 2017, College Board decided to combine the Critical Reading and Writing Sections into one score.
So, as of 2017, a perfect score was once again 1600. In addition, as of 2021, the College Board is discontinuing the SAT Essay section. However, they do say that the essay is available in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations.
This means it might be hard for high school students and parents to look at the average scores throughout the years and make sense of everything, which is why we’re going to walk you through some of the data provided by College Board.
The table below includes the average SAT scores by year from 2006 to 2021:
(Sources: College Board Annual Reports 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
The table is helpful if you just want to look up the average score for the last 15+ years, but we thought it could also be good to see the data graphed out. The chart below shows the average Math and CR scores in recent years from 2006 to 2021.
What is interesting here is that the CR scores were so much higher than the Math scores from 1972-1985, but around 1990 it looks like things switched.
The average CR score ended up dropping and math went up so that in 2005 Math hit an all-time high of 520, and by 2016, CR hit a low of 494. With all this variability in scores, how is a high school student supposed to know what a good SAT score is?
The problem is that this question isn’t so simple, which is why we need to look at as much data as we can.
Average SAT scores by State
Next, we’ll dive into some of the average scores by each state in 2021. Hopefully, this will help students see how the average SAT scores vary in different areas of the country. This data came from the College Board 2021 Annual State Reports.
District of Columbia
Virgin Islands, US
Again, the table can be a little overwhelming with all the numbers, but we’ve also graphed out the data so you could see the states that pop out as the top scorers and the low scorers:
The three states with the highest average SAT scores in 2021 were Minnesota (1263), North Dakota (1258), and Nebraska (1246).
The three states/territories with the lowest average SAT scores in 2021 were the Virgin Islands (920), Delaware (985), and Idaho (985).
The good thing about the table and the chart is that students can jump right to their location and see the average SAT scores for the most recent year.
This can be used as one benchmark for high school students and parents when applying to colleges and understanding their SAT scores.
What is a good SAT score for Ivy League Schools?
So far, we’ve looked at the average SAT scores for the general population, but what about those over-achievers? Now it’s time to dive into another common question we get from parents: “What is a good SAT score for Ivy League Schools?”
The National Center for Educational Statistics has a great college navigator tool that allows you to search for a specific college and get all the latest data. In this section, we’ll look at the 2020 data for the Ivy League colleges’ SAT scores.
TEST SCORES: FALL 2020 (ENROLLED FIRST-TIME STUDENTS)
SAT ERW 25th Percentile
SAT M 25th Percentile
SAT ERW 75th Percentile
SAT M 75th Percentile
University of Pennsylvania
The table shows the SAT score for the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile at each Ivy League School. The 25th percentile means that 25% of students scored below this and the 75th percentile means that 25% of students scored higher than this.
Therefore, the average is somewhere around the middle, but these are good benchmarks for students who want to make sure they’re in the right range for very competitive schools.
However, it is important to note that Ivy League Colleges don’t make admission decisions based on SAT scores alone. There are a lot of other factors that go into these admissions decisions like the student’s essay, letters of recommendation, academic transcript, community service, and more.
Good SAT Scores for Top Colleges
There are tons of other good colleges out there, so even if you’re not aiming for the Ivy Leagues, you’ll want to make sure your SAT score is competitive for the schools you choose to apply to.
The US News provides college rankings for national universities, and those rankings can impact how “good” a school is perceived. For example, the schools that rank in the top 50 are deemed “Tier One Schools”.
As of their 2022 report, US News listed the following as the top National Universities, we can see the average SAT scores for each school:
US News Ranking
Average SAT Score
Based on the data, it looks like on average, students need to score between 1400 and 1555 to be competitive for a Tier One College. As seen in the chart, Caltech had the highest average SAT score (1555) out of the top schools and UCLA had the lowest average score (1400).
How to Raise a Low SAT Score
A lot of students struggle with standardized testing, making the SAT an intimidating test. However, there are a lot of things that high schoolers can do to bump up a low SAT score. Here are some of our tips:
Find the Right Prep Book(s)
There are so many prep books out there for the SAT, and it might be difficult finding one that is geared towards your goals and learning style. A good SAT prep books should present effective test taking strategies for the different sections of the SAT, as well as practice questions that are similar to those on the real SAT.
In our review of the best SAT prep books on the market, we rated the Princeton Review SAT Premium Prep as our top choice. In this book, you’ll find that the questions are more challenging and therefore can be more useful for high-achievers.
Get a Tutor
Sometimes working one-on-one with a private tutor can make all the difference. You might have all the tools you need to succeed, but you can’t put all the pieces together on your own. If you do choose to work with a tutor, it’s best to start early because last-minute cramming won’t help for the SAT. Our recommendation for the best SAT tutors are The Princeton Review and PrepScholar.
Watch Valuable YouTube Channels
Wait – watching YouTube videos can help boost your score on the SAT?! If you’re following some of the top YouTube channels for SAT prep, like Khan Academy SAT, Magoosh SAT & ACT, or SupertutorTV, you have a good chance of increasing your SAT score. These channels provide test-taking strategies, SAT section overviews, and even a grammar crash course, to help students better prepare for the SAT and raise a low SAT score.
Make a Study Schedule
Consistency is key. If you want to raise a low SAT score, you’re going to need to commit to studying on a schedule. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to cram in three hours of studying every day, but it’s a good idea to set aside structured time for your SAT prep.
If you’re trying to measure your progress, it’s important to test yourself regularly. You can use some of the official College Board SAT practice tests as a way of objectively measuring what you’ve learned between study sessions.
Take an SAT Prep Course or Live Class
In our thorough review of the 7 Best SAT Prep Courses on the market, we rated our top SAT prep courses into categories, like the best overall, best for budget, and most comprehensive. You can rest assured that there’s a course that will best suit your needs.
So, decide on your goal and your preferred learning strategies and we’re sure that with our recommendation, you’ll find a great SAT prep course to help raise a low SAT score.
For more SAT section specific score improvement tips, check out our article on how to improve your SAT score quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about SAT scores.
What SAT score is required for Harvard?
While Harvard doesn’t require a minimum SAT score for admissions, according to the middle 50% of students who get into Harvard score between a 720 and 780 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and between a 740 and 800 for the Math section.
According to The National Center of Education Statistics, 40,248 students applied to Harvard in the Fall of 2020 and the acceptance rate was 5%. Either the SAT or the ACT is required for admissions and 72% of students submitted their SAT score in 2020.
What was Mark Zuckerberg’s SAT score?
College Vine provides a nice list of celebrity SAT scores. According to their data, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, scored 1600 on the SAT (a perfect score).
Does the SAT measure intelligence?
Even though the SAT is not the only score used for college admissions, according to the research, it does a pretty good job at measuring intelligence. This was back in 2004 and even with all the controversy, Frey and Detterman’s research still holds. However, that’s not to say that the SAT is the only measure of intelligence.
Is 1500 a good SAT score?
Based on everything we’ve reviewed, 1500 on the SAT is very good for the general public. Even when you’re looking at the Tier One schools, 1500 is within the range of the average scores. However, when you’re aiming for the Ivy Leagues, 1500 might not make you stand out to admissions counselors.
Is 1400 a good SAT score?
As we showed, in 2021 the average SAT score was 1061, which means that even 1400 is way above average. However, when we look at those average scores for Tier One schools, you’ll notice that only UCLA has an average score that low – the others are typically at least 1500. What does this mean for you? 1400 is still a good score but it ultimately depends on your target school and what other achievements you have to show for yourself when applying.