What is a Good SAT score or ACT Score?

act score sat scoreACT test prep and SAT test prep have one major goal in mind – to help students score better on their tests. All major universities require one of these test scores for admission, and each school has something slightly different in mind when it comes to a good score. If you’re looking at scores with a student, are getting questions about scores in your classroom or helping your own child understand their scores, this guide will help.

What are the SAT score ranges and ACT score ranges?

There are three sections on the SAT – Critical Reading, Writing and Math. Each of these sections is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 – so a “perfect score” would be 2400. The national average is 1500, as of 2011. The overall average scores broke down like so:

  • Critical Reading - 497
  • Math - 514
  • Writing - 489

ACT scores are created from four different subscores. Students can score anywhere from 1 (low) and a 36 (high) on each of these sections. The final score on the ACT is an average of those four scores. This means that students need to prepare for the English, Math, Reading and Science sections sufficiently so one section doesn’t pull their score way down. A “perfect” score would be 36 but the average in 2011 was 21.1. The subsection averages were as follows:

  • English – 20.6
  • Mathematics – 21.3
  • Science – 20.9
  • Writing – 7.1

College and University Considerations for ACT Scores and SAT Scores

The national averages are good to know, but if students are trying to get into a competitive school they will probably need to pull slightly higher test scores. A 22 on the ACT or a 1850 on the SAT may be above average at one school and below average at another. Improving your test score will help keep a student’s options open and make them eligible for a number of different colleges.

Getting a score close to the average may be a problem if a student wants to get into a competitive university. If they have a specific school in mind, they can look to the published admissions standards to see what that school considers to be a good score.

As you review school profiles, keep in mind that some schools look only at the Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT test, and not the writing portion. The writing exam started in 2005, so many schools have not adapted their admissions policies to include this new score. This doesn’t mean that students can skip it – it just means that their score won’t be considered by some selected colleges.

If a student wants to attend a top-ranking school, they’ll need to score in the 90th percentile of ACT test takers or SAT test takers. This means that an ideal ACT score is in the mid to upper 20s. For SATs, students should have a combined score of 2100 or above (with the writing portion considered).

The good news is that students can take the test multiple times to try to improve their scores. There is always room for improvement and with each new test, students can boost their scores get closer to a “perfect score.”

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