Understanding SAT scores can be a challenge. There are two parts to the main score and a percentile ranking to consider. Some colleges require a passing SAT score, which can change annually, while other institutions may not require an SAT score at all for acceptance. It all depends on the student and the school.
All of this can be frustrating for a recent SAT test-taker. There are a few factors to consider if you plan to retake the SAT.
Understanding SAT Scores
The SAT score is a combination of the math and reading section subscores. Scores range between the bottom of 400 to the top of 1,600. Each subscore is between 200 and 800.
The three-hour and 45-minute test have an optional 50-minute essay that some colleges or employers require or simply prefer a candidate to have completed.
What Is a Bad Score on the SAT?
Considering that you can retake the SAT as often as you want, there is no true bad score on the standardized test. However, if your total score is below 960, you may want to consider retaking the test. A score below 1,000 is below average.
What Is an Average SAT score?
The SAT is designed to have an average that is around the 1,000 mark. The current average SAT composite score is 1,068. This requires more than 500 on each of the sub scores.
The average score for the reading and writing section is 536. The average score for the math section is 531.
A 1,080 on the SAT is actually pretty good. Your percentile will improve with each 50 points your score rises. So, if you have an 1,100 score, you are in the 58th percentile. An 1,150 puts you in the 67th percentile.
What Is a High Score on the SAT?
A high score on the SAT depends on what need your SAT score to do for you. If you are hoping to follow a science, medical or math-related field, you will want a high SAT score for college admission as well as potential and future employment considerations.
Benefits of Prep Classes
The average SAT score increase was around 30 points after cramming to retake the intensive test. Those who hired a private tutor, took free online practice tests or attended community study groups or classes doubled or tripled that number on average.
Other Numbers That Matter
A low SAT score does not mean your dreams of attending college are all but dashed.
Your SAT score is just one number that colleges consider. Some universities do not even require that a potential student has taken the SAT.
- GPA: Your grade point average can be used as leverage if it is particularly high or above average. A high GPA often offsets a low SAT score. College officials understand that good students may also be bad test takers. A high GPA is an example of your academic prowess over a long period of time rather than a snapshot of what you know in a four-hour window.
- ACT: Your score on this two-hour and 55-minute test can range between average, 21, to a maximum high of 36. This entrance exam is used specifically by colleges to gauge what your comprehension of what you have learned is, and where you are in your readiness for college.
Other Factors to Consider
Admissions officials look at a wide range of aspects that make the student an ideal candidate. These can include but certainly are not limited to:
- Educational awards: These can include awards associated with math, writing, debating, athletics or other school-related subjects.
- Extra-curricular activities: These can be during school hours or after and related to your future academic goals or show your dedication and accomplishments outside of the classroom.
- Community service: Any work that you do in the community that is not related to your school work can carry extra weight for college admissions boards.
Colleges that Accept Low SAT Scores
There are many colleges with low GPA requirements as well as those that will accept students with an SAT score that is below the average score that hovers around 1,000.
- Holy Names University: A private college based in Oakland, Holy Names requires a minimum of an SAT score of 820.
- Iowa State University: If your score is 960 or lower, this college based in Ames, Iowa, is open to your application. It accepts 87 percent of applicants and has esteemed programs in veterinary medicine, liberal arts and sciences, design, engineering, agriculture and business.
- San Diego Christian College: For students just under the average of 1,000, SDCC requires a minimum SAT score of 930.
- Saint Mary’s College of California: For those who are on the borderline of passing, this fine college in Moraga, has a history of accepting student with a score of 1,016 or lower.
Online Colleges for Consideration
If you are planning on retaking the SAT but still want to get ahead in the process, an online college can allow you to take basic math and English classes. This strategy can allow you to transfer your credits to the college of your choice when you are ready and boost your GPA if needed.
- Ashford University: This online university only requires a high school diploma, GED or equivalent. It is for older students who must be 22 to meet the minimum technology requirements.
- Purdue University Global: If you are not sure how you will do with online courses, this school allows you to try it out for three weeks before making a commitment. It has a variety of career-focused classes, including the competency-based Excel Track degree program.
- American Intercontinental University: It might be renowned for its online curriculum, but it is preferred by many students for its support and guidance of students as they navigate the higher education system. It requires that students have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent and a completed application.
- Liberty University Online: More than 500 academic programs are available to students across 17 colleges. Students are required to show an official high school transcript, admissions essay and any standardized tests they have taken.
Colleges That Do Not Require the SAT
Many worthy colleges are open to accepting students who have not taken the SAT and do not require the SAT score for admission.
- Colorado Technical University: To gain entry into this respected technology-based school, students are required to sit down for an interview with an admissions advisor, have a high school diploma and complete the application process and subsequent fees.
- Full Sail University: Applicants must have an official high school diploma, pay a $75 application fee and complete an interview with admission officials. It offers real-world understanding of the job field in its fast-paced course work that is designed to help students gain knowledge and experience in many different and contemporary industries, such as computer animation and game design.
- College Board: What Is a Good SAT Score? A Bad SAT Score? An Excellent SAT Score?
- Education Connection: Colleges That Accept Low SAT Scores
- College Values Online: Top 10 Best Value Universities for Students with Low SAT Scores
- Seattle Pi: How to Go to College With Low ACT and SAT Scores
- College Vine: 10 Tips to Improve Your SAT Score
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.