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What is a Good SAT or ACT Score?

Completing standardised tests is an important part of a students college application process - but how do you know if you've done well enough?

Due to the holistic nature of the US college application process there are no set "entry requirements" as there are for UK universities; since the admissions process takes into account various factors alongside your academic record, students with a range of different test scores can be admitted to the same university.

The average SAT score in 2020 was 1059 (on a scale from 400 to 1600, where 1600 is the highest). Anything above 1059 is above average, however, if you are applying to some of the more competitive schools you will want to try and match the standard of currently admitted students.

Even though an a SAT score of 1340 is higher than 90% of test takers worldwide, an applicant with such a score is unlikely to be admitted to a competitive college (<2% of students admitted to MIT in 2019 had this score or lower)

When it comes to SATs check out the universities statistics page and aim to achieve a score that falls at least within the interquartile range. This is a good indicator of how you stand with respect to a “typical” student at that college when it comes to SAT scores. NOTE that you can still gain admission if you are not in the IQR but higher test scores do improve your chance of admission. If you take the test and fall within or beyond the IQR it is best to use the rest of your time to strengthen other aspects of your application rather than try to get that perfect 1600 score. The same principals follow for the ACT.

2019 SAT statistics for all test takers
2019 SAT statistics for all test takers

Princeton's 2019 SAT distribution
Princeton's 2019 SAT distribution was much higher than the global average

Most of what was stated earlier is written in the context of American applicants; remember that your application will be read in the context of where you live. For international applicants in particular, your IB, A-level or other qualification relevant to where you live will carry more weight in your application as they provide better reflections of your ability.

Admissions officers understand that the test may feel more familiar to some students than others and so the admissions offices also take into account your sixth form/secondary school transcripts and any other qualifications.


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