Digital SAT Score Range Breakdown

Bonus Material: PrepMaven SAT Score Ranges for 500 Top Schools

Applying to competitive universities means having a competitive SAT score. But how do you decide whether your SAT score is competitive for the schools on your list? What’s really the difference between a 1300 and a 1350 SAT? Or a 1490 and a 1500?

In this post, we’ll cover how to interpret the SAT Score Range, as well as how to put your scores into a meaningful context so that you can better understand how you compare to other applicants to your dream school. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve specialized for the past two decades in helping students reach their academic goals in school, boost their SAT and ACT scores for admissions, and craft compelling essays for college applications. Over that time, we’ve developed a winning approach to test prep that we’re happy to share with our readers. 

That also includes the spreadsheet linked below: we’ve dug into the most recent data on median SAT scores at the top 500 universities, organizing that information into one place so that you can better plan your application strategy. Download for free below!

Jump to section:
What’s the SAT Score Range?
What are SAT Score Percentiles?
What’s an Average SAT Score?
What are “High” SAT Scores?
What are “Low” SAT Scores?
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This post will focus specifically on how you can understand your SAT score and percentile as compared to other scores. If you have other questions on SAT scoring–like the new adaptive digital test, SAT score benchmarks, or Super Scoring–you should check out our master guide on SAT Scoring policies here. 

The SAT has changed starting in 2024, but the overall score range remains the same. Your total score is the sum of your scores for the Math section and the Reading & Writing section. The theoretical minimum score for each section is 200, and the maximum is 800. Naturally, this means the full SAT score range is from 400 to 1600. 

While that’s the full theoretical range of scores, very, very few people score at either extreme. According to College Board percentiles (which you can find here), only 1% of test-takers score a 660 or below, and only 1% score a 1530 or above. So, while either could happen, they’re both outliers. 

In fact, 90% of test-takers score between a 720 and 1440 composite on the SAT. Only 5% of students score above a 1440, and only 5% score below a 720. 

While everyone has different goals, our experience at PrepMaven has shown us that students aiming to get above that 1440 mark especially benefit from personalized SAT prep tutoring. At the higher ends of the score range, small strategies and changes in test-taking approach make all the difference. 

You can read our reviews of the top 15 SAT prep services here, or you can just contact our team to get paired with one of our expert tutors, each of whom is trained to help you develop those high-level strategies and approaches to the SAT. 

Since this post is just about SAT scoring, we won’t go too deep into what each of these sections actually involves here. If you want to know what the SAT Math and SAT Reading & Writing sections test or how they’re organized, you can check out a guide to the sections of the SAT here. 

Because the College Board uses percentiles and Score Equating to keep scores consistent across different tests and dates, every SAT score corresponds to a specific percentile. That “percentile” number tells you how many people you’ve outscored. If you see that your overall percentile is 75, for example, it’s saying that you scored higher than 75 percent of SAT test takers from the last 3 years. 

Because of that, the College Board offers a very helpful chart that connects every SAT score with a percentile rank. This is your best tool for putting your own score in context. The higher your percentile, the better your score! 

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of College Board’s information on the new Digital SAT Scoring policies: 

We can use this chart to put all score information into context. Notice that the percentiles are not the same across the Reading & Writing and Math sections! To really understand the SAT Score Range, you should look at each section separately, breaking down your Reading & Writing and Math scores according to their respective percentiles. 

Most important, look at what SAT scores the average admitted students have at your target colleges–that’s what matters most of all! To help save you time, we’ve actually provided a free spreadsheet of the average SAT scores at 500 colleges that you can download free below. 

This is really just a statistical question! If we look at the SAT Percentile Chart above, we can look for the 50th percentile score in each section. 

For Reading & Writing, a score of 520 means that you’re right in the middle of the pack: you scored higher than one half of test-takers, and lower than the other half. 

For Math, it’s almost the same: a score of around 510-520 means that you’ve performed better than roughly half of other students, and worse than the other half. 

We’ve also got a special breakdown of average SAT scores at different colleges (including Ivy League schools and top-ranked public universities) here, in case you want to take a look at some recent trends in average SAT scores at top schools. 

These are all helpful benchmarks, but don’t forget why you’re taking the SAT in the first place: unless you’re doing it for fun (unlikely!), the goal is to get into the college that you want to attend. 

As a result, “Average” SAT Scores aren’t that helpful to know: what really matters are the average SAT scores at the universities you want to attend. We know what you’re thinking: If only there were some really convenient spreadsheet that organized all that information for you! 

Great news: our test prep experts here at PrepMaven have put together exactly that. Follow the link below and you’ll get access to a spreadsheet that has the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile SAT Scores for 500 of the top US colleges! 

As you can perhaps tell by the scare quotes around “high,” this question doesn’t have a simple answer. That’s just because it’s so personal: what counts as “high” for a student who wants to attend Princeton isn’t going to be the same as for a student who wants to apply to the local state college. 

We’ve written a more detailed, nuanced post on what counts as a “good” SAT Score here, and we strongly recommend you check it out: we use the latest data to provide specific tips on setting and reaching your target scores. 

In this post, we’ll stick with the objective statistics. A good score to target might be, for example, a 75th percentile score in each section (which would mean you’ve outperformed 75% of other SAT test-takers). Looking at our chart, that would mean roughly a 600 in each section, for a composite of 1200. 

But we’ll point out that, for most competitive or “elite” universities, that’s not going to cut it. Take a look at the table below for some more selective universities. Notice how high even the 25th percentile scores are at each of these universities! At Yale, for example, a 740 Reading and Writing score would put you below 75% of their accepted students. 

College25th Percentile Reading and Writing Score 75th Percentile Reading and Writing Score25th Percentile Math Section Score75th Percentile Math Section Score
Yale University740780760800
Vanderbilt University730770760800
Amherst College710770750790
Pomona College730770750790
Princeton University730780760800
Brown University730780760800
Barnard College720770720780

That’s why we always say that, as with beauty, a “good” score is in the eye of the beholder–in this case, what matters is what your target colleges will consider “high.” There is one thing worth pointing out, if we go back to the College Board list of percentiles and scores. 

If you want to really lock in a top-tier score, you’ll want to aim for the 99th percentile. Earning a 99th percentile score in Reading & Writing means getting a 760 or above. Doing the same in Math means getting a jaw-dropping 790 or higher! 

These top scores, naturally, don’t leave a lot of room for error, but they do make you stand out as an applicant. We can tell you from decades of experience working with students taking the SAT that students targeting these top scores especially benefit from test prep tutoring. 

The difference between 99th percentile and 95th percentile might seem small, but it can mean a world of difference–and our tutors are experts in helping students overcome score plateaus and break into the highest range of SAT scores. Reach out today, and we’ll pair you with a tutor specifically based on your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. 

We’ve also written a separate guide for those brave test-takers targeting a perfect 1600. That guide is tailored for students already scoring extremely high but who want to know what it takes to lock in a perfect SAT score–something only a handful of people do each year. 

If you really want to know if your SAT score is high enough for your target schools, check out our spreadsheet of SAT score ranges below. 

Once again, “Low” SAT scores are a question of perspective: at the end of the day, a “Low” SAT score is just one that isn’t good enough for your target college. 

That being said, the College Board does offer “College and Career Readiness Benchmark” Scores. These benchmarks are markers of what College Board calls “college readiness,” meaning that anyone below these benchmarks is, theoretically, not ready for the rigors of college study. 

These SAT benchmarks are fixed: they don’t change from test to test, regardless of how people score. 

The digital SAT “college and career readiness” benchmarks are: 

  • Reading and Writing: 480
  • Math: 530

While your target SAT score is up to you, we highly recommend you aim above these benchmarks. Remember: these are really the minimum levels at which you’re considered ready for college. Any score below these is what you might want to consider a “low” score. 

When it comes to SAT prep, the first step is the same regardless of your starting point or your end goal: do some research into SAT score ranges at the universities you’re considering applying to. Then, take a diagnostic SAT to see what your score currently is! 

We’ve got our free spreadsheet of SAT score ranges for 500 top schools here and we’ve also got a post that contains links on Digital SAT Prep Resources (including practice tests) here. 

Once you get a sense of your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, there’s simply no better way to maximize your SAT score than by working with one of our expert SAT prep tutors. Not only are they top scorers themselves, but they’ve got the experiences and training to help you become a top scorer. Reach out to our team to get paired with a personal SAT prep tutor today! 

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.