SAT Prep FAQs: What Does My SAT or ACT Score Mean?

Whether or not you have taken the ACT or SAT, many students want to know what their test prep scores mean for them and how the scoring system for each test is different.  To put your worries at ease, let’s review what the ACT and SAT scores mean and what level of scores certain colleges are looking for when applying.

What Your SAT Score Means To You

Let’s start with the SAT!  The SAT consists of three subjects: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing.  Each subject has a score range of 200 as the lowest score to 800 as the highest score.  Three sections at 800 points each makes for a perfect score of 2400.  The average SAT score is approximately 500 for each section or a 1500 overall.  The total score you could receive on the SAT as of March 2005 was a 1600 for math and reading when adding the two scores together, making the average score a total of 1000.  Since the mandatory addition of the writing section –  the total score is now 2400 which makes the average score about 1500 for all three categories.  Students taking the SAT will want to set a goal for the 90th percentile or higher.  Don’t be satisfied with average.  Colleges and scholarships with acceptance standards will expect the best of their students.  Students should strive to score as close to 2400 as possible to receive the most opportunities from their overall SAT scores.

Some colleges still focus on the math and reading sections only.  This breaks up the SAT score into being out of 1600 without consideration for the individual score received in the writing section of the SAT.  The writing section of the SAT is a mix of an essay and 49 multiple choice questions combined together to make a total score of 800.  Don’t rely on the college(s) of your choice to overlook your SAT writing score.  Writing is an important requirement of a future in any degree or career! 

As we’ve discussed, the average SAT score for the math and reading sections is a total of about 1000 and 1500 for all three sections.  Now you want to know what that means and SAT Preparation Group is here to tell you exactly that!

Typically, a 600 in any subject puts a student in the top 17% or so.  A 700 for any given subject is the top 2%.  A 400 is in the bottom 17% and a 300 is in the bottom 2%.  Consider these levels of SAT scores and what they mean for you.  To be sure of your true percentile, check your score on  The College Board will update what percentile you are in as more students complete the SAT throughout the year.

700+ On Math, Reading, and Writing Sections for a total of 2100+ on the SAT

Ivy League institutions like Yale and Princeton as well as colleges on a similar level such as Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech, and Duke typically require SAT scores in the 700s for each subjects.

600+ On Math, Reading, and Writing Sections for a total of 1800+ on the SAT

High level academic State Universities such as the University of Florida, Michigan State, North Carolina State, or California State require mid 600s for each section of SAT scores.

500+ On Math, Reading, and Writing Sections for a total of 1500+ on the SAT

Typical state colleges like Pennsylvania State, Central Florida, Ohio State, Texas State, and Colorado State require mid 500s into the 600s.

400+ On Math, Reading, and Writing Sections for a total of 1200+ on the SAT

There are plenty of colleges that take scores from the mid 400s and up.

Most colleges post their standardized test requirements on their website so you can get an idea of what it means to be in their bubble of possible scores!

Here’s the good news about the very difficult SAT test, most colleges take the best composite score over several test administrations.  This is known as the Superscore.  Visit your college website or ask an admissions officer at the school(s) of your choice to be sure if they will consider your SAT Superscore.  To explain the SAT Superscore further, this means if your best reading is from the October test, your best math score is from the January test, and your best writing score is from the June test, than the college will take these best SAT scores to make up your true SAT score.

Remember!  You have to factor in grades and extra curricular activities as well when determining what colleges to apply to.

What Your ACT Score Means To You

The ACT is a different animal with it’s own scale.  The ACT has a top score of 36.  The ACT tests includes sections for English, Writing, Math, Reading, and Science.  The ACT questions are generally much easier than those on the SAT.  However, when taking the ACT time is more limited; you have to move faster through each ACT section to complete the test as best as possible.

To understand the equivalent scale between the SAT and ACT, Steve Kirshenbaum of SAT Preparation Group explains how a 16 ACT score is equivalent to a 400 or so on the SAT whereas a 21 ACT score is equivalent to about a 500 on the SAT; a 27 is the same as a 600 on the SAT; a 700 SAT score equates to an ACT score of about 32.

The bottom line is that most colleges take the best of whatever test you score higher on.  It is best to take both the SAT and the ACT to see which test you are better at.  Once you know which test is best for you and your personality, focus on this test to receive your very best grade possible.

If you’d like more information on common SAT and ACT prep question, SAT Preparation Group offers a variety of in-home and onine test prep coursesGet your free consultation for test prep courses today.


SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.

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