Every student is different, so the answer to the question “What is a good SAT score?” is going to vary depending on your child, what his or her academic strengths are, and the colleges he or she is interested in attending.
If you’ve listened to my podcast, The College Checklist, watched my videos, or read any of my blog posts, you know that my philosophy on SAT prep and testing is never one-size-fits all. We have to take each student’s unique situation into account.
Since good is a relative term, here are a few questions you can answer to determine if your child’s SAT score is at a level that you can feel comfortable putting the #2 pencil down and moving on with your lives.
1. Based on his or her academic performance, what SAT scores would you expect your student to achieve after prep?
SAT scores are an important piece of a student’s college application. While they aren’t the sole determinant of admission, one of their important functions is to verify that a student has actually acquired the knowledge that has helped them earn their grades in school.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The SAT is by no means a perfect measure of a student’s abilities. But, within some fairly wide parameters, there are certain scores I expect a student to achieve after preparation based on his or her performance in school.
First, though, here’s a quick review of how the SAT is scored.
How the SAT Is Scored
The SAT has 2 main sections, Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math, that are each scored on a scale of 200-800.
Those 2 scores are then added to create a total score falling between 400 and 1600.
Using the percentiles from a recent College Board publication, we can see that the average section score based on SAT users is roughly 530 points in Reading & Writing and 520 points in Math for an average total score of 1050.
So here are 2 ways to determine if your student is in the ballpark of his or her expected scores…
Anticipated Score Using GPA
Based on a student’s GPA, I would expect the following total scores after SAT prep…
GPA | TOTAL SCORE
Over 4.0 | 1450 – 1600
3.5 – 4.0 | 1300 – 1450
3.0 – 3.5 | 1200 – 1300
2.5 – 3.0 | 1000 – 1200
Anticipated Score Using Grades
Using a student’s English class performance as a guide, here’s what I would expect from the verbal section scores…
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Honors/AP Students + Strong Readers | 650-800
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Students in Regular English/B-Level Honors/AP Students | 600-650
B Students in Regular English/C-Level Honors/AP Students | 550-600
All Others | 450-550
On the math side, once a student has taken Algebra 2, I would expect the scores to come out as follows…
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Honors/AP Students | 650-800
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Students in Regular Level Math/B-Level Honors/AP Students | 600-650
B Students in Regular Level Math/C-Level Honors/AP Students | 550-600
All Others | 450-550
These are, of course, guidelines. They are by no means set in stone, but I use them to get a sense of how far off the mark a student may be from what she can achieve.
Are you disheartened by where your student’s testing efforts have landed him? While lower-than-expected scores can be hard to understand, I assure you that lackluster results are incredibly common and it’s something I help students of all ability levels with on a daily basis.
The other good news is that it doesn’t take thousands of practice questions or hours and hours of tutoring to raise SAT scores to more reasonable levels.
I’ve taught the SAT for over a decade and I’ve found that just a little bit of strategy-focused prep can help students uncover crucial points that positively impact their admissions and financial aid prospects.
About 4 hours of prep (with – added bonus – no homework) is often all it takes to nudge those previously lackluster SAT scores toward much stronger, better representative numbers.
2. What are the average scores for accepted students at 3-6 of your child’s favorite prospective colleges?
Now, once you’ve consider the scores listed above, you then should check in with prospective colleges regarding both their average SAT scores for admission and for merit aid (sometimes called scholarships on college websites).
While getting in is important (obviously), many families overlook the financial aid component of their SAT scores at the time of testing.
That’s a serious mistake – one that can cost you lots of money down the line.
Your student’s SAT scores are a key that can unlock thousands of dollars in cash for college.
Here’s what one of my SAT Quick Prep parents had to say…
The name says it all…Higher Scores! Our son began his SAT prep just weeks before his final attempt to raise his score. We invested in Lauren’s offer and David loved her prep. Needless to say, he raised his score by 60 points! Those 60 points landed David an additional scholarship for $4,000! 5 star service! I’m a believer. Great job Lauren!
– Tracey Williams, Happy Mom
60 points = $4,000 every year for 4 years. Totally worth the investment in SAT prep, don’t you think?
The link between higher scores and tuition dollars is the reason that all of my online SAT prep courses include my 1-hour Cash for College workshop ($97 value) as a bonus.
It’s not enough to get into college. We need to pay for it too. So I help families understand what to do with those higher SAT scores once they have them to turn them into cash for college as a part of each and every one of my test prep program.
So – what is a good SAT score? It’s simply the score that helps you achieve your college admissions and scholarship goals.
The answer will be different for every student. But, if you’re not to your target SAT score yet, the next question is critical to your child’s success on the road to college.
3. How are you going to help your child achieve his or her SAT score goals?
Once you’ve done the research and determined the difference between your student’s current SAT score and the SAT score he or she needs to be a strong applicant and contender for scholarships, your student will fall into one of two camps: Happy Camp or Still-Have-Work-To-Do Camp
Which Camp Are You In?
If your student’s scores are in range to help her get into the colleges on her list and pay for them with scholarships too, your family is among the lucky few for whom the testing journey is over. (YAY! Congrats!)
I’ll be honest, though, this outcome is rare.
Most families are hanging out in the Still-Have-Work-To-Do Camp.
Once you’ve named your score goals and assessed the gap between current performance and where you’d like the scores to be, it’s time to come up with a game plan.
There are many, many SAT prep resources available to you, but not every book, course, or tutor is going to be exceptional.
I’d encourage you to start by checking out the SAT prep resources I list here, many of which are free or very reasonably priced.
No matter the path you choose for preparation, be sure you research your options well so that the time and money you invest in SAT prep is worth the effort and price.
As someone who has taught SAT and ACT prep for over a decade, who has built each of the Higher Scores Test Prep courses from the ground up, and who still takes the SAT as an adult to make sure that what I’m teaching is indicative of what my students see on test day, I can tell you that not all test prep teachers or companies are created equally.
If you have any questions about my SAT prep courses and whether they would be a good fit for your child, please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending me a message or giving me a call at (760) 814-9655.
I would be happy to help answer any questions you have about how my online SAT prep courses can help your child improve his or her score quickly and effectively so your child can put the #2 pencil down and focus on the next big step: applying to college.