If you’re attending college in the near future, you’ve probably heard of the SAT. It’s the country’s most popular standardized test for college admissions, and it can play a huge role in the success of your application.
So, what is the SAT and how does it work? Originally called the Standard Aptitude Test and later Scholastic Assessment Test, the SAT is administered by the College Board and tests students on two core areas: math, and critical reading and writing (as well as an optional writing component). Each of these areas comprises a section of the test, ranging in time from 25 minutes to 65 minutes. With all sections factored in, the SAT must be completed in 3 hours.
How important is the SAT? The SAT plays a big role in any college application in which it’s used. Nearly all colleges require you to submit scores from a standardized test, but many students choose to submit scores from the ACT instead of the SAT. That said, many students prefer the structure and content of the SAT, so we recommend giving it a try at least once.
What’s a good SAT score? How much will your score influence your application? How can you find a college that fits your score? In our guide below, we have answers to these questions and more. Plus, we give you the chance to dive deeper into the SAT and how it relates to college admissions by signing up for a Cappex account and searching colleges by SAT scores.
What is a Good SAT Score?
Since its inception in 1926, the SAT has changed it’s scoring method several times. To understand what counts as a good SAT score, you’ll need to understand how the current test is scored.
As we covered above, the SAT is divided into two sections: math, and critical reading and writing (with an optional essay section). Each section is scored on a scale of 800 points, with a maximum composite score of 1,600. (The writing section is scored by two readers based on three criteria and not factored into the composite score.) You are not penalized for wrong answers, so it’s better to fill in each multiple choice question rather than leave it blank.
What is a good SAT score for college admission? A composite SAT score of 1,083 puts you in the 50th percentile, and better than 50% of test-takers. A composite score of 1,215 puts you in the 75th percentile, and a score of 1,410 puts you in the 95th percentile. Scores in any of these percentiles (and higher percentiles) will likely be enough to earn you admission at many schools across the nation, as long as the rest of your application is up to par. However, it’s important to note that more exclusive institutions may only consider higher scores.
If your current score is not satisfactory, you can always take the SAT again. In fact, you can take it several times during your application year. You only have to list your top score. If you end up with an SAT score that still isn’t satisfactory, remember: your SAT score isn’t the only thing considered in your application. Your grades, essay responses, and other materials all play big roles. (Plus, you can give the ACT a shot and use that as your standardized test submission in most cases if your score is better.)
What is the Average SAT Score?
Approximately 1.1 million high school students from the class of 2020 took the SAT. In 2019, 1 million students took the test. Though 2020 score data has not yet been released, 2019 saw the average score sitting at 1,059 (with averages of 531 English reading and writing and 528 for math).
Is this score good enough to get you into college? For many schools, yes — but for some schools, no. Many schools will accept an average SAT score, especially if the rest of your application is solid or exemplary. Even more rigorous schools may accept an average SAT score alongside a standout application. However, for some of the nation’s most prestigious schools, applications with average SAT scores are at a major disadvantage. To stand the best chance of getting into those schools, it’s best to retake the SAT and strive for a score near or above the 90th percentile.
How Important is the SAT?
All in all, how important are SAT scores, really? And what is the importance of SAT test-taking in general? Nearly all major colleges and universities in the U.S. require applicants to submit a score from either the SAT or the ACT. We suggest taking each test at least once to determine which one suits you better. (If standardized tests aren’t for you, there are schools that don’t require them on their applications, but be prepared for your choices to narrow considerably.)
At the end of the day, how much an SAT is weighed in a college’s decision making depends on the college. SAT scores rarely go ignored, except in special circumstances where applicants excel in another area. Though it’s difficult to quantify your SAT score’s impact on your application, it’s safe to say that most schools consider it to be important but not all-important. We suggest studying up, but also leaving ample time and energy for other parts of your application (including your grades).
The SAT During COVID
Due to the unprecedented COVID pandemic, which has led to cancellations in nearly all large gatherings, many students have been unable to take the SAT and/or ACT for college. In response, over half the nation’s 2,330 bachelor’s degree-granting schools have waived their standardized test requirement for prospective fall 2021 applicants. For the other schools, and for students who wish to take the SAT, recent news from the College Board indicates that limited-capacity SAT tests may begin as early as March 2021.
Explore Colleges for Every SAT Score with Cappex
Want to learn more about the SAT and how it can impact your college application? On Cappex, you’ll find answers. You’ll also find an extensive database where you can search colleges by SAT score and determine the ideal fit for you. Scroll down to view a list of colleges by state and SAT score, and sign up for a Cappex account to take your college search to the next level.