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What is a good SAT score?

Do you have the SAT score needed to get into the schools of your choice? Do you know the relation between college admissions and SAT scores?

Well, it all depends on the colleges you are considering. The SAT scores ...are just a part of the whole package used by colleges to make admission decisions. Nonetheless, their importance should not be under-rated. As much as admissions officers say they take an open-minded and holistic approach to their decisions, SAT scores can make or break an application. Schools make their SAT data public and they know their reputation depend upon high numbers. A college will not be considered “highly selective” or “elite” if its students have an average SAT math score of 470!

So what is a good SAT score? The test consists of three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing. The score from each section can range from 200 to 800, so the highest possible total score is 2400. The average score for each section is roughly 500, so the average total score is around 1500. Students with an average SAT score have many options, but a score above 2100 would place you in the 90th percentile (meaning you scored better than 90% of the test takers). For the 1.65 million test-takers in the class of 2011, the mean scores were 497 critical reading, 514 math, and 489 writing.

Very few students get a perfect SAT score, even those at the top colleges. Perfect 800s don't guarantee admission if the other parts of your application are weak. Admissions officers will also want to see a strong academic record, a winning essay, meaningful extracurricular activities and good letters of recommendation. The list below shows the middle range of SAT scores for various schools. The middle 50% of admitted students fell within these numbers.

Lastly, you will notice that some of the school profiles include the critical reading and math scores but not the writing scores. This is because the writing part of the exam is still new and many schools do not use it in their admission decisions yet. We are likely to see that change in the next couple of years as colleges figure out the relationship between the writing score and academic success.

Here are some of the SAT scores for top colleges:

College Critical Reading Mathematics Writing
Harvard 690 – 780 690 – 790 690 – 780
UPenn 660 – 750 690 – 780 670 – 760
MIT 650 – 760 720 – 800 660 – 760
Cornell 630 – 730 660 – 770  
Yale 700 – 800 700 – 780 700 – 790
Stanford 660 – 760 680 – 780 670 – 760
UCLA 560 – 680 590 – 720 580 – 700
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