good sat scores

What is a good SAT score? What is a good ACT score? What is a good PSAT score? – Introduction 

Test scores are an important part of the college admissions process. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in March of 2022 that found 39% of Americans say that standardized test scores should be a major factor in college admissions, while 46% believe that test scores should be regarded as a minor factor in college admissions. In any case, understanding more about standardized testing, like what makes a good sat score, is an advantage.

Even though a greater percentage of  Americans feel that test scores should be a minor factor in admissions, it’s clear that test scores remain an integral part of college admissions requirements for students to consider as they apply to college. 

Most colleges and universities require applicants to submit one test score along with their college applications. Because of this requirement, it’s important that you do your best on standardized tests. Earning a good SAT score or good ACT scores can get you one step closer to your dream school. 

Even if a college does not list test scores as part of its college admissions requirements, submitting your test score can help bolster your application or make you eligible to receive merit-based scholarships. In short, scoring high on standardized tests and earning a good SAT score or a good ACT score will help a college applicant have the most options available to them as they apply to schools. 

In this guide, we will explore three types of standardized tests – the SAT, the ACT, and the PSAT. As we examine the similarities and differences between these tests, we will also answer the question, ‘What is a good SAT score?’ along with ‘What is a good ACT score?’ We will also look at what makes good PSAT scores, including PSAT scores on average for each section of the test. 

The SAT

The SAT, previously known as the “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” is a college admissions test that demonstrates your strengths and readiness for college-level coursework. Anyone can take the SAT, although most students will take it in 11th and 12th grade as they prepare their college applications. 

The SAT runs over 3 hours long. The test includes reading, writing and language, and math assessments. Students can elect to take the SAT with or without the essay portion of the exam. SAT scores are graded on a point scale, with 1600 points being the maximum total score you can achieve. 

In order to achieve good SAT scores, you will want to fall as close to that 1600 score as possible. As we discuss good SAT scores later in this guide, we’ll answer questions like, “Is 1200 a good SAT score?” and “What is the best SAT score and lowest SAT score I could get for college?”

The ACT

The “American College Test” (ACT) is another admissions test that shows your level of college readiness. This particular test has four sections – English, math, reading, and science, with an optional writing test. 

Within each section, you can earn a score ranging from 1-36. Your composite ACT score is the average of those four scores, although the optional writing test does not impact your total composite score. 

When you receive your ACT score report, you will also receive an ACT score percentile. ACT score percentiles show how you performed in comparison to other high school students both within your state and the U.S. 

In addition to your ACT score and score percentile, it’s also good to know the national average ACT score. If you are trying to receive college acceptance to a highly competitive college, you will want to earn good ACT scores that match the national average. 

As we examine good ACT scores later in this guide, we will also discuss the answer to the question, ‘What is a good ACT score?’

The PSAT

The PSAT stands for “Preliminary SAT,” and it includes three PSAT-related assessments: the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT 10, and the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or PSAT/NMSQT. Each test is about 2.5 to just under 3 hours in length. We’ll discuss the PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 in more detail later in this guide, along with good PSAT scores and PSAT scores on average for each test. 

The PSAT/NMSQT is a practice test that follows the same format (sections and questions) as the SAT. The total score you can earn on the PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT is 1520. The PSAT/NMSQT is taken in the 10th or 11th grade, usually during the school day on nationally designated dates in mid-October. 

In this piece, we will discuss what is a good SAT score, a good ACT score, and a good PSAT score.

This guide will cover the following: 

  • What is the PSAT test?
  • Why you should take the PSAT test 
  • Breaking down the PSAT/NMSQT test
  • Good PSAT scores
  • How to convert your PSAT scores to SAT scores
  • What is the SAT test?
  • What are SAT subject tests?
  • Harvard SAT requirements and other Ivy Leagues
  • Average SAT score and best SAT score for colleges
  • Good SAT scores for Ivy League colleges
  • How to get the best SAT score
  • What is the ACT test?
  • Good ACT scores
  • How important are SAT and ACT scores in college admissions?
  • Test-optional college admissions requirements, and more!

First, let’s discuss the PSAT test and determine what is a good PSAT score, average PSAT scores, and what to do in order to earn a national merit scholarship PSAT score. 

What is the PSAT test? 

good psat score

The PSAT stands for “Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.” Essentially, the PSAT is a slightly shorter and simpler version of the SAT. People commonly refer to it a practice SAT. Even though the PSAT is short and simpler than the SAT, it will also help you prepare for the ACT and other standardized tests you may encounter in the college admissions process. 

The PSAT test comes in three forms: the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT 10, and the PSAT/NMSQT. 

Exploring the PSAT 8/9

The PSAT 8/9 test is designed for 8th and 9th graders, and it serves as a baseline for college readiness. However, the test is far less common than the PSAT 10. When people use the term “PSAT,” they are most often referring to the PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT. 

In truth, the PSAT 8/9 has no bearing on the college application process. It is a tool that students can use to evaluate where they stand in terms of standardized testing. As such, the PSAT 8/9 can be a useful benchmark for students. 

However, there’s no need to take the PSAT 8/9 beyond your own personal interest. Instead, you can also take a practice PSAT 10 at any point to see how you do. Taking a practice PSAT 10 can also help you plan your studying methods based on the score you receive. 

The PSAT 10 & the PSAT/NMSQT

The PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT are the exact same test. However, students take the PSAT 10 in 10th grade, as the name suggests. Additionally, students will take the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT tests at different times of the year. 

Students take the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of their junior years and serves as a National Merit Scholarship evaluation. We’ll expand on the relationship between the PSAT/NMSQT and the National Merit Scholarship later in this article, along with the National Merit Scholarships PSAT score you need for eligibility and PSAT scores on average. 

Please note that you will not report your PSAT scores to most colleges. Instead, the only stakes associated with the PSAT are in relation to the National Merit Scholarship. 

Functions of the PSAT

The PSAT largely functions as a tool for students to understand how standardized testing works and how they stack up against other students. With the PSAT, you can become familiar with the overall test structure. This helps you determine which college admissions exam is a better fit for you, which can lead to good SAT scores and/or good ACT scores. 

Additionally, taking the PSAT test can be a good way to identify problem areas regarding particular subjects or help combat testing anxiety. Taking the PSAT test can also help you receive good SAT scores or good ACT scores later. 

The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT tests are longer than the PSAT 8/9 at 2 hours and 45 minutes in length.

The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT are also broken down into three sections: 

  • Reading: 60 minutes 
  • Writing and Language: 35 minutes
  • Math: 70 minutes

The math section contains a calculator and non-calculator portion, much like the SAT. 

Like most standardized tests, the PSAT aims to evaluate your problem-solving skills alongside your skills in grammar, math, and analytical reasoning. The questions you will see on the PSAT will be similar to those that you will see on the SAT. 

Why should I take the PSAT test?

Now that we know a little more about the PSAT in all its forms, you might be wondering why you should take the PSAT test. Taking the PSAT test helps assess your readiness for standardized testing, including the SAT and ACT. This will prepare you to get a good SAT score or a good ACT score. 

By seeing where you fall in the PSAT score distribution, you can get a sense of how your future ACT or SAT scores will compare to those of your classmates. This can help you know how much studying you’ll need to do as you prepare for the college application process. The higher the PSAT score, the more likely you are to earn high SAT scores, which can translate to college acceptance at top-tier schools.

good psat score

How to use your PSAT score

When you look at your PSAT scores, consider their analog within the SAT score distribution. This can help you determine what a good SAT score will be for your goals. 

For instance, if you’re wondering about the average Harvard SAT scores, you can use your percentile rank for your PSAT score to evaluate whether or not you are on track for a competitive score. Good SAT scores will depend on your personal college goals. Consequently, good SAT scores will mean something different to each student. 

If you already have a good understanding of the average SAT score or average ACT score you will need for college, taking the PSAT will help you see how close you are to those SAT scores and ACT scores. Taking the PSAT will get you one step closer to a good SAT score or good ACT score. 

Another reason to take the PSAT test is so that you can create a study plan for the SAT and ACT to ensure that you earn good SAT scores and good ACT scores. By taking the PSAT, you will get a sense of which sections and questions are the easiest and hardest for you. 

Unlike the SAT and ACT, PSAT booklets are returned to you shortly after score reports are available. This allows you to review any missed questions to identify areas of improvement. As you prepare for the SAT, you will have a clearer idea of where to focus your energy so that you can get good SAT scores. 

PSAT: practice for standardized testing and National Merit Scholarships

The PSAT can also help you acclimate to standardized testing as a whole. The timed testing environment of the PSAT is quite similar to that of the SAT or ACT. As such, taking the PSAT can be incredibly valuable, even if you only do so to get used to how standardized tests work. 

Finally, taking the PSAT test will ensure that you can compete for National Merit Scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Program consists of national merit scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarships, corporate-sponsored special scholarships, and college-sponsored merit scholarships. In 11th grade, your PSAT score will be used to determine whether you qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. We’ll take a look at PSAT scores on average that qualify for NMS consideration later in this guide.  

National Merit Scholarships are incredibly competitive, and a high PSAT score is only the first step toward winning one. Winning a National Merit Scholarship can be a big deal, and the money you win can help you finance your college education. However, your eligibility depends on whether or not you earn good PSAT scores. 

To recap, preparing for the PSAT can get you one step closer to earning good PSAT scores and get you one step closer to a good SAT score or good ACT score in the future. 

Check out our college SAT webinar for tips and tricks on how to prepare for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. You want to do your best on these important standardized tests so that you have a good SAT score or good ACT score to include on your college applications.

PSAT and the National Merit Scholarship

good sat score

As discussed, the PSAT serves as the qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship process in a student’s junior year. The only way that you can become eligible for National Merit Scholarships is to take the PSAT/NMSQT and make a good PSAT score. 

If you’re wondering what the qualifying National Merit Scholarships PSAT score is, the answer isn’t always clear. The qualifying PSAT scores vary by year, but they are always high. So, if you aim to win a National Merit Scholarship, you will want to prepare scrupulously for the PSAT.

This might mean studying during your sophomore year to help you stay ahead of the competition and earn the highest PSAT scores possible. 

Students earn only about 7,500 National Merit Scholarships in three categories annually.

  • National Merit $2,500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored merit and special scholarships
  • 4,000 renewable college-sponsored scholarships. 

They award National Merit $2,500 scholarships in one-time payments of $2,500 for high-achieving students. 

The corporate-sponsored merit and special scholarships are scholarships up to $10,000 with amounts and duration varying by the awarding sponsor. 

The 4,000 renewable college-sponsored scholarships range in awards of $500 up to $2,000 per year. 

Along with a good SAT score or good ACT score, winning a National Merit Scholarship can strengthen your college application and get you college acceptances to top-tier schools. 

What is a good PSAT score? 

So, how do you know what is a good PSAT score? Like a good SAT score, the definition of “good PSAT scores” will vary by student and by test. 

The average PSAT scores for the PSAT 8/9 was around 835 for eight grade test-takers. Comparatively, PSAT scores on average for ninth graders were closer to 892. 

The average PSAT scores for the PSAT 10 are around 920. Good PSAT scores for the PSAT 10 will fall between 1210 to 1520, which puts you in the top 10% of test takers.  

If you are trying to win a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll likely need to aim for a near-perfect PSAT score. However, for many students, good PSAT scores will look different. 

Scoring the PSAT

good act score

The PSAT sections are scored on a scale of 160 to 760, which means you could receive a potential score in the range of 320 to 1520. Each correct answer equals one point toward a raw score which is then converted into a scaled score. There is no penalty for incorrect answers or unanswered questions. 

According to U.S. News, in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, the average PSAT scores for sophomores was 959. The average PSAT scores for juniors was 1044. 

As you consider your PSAT score, look at the requirements and benchmarks for different schools on your list. For instance, if you are applying to a school where students tend to score at around the 60th percentile for the SAT, you should aim for a score that meets or exceeds this percentile benchmark on the PSAT. Your percentile indicates that you performed better than that number of other students who took the test. 

Overall, as you think about what makes good PSAT scores, keep your college goals in mind. The great thing about the PSAT is that it isn’t used to evaluate you for college admissions beyond National Merit Scholarships qualifications. So, think of the PSAT as a tool. Use it to learn where you are doing well and where you need to improve as you plan your testing strategy. 

What is a good PSAT score as a junior?

As we’ve discussed, there is no universal “good” or “bad” PSAT score. A good PSAT score will mean something different to different students. A good PSAT score depends on your college goals, as well as whether you are hoping to secure a national merit scholarship or college acceptance to a top-ranking school. 

Your PSAT score will be used to calculate your selection index, which is in turn used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. When you receive your PSAT score, you will also receive your selection index as part of your score report. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, or NMSC, will use the selection index to determine finalists for the national merit scholarship. 

It’s important to note that the qualifying selection index for National Merit Scholarships will vary by state. 

Overall, a “good” PSAT score for a junior is a score that matches the benchmarks dictated by your college goals. As we noted above, good PSAT scores will vary from person to person. 

Above all, you want to get a PSAT score that puts you in good standing for the colleges where you’re applying. If you are aiming for top schools like Harvard or other Ivy League institutions, you should try to get a PSAT score that exceeds any benchmarks. 

During your junior year of high school, you will want to start learning more about the standardized testing process. Read our helpful guide that includes everything you need to know about standardized testing and junior year. 

Standardized tests are just one piece of the puzzle as you begin to apply to college. To learn more about the ideal college applications timeline for juniors, check out our article here

How do I convert my PSAT score to an SAT score?

You can use various tools to convert your PSAT score into an SAT score. A score conversion tool will help you see how raw scores converted into test scores and/or subscores. 

PSAT scores can be a helpful indicator of how you will perform on the SAT. Converting your PSAT score into an SAT score will help you understand whether you’ll meet the target SAT score or SAT requirements for the schools on your list. 

The PSAT to SAT conversion tool allows you to enter your PSAT score into the box. When you click on the “convert” button, the tool will automatically populate your projected SAT score. 

You can also use the chart below to estimate your SAT score based on your PSAT score. Please note, the scores listed in the table below are representative of the PSAT/NMSQT version of the test, and not of any other versions of the PSAT. 

PSAT to SAT Score Conversion Chart

Remember, this is only a projected indication of how well you will perform on the SAT. Your SAT scores could match the projected score based on your PSAT score, or they could be higher or lower depending on your actual performance on the standardized test. Use this conversion tool to your advantage as you research colleges and begin your college applications. 

What does ACT and SAT stand for?

When it comes to college admissions requirements, the SAT and ACT stand out as the two most important standardized tests used to measure academic performance. You’ve probably been told to strive for good ACT scores and SAT scores in high school. You also may have heard these acronyms before, but have you ever wondered what the letters in SAT and ACT stood for? This section will address questions like: “What is a good SAT score out of 1600?,” “What does the SAT measure in my college applications?,” and “What are the ACT or SAT requirements at the schools I want to attend?”

Starting with the acronyms, as we’ve mentioned before, the letters SAT used to stand for “Scholastic Aptitude Test.” However, according to an article in the New York Times, this changed in 1994 when the College Board dropped the name altogether because of negative connections in the word aptitude. They did not want test takers to think their test measured a person’s innate knowledge, as opposed to their academic achievement. Now, the SAT does not stand for anything, and it is just a brand name the College Board used to refer to its college admissions test.

On the other hand, the ACT simply stands for the “American College Test,” though the full name is rarely used, even on the test’s official website. The shorter acronym, ACT, is much more widely used on official materials like the ACT score percentiles their website reports. Although this section will mostly focus on the SAT, students thinking “what is a good ACT score?” will find that many of these tips apply to earning both good ACT scores and SAT scores.

What is the SAT test?

The SAT is a college admissions test that universities around the country use to determine an applicant’s readiness to attend college. Like the ACT, it is a standardized test, meaning that no matter where you live or what high school you attend, your test will be scored the same way as that of every other taker. Colleges use the SAT as a way to measure a student’s academic achievement on a standardized scale, which allows for better comparison across diverse educational backgrounds. Good ACT scores or SAT scores can help students show their academic ability to colleges. 

Most American high school students take the SAT in either their junior or senior years (or both). As we’ve mentioned, the test is currently scored on a range between the lowest SAT score of 400 and the best SAT score of 1600. These two scores are added together to form a student’s composite score, which the college sees on a student’s application. Students can also earn good SAT scores by superscoring multiple tests, which means taking the best scores on each section across multiple tests. Good ACT scores can be achieved in the same way.

Despite attempts to remain impartial, the SAT has faced criticism that it favors white students and those who come from economically privileged backgrounds. Some colleges and universities, like the University of California system, have eliminated SAT scores and ACT scores from consideration. At other schools, students may submit SAT and ACT scores when they apply to college, but these scores are not required for college acceptance.

Is the SAT test an IQ test?

Because both the SAT and IQ tests ask questions about the test-taker’s prior knowledge, it is easy to think that the SAT is a type of IQ test. However, while both the SAT and IQ tests have many flaws, they are not the same. IQ tests measure the test taker’s innate knowledge or intelligence. Therefore, it is difficult to improve your score on an IQ test through study. On the SAT, students are generally able to improve their SAT scores by taking the test multiple times or by attending courses specifically designed to prepare them for the test.

Despite the differences between the two kinds of tests, research does show that students with higher IQs tend to earn good SAT scores, good ACT scores, and good PSAT scores. This correlation does not mean that the SAT and IQ tests are the same; they simply measure similar areas of knowledge. As the test optional movement has grown, the question of whether good SAT scores or good ACT scores can predict a student’s success in college has become more prevalent.

Whatever your personal opinions on the SAT are, it is still a prominent feature of the college admissions landscape. Good SAT scores, good PSAT scores, and good ACT scores can still make a great deal of difference in whether your college applications are accepted or rejected. Depending on where you are applying, it may be helpful for you to submit SAT and ACT scores. For more information about whether or not standardized testing may be helpful for you, check out this CollegeAdvisor.com College SAT webinar!

What is an SAT subject test?

In addition to the SAT, the College Board also used to offer a series of smaller tests called SAT Subject Tests. Unlike the standard SAT, which tested more general knowledge, the SAT Subject Tests covered content in a specific academic discipline, such as American History, French, or Biology. These tests were similar to Advanced Placement (AP) tests in that they gave students the opportunity to demonstrate their level of proficiency in a given subject. Good scores on SAT Subject Tests would sometimes allow students to place out of introductory college courses in the tested subject and mostly served to provide additional data on a student’s academic strengths.

As of 2021, the College Board has discontinued all SAT Subject Tests in order to “reduce demands on students” trying to earn a college acceptance. Because the College Board also oversees the AP testing program, they saw that SAT Subject Tests had become redundant and no longer served the purpose they once did. Instead, students should focus on taking rigorous AP courses offered by your high school and studying to get the best SAT score or ACT score that you can. 

In addition to eliminating the SAT Subject Tests, the College Board also recently revised the SAT, getting rid of the essay portion. The College Board decided that the timed essay on the SAT did not provide a good measurement of a student’s writing ability as well as the personal statements already required on most applications. So, instead of stressing out over writing an essay in a short amount of time on the SAT, you can take all the time you need to make sure your personal statements and essays reflect your best work!

Does Harvard require SAT subject tests?

what is a good sat score

Because the College Board discontinued SAT Subject Tests in 2021, schools like Harvard University no longer require them as part of their admissions process. Now, no school in the country requires SAT Subject Tests, and it is unlikely that they will in the future. In fact, Harvard has now implemented a test-optional policy, meaning that they no longer require Harvard SAT scores for admission. With the Harvard SAT requirements gone, more emphasis shifts to students’ grades, extracurricular activities, and writing samples, though students are still welcome to submit good ACT scores or SAT scores if they wish. 

In addition, because of the lack of requirements for Harvard SAT scores and the absence of SAT subject tests, more students are turning to AP tests to fill that assessment gap. While these AP tests are not part of the college admissions requirements, students who succeed in them and on the AP tests that follow show admissions officers that they can succeed in a college-level academic environment.

What is an average SAT score?

For the class of 2021, the national average SAT score was 1088. The average SAT scores for each section of the SAT were 541 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing portion and 538 for the Math portion. Good SAT scores will definitely exceed this average and often the average SAT scores at top universities will be far higher than this national average.

As you are taking practice tests for the SAT, it can be helpful to use the percentile rank on your score report to see how your SAT scores rank against those earned by students taking the actual test in the same year.  A score in the 75th percentile on a practice test means that your score was better than that of 75% of students taking the SAT that year. This information can help you as you develop your college list and show you which schools qualify as reach, target, and safety schools based on average SAT scores at that school.

What is a good SAT score for the Ivy League?

Some of the most competitive schools in the country are part of the Ivy League, and for this reason, students applying there have mostly good ACT scores and SAT scores. So, good SAT scores or good ACT scores at other schools might not be high enough to match the ACT or SAT requirements at some Ivy League Schools. Although Harvard has gone test optional and done away with the Harvard SAT scores, this does not mean that students have stopped submitting SAT scores to these schools. However, according to an article in Forbes, all eight Ivy League schools have extended their test optional admissions policies through at least 2023.

However, Ivy League schools do still accept SAT scores if students choose to send them. Good SAT scores can still reflect favorably on an applicant. Furthermore, an application without a good SAT score attached to it may need to go above and beyond expectations in other areas. Finally, national rankings of colleges and universities do take average SAT scores into account. Ivy League college admissions officers rely on high SAT scores in order to maintain top rankings.

Average SAT and ACT scores

These schools also report data on the average SAT score or average ACT score of those applicants who still submit test scores. Most colleges report the “middle 50%” of SAT scores among their applicants meaning that the score range reflects the 25th and 75th percentile. The Harvard SAT scores range from 1450-1560, which is much higher than the national average SAT scores. At Columbia, this range is from 1440-1570 and at Cornell, the range is 1400-1560.

While strong SAT scores do help with Ivy League college admissions, it will take much more than good SAT scores to get into a college like Harvard or Columbia. The Ivy League schools and most other top colleges use a holistic approach to their college admissions requirements. Earning the best SAT scores is not as important as demonstrating a diverse range of extracurricular activities, leadership positions, awards, and strong writing skills. Therefore, if your goal is to earn admittance to an Ivy League school, you should begin preparing early. This includes earning a good PSAT score, high grades in your classes, and involving yourself within your school or community.

What SAT score do most colleges require?

good act score

In general, most colleges do not have SAT requirements for admission, as a good SAT score is just one piece of the puzzle when you apply to college. Schools are placing less emphasis on standardized test scores. In fact, many successful college applications do not contain SAT or ACT scores at all. Rather than thinking about Harvard SAT requirements (or any other school’s SAT requirements), it is much better to think about how your scores compare to the average SAT scores or average ACT scores of students admitted to a school.

Having the best SAT score does not guarantee your admission to a college and having the lowest SAT score does not mean a school will automatically reject you. Remember that if your school is test-optional, you do not need to submit below average SAT scores. Additionally, good SAT scores can strengthen your application, but they will not make up for a sparse extracurricular resume or poor writing skills.

Although average SAT scores are different at every school, it is generally good to strive for a score that falls around the 75th percentile nationally. Once you develop your college list, check the schools’ websites for their average SAT scores. If your score is at the high end of that range, you’re on the right track to becoming a quality applicant!   

What is a good SAT score for college?

The answers to the questions, ‘What is a good PSAT score?’ ‘What is a good SAT score?’ or ‘What is a good ACT score?’ depend on your goals. Average SAT scores vary greatly between schools. Also, these schools have no minimum SAT requirements, meaning that any minimum Harvard SAT requirements, UT Austin SAT requirements, or any other school’s requirements do not actually exist. 

However, while it is not productive to talk about FSU SAT requirements or Penn State SAT requirements, we can provide information about what good SAT scores look like at schools around the country. You can treat these score ranges like “unofficial SAT requirements,” rather than fixed minimum requirements.

Unofficial Harvard SAT requirements:

The 75th percentile SAT score at Harvard is 1560, which is very close to the perfect score of 1600. This number indicates just how competitive Harvard is. You should strive for a very high score if you are looking to share that score when you apply to an Ivy League college.

Unofficial NYU SAT requirements:

The middle 50% of NYU SAT scores range from 1350-1530. Therefore, students should strive for a score in the low to mid 1500s in order to meet the unofficial NYU SAT requirements.

Unofficial UCLA SAT requirements:

UCLA is a test blind school, meaning that they do not consider SAT scores when making college admissions decisions. Even though there are no UCLA SAT requirements of any kind, you can still see that students accepted to UCLA earned average SAT scores between 1360-1550

Unofficial MIT SAT requirements:

MIT was also a test optional school for the past application cycle, but their students’ average SAT scores are still exceptionally high. The middle 50% of MIT students earned between 1530-1580 on the SAT, with many earning near-perfect scores in math.

Unofficial FSU SAT requirements:

The unofficial FSU SAT requirements are not as high as those at the above schools, but the middle 50% of FSU students still score an above average 1300-1430 on the SAT. 

Unofficial UGA SAT requirements:

Because UGA is a public university, there are actually UGA SAT requirements set by the state’s Board of Regents. No student can be admitted unless they exceed the required lowest SAT score: a 480 on the ERW section and a 440 on the math section of the SAT. However, their website stresses that the typical UGA student earns a score between 1340-1480 on the test. 

Unofficial Penn State SAT requirements:

While there are no minimum Penn State SAT requirements, the middle 50% of applicants scored between 1270-1450 on the SAT when applying to Penn State

Unofficial Texas A&M SAT requirements:

If you are a Texas resident and are in the top 10% of your high school graduating class, you automatically qualify for admission to any state university, including Texas A&M. In order to qualify, students must meet the Texas A&M SAT requirements and have scores of at least 480 on the ERW section and 530 on the Math section. Texas A&M’s website does not report the SAT scores of its current students, but according to the College Board, the middle 50% of students earn a score between 1160-1390 on the SAT.

Unofficial Yale SAT requirements:

Again, because of Yale’s test optional policy, there are no Yale SAT requirements of any kind. However, Yale still encourages students to submit their test scores, which tend to range between 1460-1580 for the middle 50% of applicants.

Unofficial UT Austin SAT requirements:

UT Austin is test-optional so they do not have official UT Austin SAT requirements. Their website also does not report test scores for its current class of freshmen, but according to the college board, the middle 50% of SAT scores range from 1230-1480.

As you can see, the definition of a “good” SAT score will vary by school. So, always keep your college goals in mind when comparing your SAT score to any statistics. A great SAT score at FSU may not, for instance, meet the unofficial NYU SAT requirements or MIT SAT requirements.  

What is a good SAT score out of 1600?

Many students who see their SAT scores wonder: ‘Is 1200 a good SAT score?’ or ‘Is 1400 a good SAT score?’ The answer, as we previously discussed, varies based on the schools where you apply to college. In addition, as the SAT has changed, the definition of good SAT scores has changed as well. The College Board scored earlier versions of the SAT out of 2400, but now score the current version out of 1600, making it difficult to reduce the concept of good SAT scores to a single number.

Instead of comparing SAT scores to a single “good SAT score,” it is much better to evaluate your score against the good SAT scores at each school on your list. Be sure that the data you are looking at is as current as possible, especially given the recent changes that the SAT has undergone. College websites, as well as trusted sources, like US News and World Report, are all good sources of information when it comes to average SAT scores.

How to get the best SAT score

Because the SAT is a standardized test, you can anticipate the types of questions by looking at tests from recent years. In fact, taking practice SAT tests is one of the best ways to study for the SAT. You can find eight full length practice SAT tests for free at this website, or you can purchase materials from a number of different test prep companies. In addition, many CollegeAdvisor packages include access to Method SAT prep resources!

Another great predictor of a good SAT score is a good PSAT score. The College Board also administers the PSAT test. It is both a practice test for the SAT and the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship. Students who can achieve a National Merit Scholarship PSAT score are likely to achieve a good SAT score as well. In addition, a National Merit Scholarship PSAT score can qualify you for many scholarships. Although you will not report those National Merit Scholarship PSAT scores directly to colleges, good PSAT scores have real benefits

Students often benefit from taking retaking the test, it they have the abilities to do so. This is because many students do not get their best SAT scores on the first attempt. If you do take the test multiple times, schools will often drop your lowest SAT score and only accept the best SAT score you choose to send. However, if you do retake the test as a senior and do not improve, we do not recommend taking the test an additional time, as it is expensive and unlikely to result in an improvement. 

What is the ACT test?

So far, we’ve learned about the SAT, good SAT scores, and how to get the best SAT score. Now, let’s take a brief look at the ACT and its unique traits. What is a good ACT score? How can you get an above average ACT score?

Firstly, as we’ve stated above, ACT stands for “American College Test.” Like the SAT, the ACT is a timed standardized test that also evaluates students in the college admissions process. Both tests are available multiple times per year, and most colleges accept both. They both test core proficiency in academic subjects and take about three hours.

Differing scoring sections

However, there are several key differences between the SAT and the ACT. Perhaps the biggest one is the sections. The SAT has two scoring sections—Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math—while the ACT has four—English, Math, Reading, and Science. In addition, there is an optional ACT writing section students may take.

Yes, the test has a science focused section! But don’t worry; it doesn’t test specific scientific knowledge. Rather, it tests scientific skills, like reading graphs and charts and reasoning through experimental design. So, don’t fear if you don’t know the speed of light in a vacuum. Just try to understand the experiment results.

Obviously, these different sections mean that SAT and ACT scores look different. The lowest SAT score possible is 400 out of 1600, while that number is 1 out of 36 for the ACT. In other words, good SAT scores are closer to 1600, but good ACT scores are closer to 36. Your composite ACT score is the average of your section scores. An official ACT score will also have ACT score percentiles that show you where you rank nationally in each section.

Speaking of sections, how many questions does the ACT have? Well, there are 75 English questions, 60 for math, and 40 each for reading and science. Students taking the writing portion must also write one essay on a given prompt.

Fundamental differences between the ACT and the SAT:

SATACT
Score Range200–800 per section; 400–1600 total1-36 per section; 1-36 composite
SectionsReadingWriting & LanguageMath (No Calculator)Math (Calculator)EnglishMath (Calculator)ReadingScienceWriting (optional)
QuestionsReading: 52Writing & Language: 44Math (No Calculator): 20Math (Calculator): 38English: 75Math: 60Reading: 40Science: 40Writing (optional): 1 essay

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

In recent years, the ACT has increased in popularity. However, more students still take the SAT nationwide. There is no problem with this—institutions of higher learning recognize and accept both tests when you apply to college. The question is, which one to take?

Look at the differences above and reflect on your abilities. Not too confident in your math abilities without a calculator? Maybe the ACT is better for you. Or is scientific thinking really not your strong suit? In that case, you may want to try the SAT instead. If you’re not sure about your abilities, look at some practice problems to gauge each test.

Of course, it’s possible to take both. In fact, many students do. Some perform considerably better on one than the other. If you’re able, you may wish to take both ACT and SAT practice tests. Then, if one suits you better, you can take it for real. Don’t forget, too, that you can retake each test. If you knock the practice ACT out of the park but bomb the real one, you can take it again.

What is a good ACT score?

what is a good psat score

As discussed, the maximum ACT score is 36 points as opposed to the SAT’s 1600. So, what is a good ACT score? The range for good ACT scores depends on the colleges you’re considering. The average ACT score (composite) for the class of 2021 nationwide was 20.3. This was a slight drop from the average ACT score of 2020, in part due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic.

However, the admitted pool of many top schools have an average ACT score of 32 to 33. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the middle 50% ACT score for Cornell University was 32–35 in 2021. The same goes for New York University, and for Harvard University, the range was 33–35. You can see the average ACT scores of these institutions is much higher than the national average ACT score.

However, don’t let these ACT score percentiles freak you out! Remember that these are just average ACT scores, and test scores aren’t everything. College admissions requirements call for recommendation letters and essays specifically to show what scores don’t. Some schools are even test-optional. This means they don’t require you to submit scores (more on that later in this guide). 

At the end of the day, there are no universal good ACT scores—it’s up to your priorities. Good ACT scores are really just higher than the average ACT score at the college on your list. So while there are no ACT requirements for Harvard, you may want to aim for around a 35 or perfect 36 to be safe.

How to get good SAT scores

Quick—how much do you remember about how to get good SAT scores?

You began studying early, right? Knowing about good SAT scores and average SAT scores at your dream school is one thing. However, if you don’t hit the books, it won’t matter how many college SAT webinars you’ve watched. Make sure to begin your test prep early!

You should also take the PSAT. They’re pretty similar tests, so it serves as a preview of the real SAT. Moreover, you can use good PSAT scores to predict future success on the actual SAT. In addition, good PSAT scores qualify for the National Merit Scholarship—and who doesn’t like a little help with tuition? The National Merit Scholarships PSAT score requirements are pretty high, so be sure to study for the PSAT, too. 

If necessary, don’t hesitate to retake the SAT. Every SAT is different, both the content and the person taking them. Let’s say you earned good PSAT scores and felt confident about earning good SAT scores. And maybe you had a bad morning and got less than you wanted. It’s fine to study and take the SAT again to boost your score. In fact, many students do better on their second attempt.

Finally, use outside guidance if possible. If you can bag the best SAT score with test prep books alone, great! On the other hand, if you’re like most people, you’ll benefit from some help. Whether it’s a trusted educator or a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert, be proactive in seeking assistance. Good SAT scores can be crucial in college admissions—do yourself a favor and boost your chances of college acceptance.

What is considered a bad SAT score?

With all this talk about good SAT scores and the best SAT scores, you may be wondering what a bad SAT score is. The national average SAT score across the US was 1088 last year. That means that a school will consider anything under that number below average.

However, there are no universally bad or good SAT scores—aside from the very lowest possible SAT score, perhaps. At the end of the day, what is a good SAT score out of 1600, anyway? It’s the one that gets you your desired college acceptance. Maybe you got a 1400 total. Is 1400 a good SAT score? Well, while 1400 may not clear the bar of some top universities, it’s by no means a bad score for many schools.

When considering SAT and ACT scores, remember to keep everything in perspective. Look at your list: what are the college admissions requirements for each school? If you’re not aiming for acceptance at every Ivy—and even if you are—don’t sweat earning the best SAT score possible. You just want to aim for an above average SAT score for the colleges on your list.

Furthermore, remember that scoring lower than you wanted on the SAT isn’t the end of the world. You can always study up and retake the SAT before you apply to college. In addition, your college applications contain much more than your SAT score. If your score is a lower than the average SAT score, make the rest of your application shine!

How to get good ACT score

good sat scores

First of all, if you want to get good ACT scores, you should be familiar with the ACT. If possible, take a practice SAT and ACT, then compare your performance. If your ACT score percentiles were good on the practice test, focus on preparing for that test. And don’t just skim a couple blogs and call it a day!

Prepare well, and prepare early. The more you study, the better you’ll do. Give yourself plenty of time to learn how the ACT works and hone your test-taking skills. You can’t cram for the ACT. Good ACT scores come from proper preparation. If you want to get ACT score percentiles in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you’ve got to start studying early.

There are a wealth of resources to help you get good ACT scores. Free test prep resources include, The College Board-recognized Khan Academy SAT resources. ACT offers free practice tests and other test prep resources for free. There are also free peer-to-peer tutoring options out there. While test prep can be very expensive, there is a growing number of free resources to help you!

Even with lots of prep, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, you may not get your ideal score. As with the SAT, feel free to retake the ACT. If your ACT score percentiles are disappointing, consider studying and taking the test again. You may find you score higher on your second or even third attempt.

How important are ACTs and SATs in college admissions?

In recent years, SAT scores and ACT scores have declined slightly with regard to their importance in the college admissions process. Many schools have come to understand certain issues and limitations of standardized testing practices. As a result, college admissions requirements for some institutions are changing. Now, some college applications don’t require or even consider SAT and ACT scores.

However, your scores still matter. Colleges and universities use SAT scores and ACT score percentiles as a benchmark for academic achievement within a national context. Good SAT scores and good ACT scores will show college admissions you can succeed on campus. When you apply to college, you want as much of an advantage as you can get—good SAT scores can help.

Moreover, test scores correlate strongly with college rankings. Think of some of the highest-ranking universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton. What are their average ACT scores and average SAT scores? Those SAT and ACT score percentiles are well into the 90s. In other words, good ACT scores can strengthen your college applications and boost your chances of college acceptance.

Conversely, remember that good SAT scores aren’t an automatic admit. The best SAT score ever cannot cover up poor grades and zero extracurriculars. Make sure you craft well-rounded college applications that show your best self.

How many colleges and universities are going test-optional?

In a word, many. Over 270 colleges and universities nationwide currently have test-optional policies. Test-optional schools aren’t just of a certain rank, either: from middle-of-the-road to elite universities, many are going test-optional. Because college applicants experienced the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic unequally, testing became a less reliable benchmark.

In fact, some schools, like Bates College and the UC system, are test-blind. This means that their college admissions process doesn’t consider test scores at all. When a student enrolls, the school may only use these scores—if submitted—to determine course eligibility, for example.

Note, however, that other parts of college applications without test scores carry more weight. For instance, if you send no scores because of the test-optional Penn State ACT requirements, your grades matter more. Later, we’ll look more closely at the decision (not) to send SAT and ACT scores. For now, let’s look at some college admissions requirements for this fall.

What are some top schools not requiring test scores?

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for! Are there really no ACT requirements for Harvard? What do you mean UCLA has no SAT requirements!? Read on to learn about some top schools that are test-optional—or test-blind. All schools accept both SAT and ACT scores. On the off-chance you still have scores from SAT subject tests, you can send those, too.

Yale University:

Rejoice! There are no Yale SAT requirements or ACT requirements for this application cycle (2022). 

Texas A&M University:

There are no Texas A&M SAT requirements, either. Be careful, though: they do not superscore whatever you choose to send!

Harvard University:

That’s right, no ACT requirements for Harvard, and no Harvard SAT scores required. In fact, there are no ACT requirements for Harvard through fall of 2026!

University of California Los Angeles:

Like the rest of the UC schools, UCLA is test-blind. Not only are there no UCLA SAT requirements or UCLA ACT requirements, but scores aren’t even considered.

New York University:

There are no NYU SAT requirements or ACT requirements this fall.

Stanford University:

No Stanford ACT requirements here! If, regardless of the lack of Stanford ACT requirements, you do submit SAT and ACT scores, there’s no minimum score requirement.

Vanderbilt University:

There are no Vanderbilt ACT requirements through next year’s application cycle.

University of Texas at Austin:

There are no UT Austin ACT requirements this fall, and no minimum score.

Pennsylvania State University:

The Penn State ACT requirements are waived for this fall.

Obviously, no matter what the UCLA ACT requirements (or any school) says, you should take an exam. With the exception of UCLA, remember that test scores can count on your college applications. While, yes, there are no Vanderbilt ACT requirements, good ACT scores wouldn’t hurt your Vandy application. Put aside the Stanford ACT requirements or UT Austin ACT requirements for a bit. If you have high ACT score percentiles, send those scores!

What are some top schools that do require them? 

Some things, however, are too good to be true. Not every top school is test-blind or test-optional.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

Yes, there are MIT SAT requirements. There is no minimum score for the MIT SAT requirements, but you should shoot for the top of the top. MIT admissions is very competitive, and a good SAT score can only help your application. 

Florida State University:

There are FSU ACT requirements, as with all other public universities in Florida. And like many other institutions, the FSU ACT requirements have no minimum score.

Georgetown University:

Georgetown also requires SAT or ACT scores, although students without access to testing can contact their college admissions office.

The University of Georgia:

UGA SAT requirements have no minimum score, but you must submit an official score report. So, while you don’t need a perfect 1600, aim for a high score to boost your UGA admissions chances. 

As stated above, don’t let this news discourage you. Say you’re applying to FSU. Yes, you do have to submit scores according to the FSU ACT requirements. But even if you only have an average ACT score, admissions staff evaluate college applications holistically. Your extracurricular profile and essays can still impress them and net you college acceptance!

How do I decide when to send my test scores or not?

To send or not to send, that is the question. There are a few factors to consider when not sending SAT and ACT scores. Not the least of which is college admissions requirements—obviously, this only applies for test-optional schools!

First, look at the schools on your list. Research the benchmarks: what are the average ACT scores and average SAT scores of admitted students? Then, you can figure out good ACT scores and a good SAT score for those college applications.

Next, compare those average ACT scores and SAT scores to yours. Are you at or above the average ACT score? Send them! Even solidly average ACT score percentiles can’t really harm your college applications. Every favorable bit of information you can give is good.

On the other hand, your scores may not represent your full academic potential. They may simply fall below the thresholds of the school you’re applying to. It happens—sometimes PSAT scores don’t quite line up with your actual SAT scores. In that case, it may be best not to submit.

Of course, you can send your scores to some schools and not others. Once you get your scores, think about where you stand. There are no AT Austin ACT requirements or Penn State ACT requirements this fall, but your scores are good enough. Although NYU is a stretch, you will appreciate that NYU has no SAT requirements this year! Choosing where to send your SAT and ACT scores is yet another decision to make in the college admissions process, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Just do your research!

What is a good PSAT score? What is a good SAT score? What is a good ACT score? – Final Thoughts

Before junior year, you’ll be able to take the PSAT. What is a good PSAT score? While your PSAT scores don’t impact college applications, with a good PSAT score you may get a National Merit Scholarship. The National Merit Scholarships PSAT score benchmark changes year to year, so your best bet is to study hard. Even if you don’t meet the National Merit Scholarships PSAT score, your average PSAT scores can predict your SAT score.

The SAT is a nationwide standardized test that assesses students’ college readiness. Most students take the SAT once or more during their junior and senior years. Test prep for the SAT should begin well before junior year with practice questions and tests.

The American College Test, or ACT, is functionally very similar to the SAT. The two tests do differ in length, number of questions, and scoring (review the chart above for a comprehensive breakdown). However, the SAT and ACT are interchangeable in college admissions; most institutions accept scores from either test. High ACT score percentiles are equally as helpful as a good SAT score.

COVID-19 and standardized testing

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies. For test-optional schools, applicants can choose whether or not they send standardized test scores. These policies help students without access to testing, test prep, or who simply don’t test well. On the other hand, other parts of the application carry more importance without standardized test scores.

There are no strictly good or bad test scores. A good score for one school may not work for another college. A “good ACT score” depends on your school list, your goals, and how you want to present yourself to schools. Whether you’re gearing up for your first PSAT or puzzling over where to send your scores, there’s help for you. Check out one of our CollegeAdvisor.com college SAT webinars.

Claire Babbs, Alex Baggott-Rowe, and Gina Goosby collaborated on this article. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.