Beginning March 5th, the SAT scores are back to the 1600 maximum– 800 reading/writing and 800 math. However, regardless of whether the maximum score is 2400 or 1600, what is considered a ‘good’ score is all relative. This means that a ‘good’ score for school X may be a below average school for school Y. Therefore, the purpose of today’s post is to give you a general understanding of the the scoring and provide you with a couple of excellent resources to see if your teen’s score is solid enough for the schools you are considering.
Generally speaking, a score of 500 in each is considered average as half of the students will score higher and half lower. If a score is above 1200, the score is in the top 25 %; a score below 870, that score is in the bottom 25%, (NOTE: The lowest possible score on the test is a 400.)
Let’s drill down a bit more: A student who scores:
- within 50-100 points of 1000 is in the 50th percentile
- at least an 1130 is in the 75th percentile
- at least a 1270 has probably hit the 90th percentile
(Here’s the College Board link to check out 2015 percentiles. Obviously, this is based on the former maximum scoring of 2400, so 2/3 of the scores are what you want to consider.)
Once you have ascertained your teen’s target scores – my students should know what they are – then you have defined an important criteria to be able to realistically look at schools.
As I mentioned above, a ‘good’ score is relevant to the schools your teen is applying to. How does your teen’s score compare to the average scores of students at that particular school? It is recommended to look at the average and aim for a score above it.
Let’s look at the University of Maryland profile of students accepted fall, 2015. Here are the SAT scores for the 25th and 75th percentiles, respectively:
- SAT: Critical Reading: 580/690
- SAT Math: 620/730
The lower number, 580, applies to the 25% of enrolled students who scored 580 or lower on the Critical Reading. The higher number applies to the 75th percentile of enrolled students who received a Critical Reading score 690 or lower. Or in other words, 25% of students got a score above a 690. (Though the SAT these students took had a Writing section, the University of Maryland has never considered it for admissions.)
For the University of Maryland, if your teen has an SAT reading score of 710, your student would be in the top 25% of applicants. If the math score is 600, your teen is in the bottom 25% of applicants.
Remember, there are over 5300 colleges and universities in the US, so your teen has tons of choices. I always tell my students there are schools for you regardless of your test scores; it’s a matter of doing your homework to find them.
I also recommend checking out this post on about.com where it lists the percentile scores for the top 10 in private, liberal arts, and public universities – very enlightening and helpful!