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Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What Is a Good SAT Score in 2023?

What’s Covered:


What is a good SAT score? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. A “good score” depends on a variety of factors, including personal context, overall average test scores, and the schools on your college list. 


SAT scores are incredibly important at top schools. Many use students’ transcripts and test scores to filter out unqualified applicants, so it’s important to know how you compare to accepted students to understand your chances.


Keep reading to learn some strategies to determine what a good SAT score is for you, how to set an SAT goal for yourself, and what the average SAT score is at some of the top colleges in the country. 


What Is the Average SAT Score?


Alone‌, ‌an‌ ‌SAT‌ ‌score‌ ‌is‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌number—‌it’s‌ ‌how‌ ‌your‌ ‌SAT‌ ‌score‌ ‌compares‌ ‌against‌ ‌others‌ ‌that‌ give‌ ‌it‌ ‌context.‌ ‌Let’s‌ ‌face‌ ‌it: ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌scored‌ ‌the‌ ‌highest‌ ‌on‌ ‌an‌ ‌exam‌ ‌but‌ ‌only‌ ‌answered‌ ‌half‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ questions‌ ‌correctly,‌ ‌your‌ ‌50%‌ ‌means‌ ‌something‌ ‌different‌ ‌than‌ ‌your‌ ‌75%‌ ‌on‌ ‌an‌ ‌exam‌ ‌where‌ the‌ ‌highest‌ ‌score‌ ‌was‌ ‌98%.‌ ‌ ‌


The‌ ‌table‌ ‌below‌ ‌shows‌ ‌SAT‌ ‌scores‌ ‌along‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌average‌ ‌percentile‌ ‌of‌ ‌2022 test-takers ‌who scored‌ ‌below‌ ‌that‌ ‌number.‌ ‌The‌ ‌higher‌ ‌your‌ ‌SAT‌ ‌User‌ Percentile,‌ ‌the‌ ‌better‌ ‌your‌ ‌score‌ ‌is‌ perceived to be‌ ‌by‌ ‌colleges‌ ‌and‌ ‌scholarship‌ ‌committees.‌ ‌


SAT Score

SAT User Percentile
























When we talk about SAT scores, we are actually talking about three different data points. Students who take the SAT receive one score from 200-800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test (EBWR), and another score ranging from 200-800 for the Math test, leading to a composite score ranging from 400-1600, which is the sum of the section scores. 


According to the 2022 SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report, the average ERW score was 529, the average Math score was 521, and the average overall composite score was 1050.

SAT College Readiness Benchmarks


The SAT College Readiness Benchmarks offer college-bound students an indication of how prepared they are for higher education, and are predictive of students’ performance in college-level courses. SAT scorecards use a color-coded scale to represent readiness.  


  • Green: Section score meets or exceeds the benchmark
  • Yellow: Section score is within one year of academic growth for the benchmark
  • Red: Section score is below the benchmark by more than one year of academic growth


The current SAT College Readiness Section Scores are: 



Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW)












A great SAT score for one student is potentially a disappointment for another. A few factors to consider when determining what a good SAT score is for you are:


How to Set Your Target SAT Score


There is a certain amount of subjectivity to consider when looking at SAT scores. A great SAT score for one student may not be a great score for another student. If you’re trying to set a target for your SAT score, there are a few different factors you should consider. 


1. What Is Your Starting Point?


Take a practice SAT to find out your starting point. Take the test under actual testing conditions, using the same resources and time constraints you’d have during an official test. This will give a realistic picture of where you’re starting from in your studying journey. Alternatively, you could use your PSAT score. Check what percentile you achieved on your PSAT and compare it to the same percentile SAT score to get a rough idea of what you might score on the SAT. 


Once you start studying, your score will hopefully improve. In general, the lower your initial score is, the more improvement you’ll see. If your score on a particular section is below 500, you may feasibly improve up to 200 points. For higher scores, you can aim to improve between 100 and 150 points. 


You should also realize that you’ll likely take the actual SAT test more than once, and your score will likely continue to improve each time you take it. Most students take the SAT two or three times, and the greatest score increases on actual tests occur between the first and second test administration. 


No matter where you’re starting from, establishing a baseline can help you set realistic goals for your SAT score based on the time you have before college applications and scholarship deadlines.  


2. What Colleges Do You Want to Attend?  


The other factor you’ll need to consider when setting a target score is what the SAT score range is at the colleges you want to attend. Generally, the more selective a college is, the higher the average SAT score of admitted students will be. Therefore, if you want to attend a selective college, you should expect to achieve a top SAT score to be a competitive applicant.


Most colleges release their middle 50% ranges, meaning that the middle 50% of accepted students scored in that range, with 25% scoring below and above. For example, if a school’s middle 50% SAT range is 1320-1450, 25% of students scored below 1320, 50% scored 1320-1450, and 25% of students scored above 1450. It’s important to have a score that is up to par with these ranges.


Test-Optional Schools 

A handful of schools had established test-optional admissions policies before COVID-19 and numerous schools have adopted the practice, at least in the short term, in the of the pandemic.

Should I Submit My SAT Score?


CollegeVine suggests taking a standardized test if you can do so safely and submitting scores that are at (or above) the 25th percentile for the school you’re applying to. Applicants who submit test scores are accepted at higher rates than those that do not and strong standardized test scores can only bolster your candidacy. For example, if you’re applying to Bowdoin, which has a middle 50% range of 1330-1510, you should submit a score of 1330 or higher. 


It should be noted that the pandemic has changed norms around standardized tests, which makes comparing scores year to year a challenge. For example, about 700,000 fewer students in the high school Class of 2021 took the SAT at least once compared to the Class of 2020. The number of students taking the SAT rebounded in 2022, up roughly 15% from the previous year, but down 21% from its record number of test takers in 2019.  


The growth in the number of SAT test takers coincides with a drop in SAT scores. The average 2022 test score of 1050 is down ten points from 2021’s 1060 average SAT score. 


What Is the Average SAT Score at Top Schools?

Determining what a good SAT score is for you has a lot to do with where you’re applying. If you’re interested in attending a top college, you should aim for a score that lands you comfortably in the top 50% of admitted students.   


All hope isn’t lost if your score falls outside of the SAT score range of your prospective schools, however, you’ll need to demonstrate achievement and excellence in other areas of your application.  


Middle 50% SAT Scores at Top 20 National Universities


School Name 

Middle 50% SAT Range

Princeton University 


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Harvard University 


Stanford University 


Yale University 


University of Chicago 


Johns Hopkins University 


University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)


California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


Duke University 


Northwestern University 


Dartmouth College 


Brown University 


Vanderbilt University 


Rice University 


Washington University in St. Louis (WashU)


Cornell University 


Columbia University 


University of Notre Dame 


University of California, Berkeley 



Middle 50% SAT Scores at Top 20 Liberal Arts Schools


School Name 

Middle 50% SAT Range

Williams College 


Amherst College


Pomona College


Swarthmore College


Wellesley College 


Bowdoin College 


Carleton College 


United States Naval Academy 


Claremont McKenna College


United States Military Academy  


Middlebury College


Washington and Lee University


Smith College 


Vassar College


Davidson College 


Grinnell College 


Hamilton College


Barnard College 


Colgate University


United States Air Force Academy 


Haverford College


University of Richmond 


Wesleyan University 



What To Do If Your Score is Too Low


If your SAT score doesn’t fall within the mid-to-high range of the middle 50% SAT scores at your desired college, you should try to get that score up before you apply. This is because many selective colleges use the Academic Index to filter out applicants. If your grades and scores aren’t good enough, you may be automatically rejected. 


Of course, it is possible to get in with lower scores, especially if you have stronger grades, or if you’re an underrepresented minority, legacy, or recruited athlete. But you should always strive for a score that’s as competitive, if not more, than those of accepted students.


Here are our tips for improving your score:


1. Make a Study Plan


Use your target score to help create a study plan. Work backward from the date you intend to take your test and break down your prep work into manageable chunks. Set time aside each day to prep for the test, especially for your weaker sections and concepts.


Take at least a few timed practice tests, but don’t only take practice tests. It’s important to hone in on your weaknesses so that they’re no longer an issue. You can drill certain types of questions, or take practice section tests.


2. Learn the Two-Passes Strategy


The two-pass strategy helps ensure you have time to answer all the questions that you find easy. The strategy is simple: first, answer every question that you know or that seems obvious, and skip the more challenging questions. After answering the “easy” questions, return to the ones you passed over. 


Make sure that you practice using this strategy in advance so that you can get your timing on each section just right. You should also pay special attention to your scantron, as you don’t want to accidentally mess up the numbering.


3. Use the Resources Available


SAT prep materials and courses are abundantly available, many of which are free. The most notable of these is offered by Khan Academy—the official study partner of the College Board. It’s been shown that studying 20 hours on Khan Academy leads to a 115-point average improvement. 



CollegeVine also has an abundance of useful information on its blog. Check out these awesome articles about SAT prep: 



3. Apply to Test-Optional Colleges


Another option for students who underperform on the SAT is to apply to a school with test-optional admissions. Test-optional schools have been around for a while—Bowdoin, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, has had a test-optional admissions policy since 1969. As a result of the disruption COVID-19 had on standardized testing, a number of colleges are now practicing test-optional admissions.  


Test-optional admission is particularly beneficial for candidates with strong credentials—such as fantastic extracurricular activities and excellent grades—but lackluster test scores. They are also great for groups who generally are disadvantaged by standardized tests, like women, immigrants, students of color, people with disabilities, and first-generation students.


How Does the SAT Impact My College Chances?


Despite the large number of colleges offering test-optional admissions, your SAT score remains a strong predictor of your future collegiate success. Colleges use standardized test scores along with GPA to determine your level of academic achievement, a major consideration in the college admissions process. Simply, strong test scores are a proven method to improve your chances of gaining admission to the schools on your college list. 


CollegeVine can help you learn how your SAT score affects your chances at hundreds of colleges across the country. Our free Admissions Calculator uses factors like your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and more to give you a personalized estimate of your chances at the schools of your choice!


Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.