Every student who comes to a tutoring service like Testive hopes they can get a “good” SAT score. But what is a “good” score in the first place?
Mathematically, the SAT rates all scores into what percentile they fall into among all possible scores. The “average” SAT score is 1080 out of 1600—making a 1080 the 50th percentile. Strictly speaking, anything above a 1080 is an “above average” SAT score, all the way up to a “perfect” 1600. When you receive your SAT score, the score report will tell you what percentile your score falls into, as well as score percentiles for each section of the test, so it’s easy to know where in the distribution your scores fall. But speaking practically, it isn’t that simple.
What Score Does My College of Choice Want?
Most colleges will state the average score for the students they accept—for more competitive schools, these can be in the 90th percentile! It’s important to look at your top college’s average scores, which will usually be available on the school’s website—anything above the average score of students they accept is a “good” score for you to reach for! This means that even an “above average” score can be one a student strives to improve on, and an “average” score can be good, depending on the circumstances.
Find the average SAT score of admitted students.
What Score Distribution Is Important For My Application?
The SAT score is not really just one number—the Math and Verbal sections are each scores of their own, and your college will be looking at them. A “good” score on each of these sections may be different depending on what type of college program you’re applying for. For instance, if you’re applying to journalism school, it’s important to get a high percentile on the Verbal section, while a future engineering student will want to be well above average on Math. If you’re applying for a specialized program like this, be certain to check subject averages for admitted students, as well as raw scores.
What Score Is Nearest My Goal?
Many students set a goal score for the SAT—in fact, students starting with Testive are encouraged to set a target score in the “goal” tab, which can help their tutor to set a curriculum for them.
This can be an improvement on a previous test score, an improvement on the PSATs or another practice test, or a score that meets the requirements of their top choice college. A score that comes within close sight of, or even improves upon, a student’s goal score, would absolutely be considered a good score for them!
When looking to determine what a “good” score is, it’s important to remember that there’s no one answer. Just as every student is different and has a different college prep and application process, one student’s “good” SAT score may be another’s “bad,” and vice versa. This is why personalized preparation, like Testive offers with its individualized coaching system, can be so important to help each student reach his or her full potential and get the best possible score they can obtain.
How Much Can I Raise My SAT Score?
Good news: you can raise your SAT score in a relatively short amount of time. (GPA on the other hand, is largely fixed once students hit junior year and are planning college admissions.)
Here are examples of what happened for some high performing coaching students at Testive. On a recent SAT, Lily raised her score 560, Maria raised her score 390 points, and Matthew raised his score 420 points.
Not everyone achieves these results, however. We’ll talk in a moment about the 2 key behaviors we have found that separate the top performers from the mediocre performers. According to a broad study completed by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, the average student sees an improvement of only 30 points on the SAT.
There are two major reasons the average student improves only 30 points: (1) many students focus on improving the wrong skills, and (2) many students don’t do enough deliberate practice.
Focus on These Skills to Raise Your SAT the Fastest
I will lay out how to raise SAT scores quickly. Tom Rose, Testive Co-founder, talks about raising scores at length during our weekly webinar, How to Conquer the SAT or ACT. I encourage you to check it out!
It’s very important for you to take an organized approach to determining your weak areas because even small improvements in your weak areas have a large impact on your score. Improvements on your strong areas, on the other hand, will probably affect your score less.
Caution: Don’t just use your intuition to determine your strong and weak areas.
Instead, take a full length practice test under test-like conditions (official timing, paper & pencil, no breaks between sections.)
Next, plug your answers into Testive to get a breakdown of your strong and weak areas at the category and sub-category level.
Lastly, focus most of your work on your three weakest areas. Keep focused on those areas until they are no longer your weakest areas. Then, repeat the process. Take a full-length practice test, analyze the results and pick 3 new focus areas.
If you use the Testive software, all of this analysis and focus will happen for you automatically, and your abilities will be recalculated after you do each practice problem. Testive is built on top of algorithms developed at MIT that improve learning speed and score improvement, so every minute you spend preparing will raise your scores as much as possible.
Practice Makes Perfect
The main way you improve your SAT scores is by learning important things. Learning is a long-term process that doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, you need to (1) set a goal, (2) make a plan, and (3) get support.
If you want to do a great job at all three at once, you can work with a Testive Coach, who meets with students weekly on video chat and logs weekly written reports for parents detailing goal, plan, and progress.
After coaching thousands of students, we have noticed a trend where the typical student achieves mastery around 100 total hours of prep including practice tests and real exam sittings, so I recommend that you budget enough time to raise your SAT score to the target level.
Budget Enough Time to Raise Your SAT Score
Depending on how big of a weekly time commitment you’re willing to make, plan for two to three months of prep before your first sitting for the SAT. (I often counsel students to plan an earlier official run-through of the test just to get acclimated to it.)
The best time for most students to schedule their first competitive sitting for the SAT is the fall of Junior year, therefore, the best time for students to do SAT prep is the summer before Junior year. Sophomores should do no more than minimal prep, such as an optional question of the day.)
Students testing later than the fall of Junior year find themselves in a time crunch and also have to balance prep against the school work of Junior year, so if you’re starting prep after Junior year has begun, budget a longer prep window to account for a lower weekly time commitment.