What is a good SAT or ACT score?

One of the more frequent questions I get asked is, “What is a good SAT/ACT score?”

That is not an easy question because each student is different and this can change what students should expect.  I usually begin my answer with the national averages. The national average for the SAT is usually around 500 for each of the three sections, so a total score of 1500 out of a possible 2400. The ACT has a different scale and their average score is about 21 out of a possible 36.

For virtually all colleges in the United States, your SAT/ACT scores are only one part of the application, and depending on which type of university your apply to the importance will vary.  Most private universities including the Ivy leagues will not give a minimum number for the SAT or ACT, the reason is they use the “holistic process” which looks at all portions of the application and they want to accept the most “compelling students.” There will be students accepted into these institutions with low SAT scores…but not many.  For larger public universities, the test scores can play a significantly larger role.  These schools are usually inundated with tens of thousands of applications and they don’t have the time to examine each application for the same level of detail.  Additionally, the public universities will often have a minimum qualification number.

Each school will publish its “average SAT scores for the incoming freshman class”, which is another good guide for a student to use to answer the question.  This information can usually be found on the universities’ websites. You should also note that more and more universities every year are becoming “Test Optional”, which means you don’t need these scores at all.

So what is a good SAT or ACT score? Well, that depends on you.


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