What Is A Good SAT Score For Top Universities? - Crimson Education AZ-RU (2023)

Despite most universities going test optional, 40-50% of applicants to top universities submit an SAT score. Your SAT score can hold a lot of weight when it comes time to apply to leading universities. But what does a good score mean? How much should you aim for? And how do you prepare for them?

What is the SAT?

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a test given to high school students who plan to go to college. It measures their academic knowledge and skills to determine whether they are ready for higher learning.

Even though the SAT is a standardized test, it varies from year to year. That means your score depends on both your preparation and luck. There are two main types of questions on the exam: multiple choice and essay. Both require time management and writing skills, but only the essay requires critical thinking.

SAT Goes Digital!

After a few years of controversy, the College Board is rolling out a set of changes to the SAT to make it more equitable. And the first of that is that the exam is going digital for international students. From March 2023, students outside the United States will take the exam on a computer instead of on paper. A host of other changes are also coming into effect.

Along with going digital, there are several other changes to the new SAT. Scores will now be reported faster and the exam time will shrink from three to two hours. Being digitized, will also make the exam more secure with virtually no way for students to cheat.

How Important are SAT Scores for College Admission in 2023?

The new digital SAT will still be scored on a scale of 1600. While it's mostly true that no one cares about your SAT score after college, they certainly care about it before you get in.

Well, at least admissions officers do.

Your SAT score is just one part of your college application, but it plays a big role as it allows admissions officers to quickly and objectively compare you to the rest of the applicants, of which there are usually tens of thousands. Plus, as most schools publish the average SAT score of their admits on their website, having a student body with a high SAT average reflects well on their admissions standards.

Test-Optional College Options

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have opted to make standardized test scores optional for applicants. However, many of the most prestigious schools in the nation have decidedly stated that they do not plan to adopt permanent test-optional policies and with a good SAT score, you can still boost your application above the competition. In fact, 40-50% of students applying to top universities submitted their SAT scores in the last application cycle. Test-optional school policies indicate that applicants will not be judged on the absence of test scores, but their presence will still be taken into account.

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How is the SAT Scored?

The SAT is scored based on a 1600-point grading scale. It's broken down into two sections:

  1. Math
  2. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

SAT Grading Scale

Each of these sections is scored between 200 and 800. You can choose if you want to complete the optional essay portion of the test. This section is evaluated separately. There is no penalty for choosing the wrong answer on the SAT. Your raw score report is only based on the total of the questions you answered correctly.

In the new digital SAT, there will be a shorter reading section with more time per question.

Before you get your score report back, remember these numbers:

  • 1600 is the perfect score.
  • There are only two required sections.
  • There's no way to score a 0.

What is Considered a Good SAT Score?

According to data published in College Board’s 2020 SAT Annual Report, among the 2.2 million 2020 high school graduates who took the test, the average SAT composite score was 1051, with the average “Reading & Writing” score being 528 and the average “Mathematics” score is 523.

Once you know what the average SAT score is, you can deduce that any score higher than 1051 is an above-average score and any score below 1051 is a below-average score. Simple enough, right?

Not quite. There are two factors that can help you determine whether or not you have a good SAT score:

  • SAT Score Percentile
  • University Average SAT Score

SAT Percentile Score Explained

Your score percentile reveals how well you did on your exam in comparison to everyone else who took the exam on the same day. For example, if you're in the 15th percentile, you did better than 15% of the students who took the exam that day. If you're in the 90th percentile, you did better than 90% of the students and so on.

If you are in the 15th percentile, you are well below average – 85% of students did better than you. Generally speaking, anything below the 50th percentile is considered ‘bad’; anything in the 50th-70th percentile is ‘good’, and anything above the 90th percentile is great!

(Video) Scoring a 2400 on the SAT

Check out the chart below to see what SAT scores line up with which percentiles. Keep in mind that these percentiles may change slightly depending on when you take the exam.

SAT Composite Score vs. Percentile Score
SAT Composite ScorePercentile Score
600-650 or lower1% or lower

The Average SAT Score by University

Although less objective, the best way to define whether or not you have a good SAT score is knowing whether or not it aligns with the standards of the universities you're applying to. The SAT score range you should be aiming for depends on which college you want to go to! In general, selective colleges like Stanford University or Princeton University require much higher SAT scores than lower-ranked schools.

Despite the last year being test optional, many universities received applications with high SAT scores. US News revealed the 31 universities with the highest combined average SAT reading and math scores for fall 2021 entrants. While the average SAT score for the class of 2021 was 1060, per the College Board, applicants admitted to schools on this list earned much higher marks. The average score for these 31 universities was 1494.

To help you understand what SAT scores are required for the top 20 universities in the US, including Columbia University, Yale University, and Harvard University, you can use our free college admissions calculator to find out your chances of admissions! Alternatively, we've compiled a list of the average SAT scores of their accepted students.

US Top 20 Universities Average SAT Scores
UniversityAverage Composite SAT Score
Princeton University1515
Harvard University1530
Columbia University1520
Massachusetts Institute of Technology1545
Yale University1530
Stanford University1520
University of Chicago1545
University of Pennsylvania1525
California Institute of Technology1555
Johns Hopkins University1515
Northwestern University1520
Duke University1505
Dartmouth College1500
Brown University1515
Vanderbilt University1525
Rice University1530
Washington University1530
Cornell University1505
University of Notre Dame1480
University of California, Los Angeles1405

So, overall what's a good SAT score goal? It depends.

For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.

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3 Tips to Help Improve your SAT Score

Now that you know roughly what SAT score to aim for, you may be wondering how to get there.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

And here are some steps to take in the right direction:

1. Study harder and re-sit the exam

Luckily, you can take the SAT as many times as you'd like (although try to keep it under three, as anything more doesn't look great on your application)!

However, simply sitting the exam over and over again won't necessarily improve your score. In order to actually make a change, you'll need to improve your study habits, come up with a proper SAT prep plan and perhaps even get some tutoring!

Pro tip: Some colleges will ‘superscore' your SAT.

A superscore is a combination of your highest score on each section across every SAT you take. Therefore, instead of using your scores from only one date, certain schools combine your highest section score across all dates and create your highest possible composite score!

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2. Re-evaluate your College List

If retaking the SAT after planning, studying and tutoring still doesn't get you close to the score you'll need to compete at your target schools, it's a good indication that the schools on your college list may not be the best fit for you. Ultra-competitive universities accept applicants with near-perfect SAT scores because those applicants have demonstrated their eagerness to take on highly demanding and rigorous coursework. In general (though this certainly doesn't apply to every student), if the SAT score for your dream school's average is far out of reach, their academics may also be too difficult and demanding for you to get the most out of studying there. And that's okay! Your college experience is the sum of many parts, only one of which is the classwork.

3. Stay Optimistic and On Track

On the flip side, don't be discouraged if you don't quite get the score you need to get into your dream uni. If you're off by a relatively small margin, you can make up for a lower SAT score by having incredible grades, writing fantastic essays, and getting involved in unique extracurricular activities! Thanks to the holistic U.S. application system, admissions officers look at the complete picture, meaning they often look past sub-par test scores if the rest of the application shines.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the ins and outs of SAT scores and what makes a good SAT score for you personally, check out some of Crimson's blog for a deeper dive into acing your SATs:

  • How to study for the SATs?
  • SAT vs ACT What’s the difference and which one is right for me?

Visit Crimson's online tutoring page to learn more about how our world-class teachers and tutors help students reach their high school and university admissions goals. Now that you've got the tips you need, let's help you put them into practice! Book a free consultation with our expert admission advisors to learn more about how to improve your SAT score today!

What Makes Crimson Different


What SAT score is required for top universities? ›

For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.

What SAT score do you need for University of Arizona? ›

Admissions Summary

Students that get into University of Arizona have an SAT score between 1140–1360 or an ACT score of 21–29. Regular applications are due May 1.

What SAT score is good enough for Ivy? ›

Average Ivy League SAT Scores in 2021
SchoolSAT Middle 50% ScoresAcceptance Rate
Princeton University1450-15704.4%
University of Pennsylvania1490-15605.9%
Yale University1460-1580*4.6%
Average of All Ivies1468-15645.5%
5 more rows

What SAT score is impressive? ›

A score of 1350 would put you in the top 10% of test takers and help make your application competitive at more selective schools. In choosing colleges to apply to, consider factors such as the cost of tuition and availability of financial aid, location, and campus atmosphere.

What did Elon Musk score on SAT? ›

Elon Musk reacts to GPT-4 scoring 93% on SAT exams.

What is the lowest SAT accepted to Harvard? ›

There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.

What schools require a 1500 SAT score? ›

A 1500 SAT score is incredibly competitive and makes you eligible for admission into all colleges — even the most competitive ones, the Ivy Leagues. Included in the institutions you can apply to are the University of Chicago, Columbia University in the City of New York, and Duke University.

What GPA do you need to get into Arizona? ›

You're assured admission to the University of Arizona if you: Attend a regionally accredited high school. Rank in the top 25 percent of your graduating class and meet core coursework requirements. Earn an unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher in your core competency requirements based on your 6th semester grades*.

What is an elite SAT score? ›

It depends. For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.

What is the lowest Ivy League SAT? ›

Ideal ACT/SAT Scores for Ivy League School Applications

The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section. Getting 700 or 710 (or higher) on both of these sections will give you an advantage at most Ivy League universities.

Should I retake a 1370 SAT? ›

A 1370 SAT score will preclude you from getting into more selective schools such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, Brown, and others of the same caliber. However, it'll put you in the running for Georgia Tech, Boston University, Claremont McKenna, University of Virginia, and Reed.

What is a realistic SAT score? ›

A 1300 is an admirable SAT goal and it's attainable if you're starting at an 1150. But if your initial test score is a 900, a 400-point score increase is not very realistic. Sure, it can be done, but the average student does not have 40-hours a week to invest in SAT prep for months at a time.

How rare is a perfect SAT score? ›

How Many People Get A Perfect SAT Score? Yearly, less than 1% of all test-takers get a perfect score. That's hundreds out of nearly three million people who take the test. The people who score perfect aren't necessarily the smartest test-takers but are often the most prepared.

What's a bad SAT score? ›

What's a Bad SAT Score? A score of 1040 or below is considered below average for SAT test-takers. A score of 890 or below puts you in the bottom quarter of test-takers. This means that if you scored a 1040 or below, you should consider retaking the exam to improve your chances of getting into a good college.

What is Mark Zuckerberg SAT score? ›

Mark Zuckerberg.

The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University. There's no surprise there on the score or prestigious university!

What is Bill Gates SAT score? ›

Gates scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs.

What was Steve Jobs SAT score? ›

Celebrity ACT Scores
CelebrityACT Score (or equivalent)SAT Score (or equivalent)
Steve Jobs321480*
Marilyn Monroe211080*
Sonia Sotomayor351580*
John Cena20 and 36 (whaaa???)1050* and 1600*
11 more rows
Feb 2, 2016

What is the lowest SAT at Yale? ›

Yale University is extremely selective with an acceptance rate of 6%. Students that get into Yale University have an SAT score between 1470–1560 or an ACT score of 33–35. Regular applications are due January 2.

How many times can you take the SAT? ›

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.

What GPA is required for Yale? ›

GPA Requirements

Yale University does not have a strict minimum GPA requirement for undergraduate admissions. However, admitted students typically have very high GPAs, ranging from 3.8 to 4.0, with an average GPA of 3.9.

What SAT score is needed for Georgia Tech? ›

Admissions Summary

Students that get into Georgia Institute of Technology have an SAT score between 1370–1530 or an ACT score of 31–35. Regular applications are due January 4.

What is 99th percentile on SAT? ›

While many high achievers strive to reach a 1600, in reality any score above a 1500 typically falls within the 99th or 98th percentile. This means that if you've scored a 1500 on the SAT, it may not be in your best interest to retake the test when you could work on other parts of your application.

How many people get a 1500? ›

1500 SAT Score Standings

Out of the 2.13 million test-takers, 20911 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 1482 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 16 schools with this score.

Is 1070 an ok SAT score? ›

Unfortunately, 1070 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.

What GPA is required for Harvard? ›

The GPA requirements for Harvard University are between 3.9 to 4.1. You will need an incredibly high GPA and will likely be graduating at the top of their class in order to get into Harvard University.

What is the average GPA in Arizona? ›

The average first-term GPA of students was 2.51 which was lower by 0.01 compared to last year (on a 4.0=A scale). As a group, students perform better in their first English course than in their first math course. The average grades received this year are listed below.

What is the lowest GPA you will accept? ›

Unofficially, 2.0 is the lowest GPA accepted into a standard college, so while there's a chance that college admission is possible, it's not likely at more than a few institutions.

Can I get a 5.0 GPA? ›

Students in an AP class with weighted grading receive a five-point weighted average for each of the four-letter grades: As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. As a result, a student who only takes AP classes and receives A's will have a 5.0 GPA.

Do colleges accept 5.0 GPA? ›

Unweighted GPAs are reported on a 4.0 scale and consider all classes equal. Weighted GPAs are reported on a 5.0 scale and consider class difficulty when awarding grades. Colleges consider both when reading your application for admission.

Will a 1600 SAT get me into Ivy League? ›

What colleges can I get into with a 1600 SAT score? You're an eligible and competitive candidate for all schools, including most selective schools. On top of applying to colleges in the Ivy League, also consider applying to colleges like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Georgetown University.

What did Bill Gates score on his SAT? ›

1. Bill Gates: It's no question that the famous multi-billionaire creator of Microsoft is a pure genius and his SAT score certainly compliments that fact. Gates notched a 1590 on his SATs, 10 points away from a perfect score!

What SAT score is needed for Harvard? ›

Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.

What ranking is 1450 on SAT? ›

Is a Score of 1450 (96th Percentile) Good? Earning a score of 1450 on the SAT indicates an exceptional performance on the exam and places you in the upper 95th percentile of all students nationwide.

What did Mark Zuckerberg get on the SAT? ›

Mark Zuckerberg.

The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University. There's no surprise there on the score or prestigious university!

How rare is a 2400 SAT score? ›

For example, obtaining a perfect score on the old SAT (2400) puts you in the 99th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 99% of all other test takers. An 800, the lowest possible score on the 2400 scale, would be in the 1st percentile, meaning you scored higher than 1% of the other test takers.

What was George Bush's SAT score? ›

Bush scored a 1206 out of 1600 on the SAT; 566 on the verbal section, and 640 on the math section. Bush cheered for both Philips Academy's and Yale's football teams, as it was quite common for cheerleaders to be male in Bush's time.

What SAT score is considered genius? ›

Excellent SAT Score: 1350+ (90%+ higher than all test-takers.)

What celebrity got a perfect score on the SAT? ›

List of celebrity SAT scores
CelebrityScoreKnown for
Kobe Bryant1080NBA Player
Bill Clinton103242nd President of the United States
Al Franken1020Actor, author, and political commentator (Saturday Night Live)
Janeane Garofalo950Actress (Dogma, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion)
18 more rows

What SAT score do you need for Yale? ›

Yale University is extremely selective with an acceptance rate of 6%. Students that get into Yale University have an SAT score between 1470–1560 or an ACT score of 33–35. Regular applications are due January 2.

Do most colleges prefer the SAT or ACT? ›

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other.

How many students get 1500 on SAT? ›

A 1500 puts you in nearly the 95th percentile of all 1.7 million test takers. Just 100 points shy of a perfect score, a 1500 on the SAT makes you eligible to apply to every college and university in the country and be competitive for admission at almost every single one, including elite institutions.

How many students get 1450 on SAT? ›

A score of 1450 on the SAT is considered a very good score, placing the test-taker in the 97th percentile of all students who took the SAT. This means that out of the 2.13 million test-takers, only 61064 scored the same or higher than a score of 1450.

Can I get into Yale with a 1450 SAT? ›

Yale University

Yale requires the submission of SAT or ACT scores. About half of the admitted students have SAT scores between 1450 and 1560, with more than 86% scoring between 32 and 36 on their ACT test.


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