April Maguire 4 min read SAT Info and Tips, Standardized Tests

What is an Average SAT Score?

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You took the SAT, waited weeks for the results, and finally received that all-important message that your scores are in. However, interpreting those numbers is often easier said than done. Most students want to know what the average SAT score is so they can assess how their outcomes compare with those of other college-bound juniors and seniors.

 

Still, there’s more than one way to assess average scores. For example, the College Board calculates average SAT scores based on gender, ethnicity, family income level, and even the state from which a student hails. Keep reading to learn more about average SAT scores and find out what you can do to improve your results and achieve your collegiate goals.

 

What is an Average SAT Score?

 

Every year, the College Board releases an SAT score report revealing national averages. For 2019 high school graduates, the average SAT score for students across the U.S. was 1059, with an average Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 531 and a Math score of 528. Still, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. In fact, average scores vary significantly based on several factors outside a student’s control. 

 

One of the most significant factors affecting SAT averages is a student’s family income level. In general, students from families earning less than $20,000 earn almost 300 points less than students in the $200,000+ income bracket. Below is a chart of average scores by family salary:

 

Family Income Level Average SAT Score 
Less than $20,000 970
$40,001-$60,000 1070
$100,001-$140,000 1150
Over $200,000 1230

Source: College Board

 

It’s no secret that students from higher-income backgrounds often enjoy educational advantages over those from less wealthy families. Along with access to better schools and teachers, students in the higher salary brackets often have the money to pay for tutoring and SAT prep programs. They may also have more time to study, as students from poorer homes may need to work jobs for their family, or take care of siblings.

 

In an effort to level the playing field, the SAT recently created an adversity score to give college admissions officers an idea of what students have had to overcome during their lives. While the score wasn’t available to students, colleges could see the number when they received applicants’ score reports. The general public was upset about the adversity score, as they believed a single number couldn’t encompass the challenges a student has faced.

 

Because of a negative reaction to the adversity score, the SAT quickly overturned this policy. Instead of providing colleges with a single score, the College Board now offers something known as a Landscape. This admissions tool offers a series of data points that may affect a student’s performance, such as housing stability, crime rates, size of senior class, and many others. They also share how the student’s score compared to the average at their high school.

 

Below is a chart showcasing how the school a student attends can have an effect on their SAT score:

 

School Type Average SAT Score
Public 1060
Religiously Affiliated 1150
Independent 1150
Other or Unknown 1070

Source: College Board

 

Additionally, students and parents should note that average SAT scores tend to vary by ethnicity. Generally, this disparity is also correlated with the average income levels of the ethnic groups. View average SAT scores by ethnicity in the table below:

 

Student Ethnicity Average SAT Score
American Indian/Alaska Native 912
Asian 1223
Black/African American 933
Hispanic/Latino 978
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 964
White 1114
Two or More Races 1095

Source: College Board

 

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What’s a ‘Good’ SAT Score? How to Find Your SAT Goal Score

 

There’s no one right answer to what constitutes a good SAT score. However, one of the main considerations is whether a score is sufficient to help you gain entry to your dream college. While various factors can impact admissions decisions, including grades, extracurriculars, and essays, students with higher SAT scores tend to have a better chance of getting into school than those with lower scores. As stated above, the average SAT score for 2019 was 1059. However, the closer a student’s score gets to 1600, the higher their chances are of being accepted to the college of their dreams.

 

If you want to find your goal score, start by looking at the average SAT scores of your target institutions. Typically, colleges list the middle 50% range SAT scores of accepted students on their admissions pages. For example, Princeton’s composite middle 50% range is 1460-1570. This means 50% of accepted students scored between 1460-1570, with 25% percent scoring below 1460, and 25% scoring above 1570.

 

Make a list of the average scores at dream schools and consider these numbers when setting a score goal. You should always aim for a score within the middle 50%, but getting a score on the upper end of the range (or even above that range) will boost your chances. 

 

How to Improve Your SAT Score

 

The good news is that students can take steps to improve their SAT scores from one testing date to the next. According to ETS, the publisher of the SAT, the average student improves their score by 60 to 70 points. However, it’s possible to do even better. 

 

To boost your score between testing sessions, start by assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Your full score report provides a score ranging from 1 to 15 for each of the following categories:

 

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions
  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math

 

Once you identify which areas need improvement, you can focus your study efforts accordingly.

 

Additionally, students can boost their SAT scores by taking practice exams. For best results, simulate testing conditions as much as possible and set a timer for each section. While some students do well by studying with classmates, others find it hard to focus under these circumstances. Be honest about your study habits and abilities and create a plan to boost your scores accordingly. 

 

Prepping for the SAT is just one of the many tasks the average high school senior has to undertake. At CollegeVine, we’re committed to making the college admissions process as easy and efficient as possible. That’s why created our free online guidance platform that offers a chancing engine, peer essay review, and college finance planning. To gain access to our data-driven tools, sign up for your free CollegeVine account.

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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.