Confused about the SAT score range? It's no secret that the SAT has undergone drastic changes since 2016, shifting from a 2400-point scale to a markedly narrower 1600-point scale. But what do these numbers mean for you? How can you use SAT score ranges to determine the scores you need for college?
First, we'll discuss the current SAT scores range for the exam as a whole, and for each SAT section and subsection. After, we’ll take a close look at how SAT scores are distributed among test takers, explain why colleges maintain different SAT score ranges, and teach you how to set your own SAT goal score.
What Is the SAT Score Range?
Altogether, the SAT score range is 400-1600 for your composite SAT score (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math). Three sections comprise this total score: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The Math score range is 200-800 in 10-point increments.
The Reading and Writing sections, however, work a little differently. At first they are scored separately in one-point increments on a scale of 10-40. They are then converted (using an individualized equating process) into a single Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score on a scale of 200-800 (the same as the Math scale).
Notice that the composite SAT score range does not include the optional Essay component. The Essay score consists of three dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Two readers will each assign you three scores on scales of 1-4. The two scores from each reader are then combined to give you a total SAT score range of 2-8 for each of the three dimensions. So a perfect Essay score would be 8|8|8.
And we're not finished yet! The SAT also contains subscores and cross-test scores, which are calculated separately on scales of 1-15 and 10-40, respectively. Subscores and cross-test scores indicate your level of mastery of specific skills, such as vocab knowledge and algebra.
Here are the EBRW subscores:And here are the Math subscores:
Cross-test scores are a little different; they measure your performance on history/social studies and science questions on all SAT sections (excluding the Essay). The two cross-test scores are:
- Analysis in History/Social Studies
- Analysis in Science
The SAT has four sections, and even its sections have sections!
To help you visualize what we've touched on so far, here is a detailed chart showcasing each SAT scores range:
New SAT Score Range (2016-Present)
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)
Writing and Language
Expression of Ideas
Standard English Conventions
Words in Context
Command of Evidence
Heart of Algebra
Problem Solving and Data Analysis
Passport to Advanced Math
Analysis in History/Social Studies
Analysis in Science
TOTAL (EBRW + Math)
2-8 | 2-8 | 2-8
*Cross-test scores are for the Reading, Writing, and Math sections.
All of these score ranges are for the redesigned SAT (2016-present). But what about the pre-2016 SAT? Contrary to what we have today, the old SAT score scale was 600-2400, and there were no subscores or cross-test scores like there are currently. Additionally, test takers received separate Critical Reading and Writing scores, the latter of which was a combination of your Writing and Essay scores. (Nowadays, the Essay is optional and does not count toward your composite SAT score.)
Here is an overview of the old SAT scores scale:
Old SAT Score Range (Pre-2016)
Writing Multiple Choice
TOTAL (All Sections)
SAT Score Distribution
The College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016 so that a total score of approximately 1000 — the middle score between 400 (the minimum) and 1600 (the maximum), or the highest point on the SAT bell curve — would signify theaverage scoreof test-takers. This is in contrast to the pre-2016 SAT average of around 1500, which was the middle point between 600 and 2400 (the old minimum and maximum).
This new SAT bell curve means that most SAT takers score around 1000, and very few score extremely high (1500 and higher) or extremely low (700 and below).
According to data collected by the College Board, the average SAT score is close to 1000: at present, it’s 1020 (for all juniors and seniors) and 1083 (for college-bound juniors and seniors).
Below is a chart showcasing the percentiles for EBRW, Math, and the total SAT. As a reminder, percentiles indicate what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on a given section. Thus, the higher your percentile, the more impressive your score is.
SAT Score Percentiles
Source: The College Board
*Score is one percent higher than percentile listed (91st, 76th, or 11th percentiles).
**Score is one percent lower than percentile listed (49th or 24th percentiles).
Unfortunately, the College Board doesn’t tell us exactly how many test takers took the new SAT at the beginning of 2016 (the time frame on which the above data is based). That being said, we can use SAT percentiles to help us understand how many (or, rather, how few) test takers scored at the extreme ends of the exam.
According to this data, a 99th-percentile or higher SAT score is anywhere from 1510 to a perfect 1600. This means that only 1 percent of test takers scored a 1510 or higher on the SAT. So you don't need to get a perfect score in order to reach the 99th percentile — in fact, you can miss as many as 90 points and still achieve that 99th-percentile distinction on your SAT score report!
Likewise, very few test takers scored at the lowest end of the SAT score range. Only 1 percent of test takers scored between 400 (the absolute minimum) and 680 — that's a large 280-point span! What this ultimately means is that you’re extraordinarily likely to earn at least 280 points on the SAT, as 99 percent of test takers do not score below 680.
In regards to SAT section scores, once again, few test takers scored the highest and lowest possible scores. To hit the 99th percentile on EBRW, you’d have to score 750 or higher. But to do the same on Math, you’d need a near-perfect score of 790. This trend indicates that the Math section is generally more competitive than the EBRW section, as more people score higher on Math than they do on EBRW.
As for the 1st percentile, both EBRW and Math maintain identical score ranges of 200-330. This means that only 1 percent of test takers scored 330 or below on either section, and the vast majority scored higher than 330.
But how can you figure out what kinds of SAT scores you'll need for your colleges specifically? Read on to find out!
To get to this point, you must first get IN.
What Are SAT Score Ranges for Colleges?
There is no general SAT scores range for colleges; instead, every school maintains its own SAT scores range as a means to compare applicants' SAT scores. This range represents the middle 50 percent of SAT scores (usually of incoming students).
What do I mean by "middle 50 percent"? Think of it as being similar to average SAT scores — only instead of a single average you're given a range of scores consisting of the 25th and 75th percentiles for a particular group of students. A 25th-percentile score means that 25 percent of incoming students to a school scored at or lower than a certain threshold on the SAT. Similarly, a 75th-percentile score indicates that 75 percent of students scored at or lower than a different (and higher) threshold.
For example, here is a screenshot from the Yale Admissions website of its 25th and 75th percentiles for each SAT section:*
*These SAT score ranges are based on the old SAT. Because the redesigned SAT is relatively new, most schools are still reporting averages and score ranges using the old SAT scoring scale. This should begin to change, however, once entire classes of freshmen are applying to college with new SAT scores.
So how is this info helpful to you? SAT score ranges tell you how high you must score on the SAT in order to be on par with (or better than) other applicants. In general, a score in the 75th percentile or higher is a safe bet, as it means your SAT scores will exceed those of most other applicants.
You can find SAT score ranges for most schools using our database. Simply search for "[School Name] PrepScholar" or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT." Here's an example of the page I got when I searched for "university of delaware prepscholar sat":
Click on either link to get to the PrepScholar page for your school. SAT score ranges will typically appear in a box as so:
You can also check out our comprehensive guide to SAT scores for colleges (coming soon), which contains a list of 100+ schools and their SAT score ranges.
How to Set an SAT Goal Score: 3-Step Guide
In the simplest of terms, you’ll want to get the best SAT score you can get on test day. And to do this, you must set an SAT goal score. A goal score is the score most likely to get you into at least one of the schools to which you’re applying — hopefully all of them!
Follow our three simple steps below to set your own SAT goal score today.
Step 1: Make a Chart
Before jumping headfirst into your SAT score research, make a quick chart of all of the schools to which you're applying (excluding any safety schools). You may download our worksheet or create a chart like the one below. Draw two columns for the 25th and 75th percentiles for each of your schools and write "AVERAGE" in the final row.
Here is an example chart:
University of Washington
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
Step 2: Look Up SAT Score Info
Next, begin looking up SAT score info for each of the schools on your table. Specifically, you’ll want to look up the middle 50 percent (i.e., the 25th and 75th percentiles) for each of your schools.
To find these ranges, search for “[School Name] PrepScholar” or "[School Name] PrepScholar SAT" on Google. Most schools should be recorded in our database, but if not you can also try searching for “[School Name] average SAT scores” or "[School Name] 25th 75th percentile SAT" and look for relevant links to your school's official website.
Here is an example of the PrepScholar page for the University of Washington:
While a handful of schools have updated their SAT score info to reflect the new SAT score scale out of 1600, most schools are still reporting score ranges using the old SAT score scale. You can convert any old scores you come across into current SAT scores using our handy conversion charts. Note that in our database, all SAT scores have been pre-converted for you.
Now, here is our chart again, with the 25th and 75th percentiles filled out:
University of Washington
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
If at any point you get tired, just take an ice cream break.
Step 3: Calculate Your SAT Goal Score
The last step is to calculate your SAT goal score. To do this, take the averages of the 25th and 75th percentiles and round your answer to the nearest 10. (So if you were to get 1234 as your average, you'd round it down to 1230. On the other hand, if you were to get 1355 as your average, you'd round it up to 1360.)
University of Washington
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
The average score in your 75th-percentile column will be your target SAT score. This score is extremely likely to get you into at least one of the schools on your chart, if not several.
To increase your chance of getting into all of your schools (instead of just one or a couple), aim for the highest 75th percentile on your chart instead. In our example, this score would be 1500, for UCLA. Attaining (or exceeding) the highest score on your chart will give you the best chance possible of gaining admission into all of your schools.
But what about your goal scores for each section? To get your individual EBRW and Math goal scores, divide your total goal score by 2. So a goal score of 1420 means you'd have to aim for around 710 on both sections. If you’re applying to engineering schools or other field-specific schools, however, aim for a slightly higher score on the section more relevant to your major. For example, aspiring engineers applying to MIT should focus more on trying to achieve a super high Math score instead of a super high EBRW score.
Wrap-Up: SAT Score Range
The total SAT score range for the redesigned SAT is 400-1600 in 10-point increments. This score comprises two sections: EBRW and Math, whose score ranges are 200-800. (EBRW can be further divided into Reading and Writing, which each use scales of 10-40.) The optional Essay consists of three separate scores on scales of 2-8. Additionally, there are several subscores and cross-test scores, which use smaller scales of 1-15 and 10-40, respectively.
The old SAT differed greatly in its score scale. Before 2016, the SAT score range was 600-2400 in 10-point increments, and the exam contained three separate sections (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing) that each used a scale of 200-800.
On the new SAT score range, a score of around 1000 (the midway point of the score range) is the average SAT score. (The actual average is 1020 for all 11th and 12th graders.)
In terms of score ranges for colleges, each school maintains its own SAT score range, or middle 50 percent, to indicate an average range of SAT scores for incoming students. The lower score in this range is the 25th percentile, and the higher score is the 75th percentile.To find your SAT goal score:
Make a chart with your schools' names and their 25th and 75th percentiles.
Look up SAT score info for your schools. You can use the PrepScholar database or peruse official school websites. Record the 25th and 75th percentiles in your chart.
Calculate the average of the 75th percentiles; this will be your target SAT score. But if you're a high achiever, aim for the highest 75th-percentile score on your chart instead. Doing this will increase your shot at securing admission into all of the schools in your chart.
Want more info on SAT scores? Check out our in-depth articles to learn how the SAT is scored and what constitutes a great, a good, and a poor SAT score.
Gearing up for college applications? In our article on the SAT scores you'll need for college (coming soon), we've gathered average SAT scores for dozens of popular schools, both private and public!
Aiming for a perfect 1600? It's not impossible, promise! For step-by-step tips, take a look at our comprehensive guide to getting a perfect 1600 on the SAT — written entirely by a perfect scorer!
Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
In March of 2016, the College Board rolled out the new SAT. At the time, these changes to the SAT were the most significant since 2005, when the College Board introduced a writing section and increased the scoring range from 1600 points to 2400 points.
Initially, many students, teachers, tutors, and guidance counselors were anxious to see what the changes would mean. In fact, changes to the scoring structure and format of the new test were of particular concern, as many students did not know exactly how their performance would be assessed.
Now, almost a whole year later, we have a much better understanding of the new SAT and how it is scored. Specifically, we now know the new scoring scale and we know that the actual scoring process is not much different than it was for the older version of the SAT.
To learn more about the format, scoring scale, and scoring process for the new SAT, read on.
What is the format of the New SAT?
At first glance, the new SAT appears significantly different from the SAT administered prior to March 2016. It contains two primary test sections, and one additional optional test section, as opposed to the three required sections on the previous version of the test.
One of the primary tests is the Math Test. This is actually comprised of two smaller test sections: the Math Test With Calculator and the Math Test – No Calculator.
The other primary test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. This is also comprised of two smaller test sections: the Critical Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.
The final component of the new exam, the SAT Essay, is now optional.
How are tests scored?
When you are finished taking the SAT, the test supervisor will collect and count the test books to make sure all materials have been turned in before dismissing you from the testing room. This is to help ensure the security of testing materials.
All test materials are then put into a sealed envelope and sent to a scoring center. At the scoring center, SAT Essays are removed for separate scoring, while the remaining answer sheets are scanned by a machine that counts the number of correct answers bubbled in on each answer sheet.
Tests are scored based on the number of answers that you got correct. With the exception of the SAT Essay, all tests have multiple-choice or grid-in answers. This means that answer sheets can be quickly scanned to tally raw scores. Because there is no scoring penalty for wrong answers, your raw score is simply the number of correct answers that you achieved on each section.
Once your raw scores have been tallied, they are converted to scaled scores through a process called equating. Equating accounts for very slight differences in test difficulty and ensures that scores are consistent across different forms of the SAT.
The exact equation used to equate your raw SAT score to a scaled score varies slightly from one test to another, and is adjusted in small increments to reflect the difficulty of the test.
You can get a better idea of the exact process by reviewing the scoring procedure for official SAT practice tests prepared by the College Board. Check out the Raw Score Conversion Tables beginning on page seven of the packet Scoring Your SAT Practice Test #1.
What is the score range for the new SAT?
Scaled scores for each required SAT test range from 200-800. You receive one score from 200-800 for the Math test, which takes into account your performance on both the Math Test With Calculator and Math Test – No Calculator sections. You receive another score from 200-800 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test, which takes into account your performance on both the Writing and Language Test and the Critical Reading Test.
Your total SAT score will always range from 400-1600 and is calculated simply by adding together the scores from your Math test and your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test.
The new, optional SAT Essay is scored differently, using a different scale, and it bears no weight on your total SAT score.
To learn more about SAT scores, read CollegeVine’s What Is a Good SAT Score?
How is the new SAT essay scored?
The optional essay cannot be scored by computer since its answers are not multiple-choice or grid-in. Instead, each SAT essay is read by two qualified readers. The readers each assign a score from one to four in three different dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
If the scores assigned by the readers to any single dimension vary by more than one point, a scoring director will read the essay to resolve the discrepancy.
The points assigned in each dimension are then totaled, resulting in a score range for each dimension between two and eight. The dimension scores are added together to result in a total score ranging from 6-24.
You can read more about the SAT Essay scoring process and preview the scoring rubric on CollegeBoard’s SAT Essay Scoring site.