What Is the Average SAT Score?

Posted by Tom Rose on Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Tom Rose

Tom is a career educator and technologist. He has been a professional test preparation tutor for over a decade and is the co-founder of Testive. Tom started Testive at MIT, after spending years as a highly paid private SAT and ACT tutor, to provide students with personalized, efficient and affordable test prep

The average SAT score is 1080. In other words, 1800 is the median composite score.

SAT Category Score
Average SAT Composite score 1080
Average SAT Math score 530
Average SAT Reading/Writing score 540
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The Design Target Average SAT Score

The SAT scoring scale is designed so that 1000 is the average SAT score (mean). The math and reading/writing sections are each designed to have an average score of 500, on a range from 200 to 800. A standard deviation on any section is designed to correspond to 100 points.

SAT Category Score
Average SAT Composite score 1000 target
Average SAT Math score 500 target
Average SAT Reading/Writing score 500 target

Why Does the Actual Average SAT Score Differ From the Target?

Because the SAT strives to stay consistent over time, the true average SAT score has some drift. This is because every SAT test is different, and some tests are easier than others. To account for this, the SAT includes one section on every test that was also given on a prior SAT. Collegeboard then uses performance on that section to determine how easy or difficult a new SAT test actually is and assign scores accordingly. This is what allows takers of the March SAT to compare their scores to takers of the May SAT.

True SAT Performance is Measured by Percentile

The average SAT score is not an important metric for college applicants. A more precise indicator is the percentile where you rank. Percentile is a way of indicating the percentage of students who perform worse than you on the SAT. If you scored exactly average on the SAT, then you would say that you had a 50 percentile score. In other words, you perform better than 50%, or half, of all the students who take the SAT.

What if you improve your score another 20 points? Then what? Your score is no longer average, so you need a new metric. That better metric is your percentile score. What you can look up is that if you scored an 1100 composite score instead of a 1080 composite score, you would now be scoring at the 55th percentile across all test takers, meaning you are now performing better than 55 percent of all test-takers.

How to Look up Your SAT Score Percentile

To determine how good your SAT score is, the most straight forward thing to do is look up your percentile. Your percentile will tell you the percentage of test takers who performed worse than you. If you have a 99th percentile score, that means that 99 out of 100 test takers performed worse than you on the SAT.

You need a lookup table to calculate your percentile score on the SAT. Here are a few.

Click here to learn how Testive can help raise your student's SAT score.

SAT Composite Score to Percentile Lookup Table

SAT Composite Score Percentile
1510 99th percentile
1410 95th percentile
1340 90th percentile
1210 75th percentile
1080 50th percentile
950 25th percentile
830 10th percentile
770 5th percentile
650 1st percentile

SAT Math Section Score to Percentile Lookup Table

SAT Math Score Percentile
790 99th percentile
720 95th percentile
680 90th percentile
600 75th percentile
530 50th percentile
470 25th percentile
410 10th percentile
380 5th percentile
330 1st percentile

SAT Evidence-based Reading & Writing Score to Percentile Lookup Table

SAT Reading and Writing Score Percentile
750 99th percentile
710 95th percentile
670 90th percentile
620 75th percentile
540 50th percentile
470 25th percentile
400 10th percentile
370 5th percentile
330 1st percentile

College Board Complete List of Score Percentiles

You can look up the complete, published list of SAT score percentiles published by the College Board here.

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