Average SAT Score

Although no one really likes them, it’s a fact that standardized exams are an important part of the college application process.

This makes a lot of college-bound high schools students uneasy.  College admissions committees will use your SAT scores as an indicator of how well you will perform at the college level.

As a result, many high school seniors want to know: what’s the average SAT score that most students receive on the SAT exam?

Before we cover this specific topic, let’s review some SAT exam basics:

What’s the SAT Again?

The SAT is a standardized admissions exam used by college and universities in the U.S.  The exam itself tests your knowledge in the following three subject areas: Reading, Math, and Writing.  The College Board, a not-for-profit organization developed, owns, and publishes this exam each year.

Do I Have To Take the SAT?

Well, it depends on which college or university you’re interested in applying to.  Some college and universities will require you to take the exam, while other will not.  However, the SAT is more commonly required at colleges or universities on the east and west coast.  Typically, junior or community colleges do not require you to take the SAT exam, unless you are applying to a really competitive program.

How Do They Determine Your SAT Score?

Each section of the exam (Reading, Math, and Writing), is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale.  Therefore, the highest possible score is 2400.

How Much Time Do I Have?

The SAT exam is a 3 hours and 45 minute exam that is broken out into the following four components:

  • Six 25-minute sections – Math, Reading, Writing
  • Two 20-minute sections – Math, Reading, Writing
  • One 10-minute section – Writing (multiple choice)
  • One 25-minute section – Writing (essay)

Tell Me More About Each Section…

Reading – The reading section is comprised of three different components: two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. The types of questions in this section will vary. You should expect to see questions that ask you to complete sentences and answer questions related to various reading passages.

Math – Similar to the reading section, the math section is comprised of the same three components: two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. However, these components are broken out a little differently…see below.

  • 25-minute section – Consists of 25 multiple choice questions
  • 25-minute section – Consists of 8 multiple choice questions and 10 “grid-in” questions. The grid-in questions are the same as the regular math problems; the only difference is that you have to fill out your answer by darkening ovals in a tricky four column grid. For example, if your answer is 1 ¼ , then you would grid-in the number as 1.25
  • 20-minute section – Consists of 16 multiple choice questions

Writing – The writing section includes both an essay and multiple choice questions. The essay section is 25 minutes long and requires you to respond to a given prompt. The multiple choice section is 10 minutes long and requires you to identify errors in paragraphs and improve sentence structure.

Experimental Section – There is an additional 25-minute experimental section of the exam that does not count toward your final score. This is just a section where the College Board is trying out various new questions in all subject areas to see how students respond.

What’s The Average SAT Score?

If we consider everyone who takes the SAT each year, the average SAT score would be somewhere around 1500 (or 500 per section). If you score somewhere around 1500, then it’s safe to assume that 50% or half of the students who took the exam scored better than you, while the other half scored worse than you.

Keep in mind that most students perform better the second time around, so don’t be afraid to give it another shot.

How Do I Know If My SAT Score will get me into my DREAM College or University?

As you already know, each school has its own admissions requirements…however, most colleges are reluctant to pick an average SAT score and clearly state that they will not admit a student who scores below it.

Below, I’ll provide you with the average SAT score from five of the nation’s best colleges and universities. The middle 50% of admitted students fell within these ranges.

1. Duke

Critical Reading: 660 – 760

Mathematics: 680 – 780

Writing: 660 – 760


Critical Reading: 560 – 680

Mathematics: 590 – 720

Writing: 580 – 700

3. MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Critical Reading: 650 – 760

Mathematics: 720 – 800

Writing: 660 – 760

4. Stanford

Critical Reading: 660 – 760

Mathematics: 680 – 780

Writing: 670 – 760

5. Carleton

Critical Reading: 660 – 760

Mathematics: 660 – 740

Writing: 670 – 750

If your desired school is not in the list above, check the school’s website for further information about their average SAT score. If you are interested in one of the schools above and you find that your score is below these averages, keep in mind that 25% of admitted students scored below these averages.

In addition, remember that the college admissions committee will also consider other factors, such as GPA, class rank, course load, involvement in extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation when admitting students.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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