If you’re reading this, maybe you’ve already decided if you’re going to take the SAT or the ACT (and if you haven’t, here's some help). Or maybe you’ve taken one or both of these tests already and have that crazy stress behind you! Good for you!
Getting these tests in the books should feel great, but we’re guessing there’s that little nagging feeling as you wait for your SAT scores or your ACT scores. “What’s a good SAT score?” you might be asking yourself? “What’s a good ACT score?” “Why can’t they just make it easier on us and give us a score out of 100 points?”
Figuring out SAT or ACT score ranges is pretty simple. You can probably also pretty easily find out the average SAT score or the average ACT score. But determining a “good” SAT score or a “good” ACT score is a little more subjective. And that’s where we come in!
What is a good SAT score?
Remember that SAT scores are just a part of your application. Your transcripts, your application essays, your extracurricular activities, and your interviews all help make you a candidate schools want to consider. So, the simple answer is a good SAT score is one that will contribute to your overall picture of awesomeness as an applicant (you are more than numbers on a test that you take one Saturday when you’re super stressed about school, and applying to college, and life!). We’d recommend reframing to thinking about earning a competitive SAT score as opposed to a “good” SAT score.
That’s probably a bit vague, so you can also think of it this way … you want to aim for scoring in at least the 50th percentile or higher for the schools you’re applying to. At the 50th percentile, this means your score is higher than that of half the people who took the SAT.
If you’re applying to highly selective schools, scoring in the top 75th percentile is even better. A score in this range means you’re in the top 25% of students who apply to that school and who take the SAT. This would be considered a competitive SAT score.
Easier said than done, we know. But never fear, we have tips for everything college-application related, so check this out for some tips to help you raise your SAT scores.
What is a good SAT score in each section?
The SAT has a math section and a reading/writing section called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each section can earn a SAT score range from 200-800. The higher your score falls in this range, the more competitive your test scores are.
On average, the test scores in math fall in the low 500s. The average SAT score in the EBRW section is slightly higher at around the mid 5oos. But average scores will vary a ton from college to college.
So what are good SAT scores in each of these sections? Anything that hits the average or higher. If you earn even higher scores, you’re getting stronger and stronger as an applicant (At least from a numbers perspective. But we want to remind you again, you are more than numbers on a test. So much more!)
What is a good overall SAT score?
Again, “good” is in the eye of the beholder. The average SAT score across the US is around 1060. Here's a link to the College Board’s guide to understanding SAT composite scores (your composite score is the scores of both sections combined into one SAT score).
But again, a lot of this depends on which schools you’re applying to. Some colleges and universities admit students with lower than average SAT scores while others have applicants with very high average scores (e.g. MIT students average a 1540). And some schools don’t consider SAT scores at all! But more on that later.
To get a general sense of the range of SAT scores of accepted students to various colleges and universities, here’s a handy-dandy table that outlines these numbers for you. We’ve given you the range of SAT Math scores, the range of SAT EBRW scores, and the school’s acceptance rate (out of total number of applicants) for some Ivy League schools, some UCs, some private universities, and some public universities:
As you can see, the SAT scores of students who’ve been accepted to these schools fall within a pretty big range. So, what are you supposed to make of this?
Well, this means you have some wiggle room when it comes to what a good score is on the SAT. And because these numbers are available for pretty much every school and university, it also means you can get a pretty good sense of where you fall in the overall applicant pool (this is a really helpful resource that lets you search schools and find their admission statistics).
How to figure out your goal SAT score
Since the average composite SAT score is 1060, anything above this is considered an above average SAT score. But your goal SAT score really depends on the schools you’re applying to.
So, you need to build your college list, and this is an excellent resource to help you do that (if we do say so ourselves).
Once you’ve narrowed your list (and just to be clear, 50 potential schools probably isn’t that narrow), you can access the school’s information about who they admit.
For that, we recommend a really cool database called the Common Data Set (and here’s a guide to how to use the Common Data Set when you’re building your college list). The Common Data Set is an initiative aimed at making college admission statistics (like SAT scores) more transparent and easier to access.
Did you just say to yourself, “Wait! They’re trying to make things EASIER?” They really are! Take advantage of this resource!
What is the highest SAT score possible?
Finally, we get to a question we can answer in pretty simple terms. A perfect SAT score in terms of straight-up numbers is 1600. That would mean a score of 800 on the math section and 800 on the EBRW section.
But we don’t want you to think you need to strive for perfection. The SAT is a challenging test (in terms of content, time limits, if you’re sitting next to someone who keeps making weird noises). If you earn a perfect SAT score, that’s amazing and we will celebrate that achievement all over the place. But if you don’t earn a perfect SAT score, we’ll still celebrate you because you’re doing what it takes to continue your education. And that’s amazing, too.
What’s a good ACT score?
Like SAT scores, an ACT score that puts you in the 50th percentile or higher of the schools you’re applying to is considered a solid score. You can earn a possible 36 points on the ACT, and the average composite score is around a 20 (for example, in 2022, the US average was 19.8). The higher your score, the higher your percentile, the stronger this part of your application will be.
We should note, however, that many colleges and universities consider a score higher than 21 to be a good score on the ACT. A score of 24 would put you in the top 25% of students who take the test. If you earn a 24 or higher, this can be a competitive score on the ACT.
Similar to SAT scores, a “good” ACT score also depends on where you are applying. Some schools (like the Ivies) would expect a score in the 30s while other schools accept a lot of applicants whose ACT scores fall in the low to mid 20s (like Florida A&M: typical ACT scores are in the 17-23 range).
We wish we could give you a less subjective answer about what are good ACT scores, but the truth is, this is pretty subjective. We CAN tell you that a high ACT score is at least a 24 (but again, many schools set their own threshold for what they consider “good”).
What is a good ACT score in each section?
There are four sections on the ACT—Math, Science, Reading, and English. You can earn a score of up to 36 on each section, and your total (composite) ACT score is an average of these four sections. So, if we’re aiming for a composite score of 24, then you also want to aim for a score of 24 in each section.
There is also an optional Writing section on the ACT, and the scale for this section is 2-12. This score will not figure into your composite ACT score.
To help you figure this out a little better, here’s a chart for you that lists where specific section scores fall in terms of percentile. Remember, the higher score the higher percentile (meaning you’ve scored higher than that percent of people who took the ACT):
How to figure out your goal ACT score
Similar to our tips for figuring out your goal SAT score, you can go through the same steps to figure out your goal ACT score: You need to build your college list (here's our step-by-step guide one more time), considering what kind of college experience you want. Many students (and parents) look at college rankings to help them make these decisions, but we really want to caution you against letting a school’s rank determine if it’s the right fit for you.
Several schools have recently withdrawn themselves from consideration for this list, and rankings tell you very little about what your day-to-day life will be. For that, you should look at the school’s website, talk to current students if you can, and be very clear for yourself about what you will most value in a college or university.
You can also check out our Family Handbook for an overview of all the things you can and should think about besides college rankings!
And again, use that Common Data Set we mentioned! This can give you a good overview of the student body at a school you’re considering. Once you’ve gathered this info to help you make your college list, you can then look at the Common Data Set to get an idea of the ACT scores of admitted students.
Test optional & Test Blind/Test Free
“Test optional” and “test blind” are cool developments that we’re really excited about here! They signal a move away from considering standardized test scores as a required part of a student’s application, and more and more schools are jumping on this train.
“Test optional” does indeed mean “optional.” Schools that are test optional will accept SAT or ACT scores if you choose to submit them, but they are not required.
“Test blind” or “test free” schools are those who will not consider standardized test scores at all when it comes to a student’s application.
Making this shift has been huge news in the education world, and schools that have adopted these options have made a pretty bold statement about what they do and do not value.
For a LOT more information about this (including a list of schools that have made this shift), check this guide out!
What is superscoring?
Superscoring lets you pick and choose which SAT and ACT scores you would like to submit as part of your application. (Though be aware that many colleges encourage students to submit all test scores, and some actually require it, so read carefully.) If you take either of these tests more than once, colleges that allow superscoring (heads up: not all colleges do) look at your best scores in each section, even if these come from different tests taken on different days.
For example, if you take the SAT twice, and your scores go up on the Math section but go down on the EBRW section, you can submit your EBRW section from the first time you took the test, and the Math score from your second test.
The thing with super-scoring is that it presumes students will take these very stressful and expensive exams more than once. If you have the means and the mental energy to do this, it’s great you can take advantage of super-scoring.
But many of you can’t take these tests more than once for a number of reasons. Don’t let this worry you! Taking the SAT or ACT more than once doesn’t necessarily ensure a better outcome, and it can be very costly and very time-consuming.
So here’s our advice (which we feel about pretty much everything college-application related)—do your best, make use of the resources you have available to you, and you will end up at a school that fits you.
Special thanks to Jessica B. for writing this blog post.
Jessica has a Ph.D in English from the University of Southern California and teaches English at a Los Angeles-area independent school, where she has also been English department chair and a class dean. Sandra Cisneros is her hero, and she loves books, her awesomely-sarcastic family, the beach, and more books. Oh, and her sweet pitbull/lab mix named Ruby.
Top values: Curiosity, equity, wonder
Gaye Weintraub, a private SAT/ACT tutor, acknowledges there's a somewhat agreed upon scale in the industry. “A 'good' score on the SAT would be 1350 to 1600. Generally, 1300-1400 is considered good, and anywhere in the 1500s would be considered exceptional. For the ACT,” she adds, “a top score would be 34 to 36.”What is a top ACT and SAT score? ›
A perfect score on the SAT is 2400; and for the ACT, it is 36. The national average score for the SAT is 1540 (combining the math, reading, and writing sections of the test). For the ACT, the average score is between 20 and 21.Is a 15 on the ACT bad? ›
The average ACT score is 20.
The 25th percentile score is 15, and the 75th percentile score is 24. This means that if you got 15, you'd have scored the same as or better than 25% of all test takers. Meanwhile, the 75th percentile means you scored better than 75% of test takers.
Is 22 a good ACT score? A 22 ACT score is above the national average score of 21, making you eligible to apply as a good candidate to many colleges.Is a 23 on the ACT bad? ›
A score of 23 on the ACT is above the current national average and will make you a strong applicant at many universities, but it may fall below the average score for accepted students at more selective colleges. The higher your ACT score, the more options are open to you. Read on to learn more about ACT scores.Do colleges prefer ACT or SAT? ›
Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Neither the SAT or ACT is harder than the other. Different students tend to do better on one test over the other.Is a 27 on the ACT good? ›
A 27 ACT score puts you a good deal about the national average (20.8) and makes you eligible for acceptance at a vast majority of schools. It also makes you competitive at some selective institutions, as well as eligible for merit aid! Considering those things, it's easy to say that a 27 ACT score is good.What ACT score is needed for scholarships? ›
At a minimum, an ACT score of 25 should qualify you for lower-level scholarship money. However, as the amount increases, scholarships become more competitive and the score ranges increase. Again, the barest minimum to shoot for is the 20-25 score range.What is the lowest ACT score to get into Harvard? ›
There's no absolute ACT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 33 to have a chance at being considered.What is the lowest ACT score Harvard accepted? ›
The average ACT score of Harvard-accepted students is 33. Although Harvard claims there is no minimum ACT score, if you apply with a 29 or lower, you'll have difficulty getting in. So, to get into Harvard, it is important to note the different Harvard University requirements for test scores.
A good ACT score ranks you higher than the majority of test-takers. As such, any composite score above the 50th percentile, or 19-20, can be considered a solid score. That said, a 20 won't cut it at many competitive colleges.Is 24 a good ACT score? ›
A score of 24 on the ACT certainly makes you an eligible candidate, as well as competitive! To put this another way, a 24 ACT score puts you at the 73rd percentile, meaning you scored higher than 73% of all test takers — which is definitely something to be proud of!Is 26 a good ACT score? ›
A 26 ACT score is a great score and, unless your ideal school is seeking a higher one, there's no particular reason to retake it. Make sure you have a good college list of between 7 and 10 schools to apply to and see where your ACT score falls on their commonly accepted scale.What is a good ACT score for Ivy League? ›
Unsurprisingly, the trend is pretty consistent, and the takeaway is clear: if you want ACT scores that are competitive with the Yale average or the Harvard average, you're aiming for roughly a 34 composite.Can you get into Harvard with a 23 ACT? ›
ACT Scores needed to get accepted
Harvard University is test optional. Students are not required to submit ACT scores with their application. The policy on ACT scores is "considered but not required". Harvard regularly accepts students who score 33 and above on the ACT.
A 19 ACT score doesn't make you eligible or competitive at as many colleges and universities as most would want. To improve your eligibility and competitiveness, you'll want to aim for a 20 to 21, which puts you right at the national average.Should I take both the ACT and SAT? ›
Some students may be interested in taking both the SAT and ACT — and you certainly can, if you wish to do so — but it's generally best to avoid doing this. For one, you'll have to study for two separate exams, each of which has its own structure, content, and questions.How many times can you take the SAT? ›
Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.Do Ivy League schools prefer ACT or SAT? ›
A common myth is that prestigious schools, like the Ivy League (Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania) prefer the SAT. This is not true, though. Schools have no preference in regards to ACT vs.Can I get into an Ivy League with a 27 ACT score? ›
With a score of 27, you are in the 87th percentile of all test takers. More likely than not, with a score of 27, you'll often be in or near the commonly accepted range at selective colleges. The exception may be the Ivy League where the score required may be higher than 30 on average.
So when is the best time to start? Experts recommend at least three to four months of prep for the first-time test taker. This means juniors who are taking the ACT or SAT in the spring, should ideally start schedule their prep starting sometime during winter.When should juniors take ACT? ›
It's a good idea to take it for the first time in the fall or early spring of your junior year. Doing this will show you where you are doing well and uncover areas where you can improve. There are many advantages to taking the ACT your junior year, plus some very encouraging news about why retesting is so important!What ACT score gets a full ride? ›
Overall, my research so far has been surprising in that there are a few schools that will offer full-tuition scholarships starting in the 22 – 25 ACT range, but most full-ride scholarships require a 28 ACT or higher.What is the highest ACT score ever recorded? ›
What is the Highest ACT Score Possible? The highest ACT score possible is 36 with the national average score being 12. Typically, a good ACT composite test score is considered to be anything over 27.How can I improve my ACT score? ›
- Prepare early and effectively. First, set up your MyACT account. ...
- Practice often. Consistent test-taking practice has shown to be one of the best ways to increase your ACT scores. ...
- Use the ACT practice tests. ...
- Take the ACT three to four times. ...
- Reduce your test anxiety.
Average GPA: 4.18
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.
To get to Harvard your GPA has to be at least a 4.0 and even then if you get in your lucky but they require at least a 4.18 GPA only .What is the minimum GPA to stay in Harvard? ›
You must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in all your courses with us to be considered in good academic standing. If your GPA falls below this, you are in poor academic standing until it is raised to at least a 3.0.What GPA is needed for Oxford? ›
If your graduate course at Oxford requires a 'first-class undergraduate degree with honours' in the UK system, you will usually need a bachelor's degree with an overall grade of Class 1, 'A' or 80%, or a GPA of 3.7 out of 4.0.
Ideal ACT/SAT Scores for Ivy League School Applications
The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section. Getting 700 or 710 (or higher) on both of these sections will give you an advantage at most Ivy League universities.
Yale University does not have a strict minimum GPA requirement for undergraduate admissions. However, admitted students typically have very high GPAs, ranging from 3.8 to 4.0, with an average GPA of 3.9.
According to data published by ACT, Inc. and based on the scores of 5,368,134 students who took the ACT and graduated in the last three years, the average composite ACT score is 19.8. Roughly 1.3 million students, or 36% of the U.S. high school graduating class of 2022, took the ACT.Can you retake the ACT? ›
If you're not satisfied with your scores, you can retake the ACT. ACT Inc., which administers the exam, lets you take the test up to 12 times, though it's best to take it no more than 2-3 times. Beyond that, you're unlikely to boost your scores substantially.What ACT do most colleges accept? ›
Top colleges and universities usually look for ACT scores in the 32-36 range.Is 18 an OK score on the ACT? ›
Earning an 18 on the ACT puts you at the 38th percentile, meaning that you scored higher than 38% of all test takers.When did ACT scores change to 36? ›
Starting in 2015, the format of the essay was changed slightly. Students are now given 40 minutes to write, and the Writing section is scored out of 36 rather than out of 12.Is 21 a decent ACT score? ›
Is 21 a good ACT score? A 21 ACT score puts you right at the national average, making you eligible to apply to a number of schools. It offers you a slight competitive edge, but won't make you competitive for most selective schools.How do you go from 26 to 30 on the ACT? ›
To get a 30, you must score highly on all four sections of the exam (excluding Writing). Specifically, you'll need to get at least a 30 on two sections and a composite score of 29.5 (which rounds to 30) or higher. This means you can only miss a handful of questions on each section.Should I retake ACT with a 28? ›
There's no pressure to retake the ACT with a score of 28. The one primary reason a student would retake the ACT at this juncture would be if their ideal school wants a point or two higher. Otherwise, you're eligible for merit aid and are competitive at a wide variety of schools, so retaking it isn't necessary.Can I raise my ACT score 4 points? ›
If you want to boost your score by 4 points, for instance, you should bank on studying for a couple of hours a day for at least 6-8 weeks. Once you have a target score in mind, you will have a better idea of how much work you will need to put in to accomplish your goal.
Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate.Has anyone gotten a 36 on the ACT? ›
Unsurprisingly, a full 36 is the rarest score of all—just 0.313% of all test takers earned a perfect ACT score. Roughly three times more students earned the next-highest score of 35; however, this is still a very rare score that just 0.925% of test takers earned.What is 99th percentile on ACT? ›
99th Percentile: 34
A 34 is a really, really high score. It's only two points away from a perfect score, but it's still a feat that is accomplished by 1-in-100 test takers.
Harvard GPA Requirements
However, unweighted GPAs are not very useful, because high schools weight GPAs differently. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Harvard. That means nearly straight As in every class.
Yale University is extremely selective with an acceptance rate of 6%. Students that get into Yale University have an SAT score between 1470–1560 or an ACT score of 33–35. Regular applications are due January 2.What is the tuition for Harvard? › Do colleges look more at GPA or ACT? ›
When it comes to the GPA and the ACT, students often wonder which one is more important. Although college admissions officers often say that they give much more weight to a student's GPA, even they will admit that your ACT score is of considerable importance.What is the lowest ACT to get into college? ›
Colleges That Accept Average ACT Score. In general, many US colleges and universities accept applicants with 16 or 17 ACT scores. In fact, an ACT score of 16 or lower is accepted by 33 schools.What is the average college student ACT score? ›
|State||Participation Rate||Average Composite Score|
Simply put, a 32 ACT composite score is equivalent to an SAT score of 1420-1440. A 32 ACT score is considered average. Yes, an ACT score of 32 is considered average.
Your 1550 SAT score is actually much better than your 35 ACT score. Especially when speaking in terms of an SAT Score Percentile. I calculated the actual percentiles because The College Board and The ACT both say these scores are just 99% and, truthfully speaking, the essay portions don't really matter.Is 36 ACT or 1600 SAT better? ›
Getting a 1600 on the SAT is harder than getting a 36 on the ACT. To get a perfect 1600 on the SAT, one has to get a perfect 800 on each of the two SAT sections. To get a perfect 36 on the ACT, in contrast, one has to get a score that can be rounded up to 36. For instance, 35.5 is equivalent to 36.Is a 32 on the ACT good? ›
All that considered, yes, 32 is a good ACT score. To show you just how good, we have to look at the percentiles. A 32 ACT score puts you at the 97th percentile — that means you scored higher than 97% all test takers!Can 32 ACT get into Harvard? ›
ACT scores range from 33 to 35, with 35 representing the 75th percentile. Even though Harvard probably states that there is no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 33 or lower, you will likely struggle to get in unless you have other extremely strong application materials.Is GPA more important than SAT ACT? ›
A GPA has always been an important part of the university admissions process in the United States. According to a 2020 study, high school GPA is a better predictor of college graduation than ACT scores.What SAT score is required for Harvard? ›
Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.What is a genius SAT score? ›
Excellent SAT Score: 1350+ (90%+ higher than all test-takers.)What is a good SAT score for Ivy League? ›
For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.Should I take both SAT and ACT? ›
Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT and express no preference for either test. That said, significant percentages of students at selective colleges are submitting scores from both tests when they apply.How hard is it to get a 35 on ACT? ›
Unsurprisingly, a full 36 is the rarest score of all—just 0.313% of all test takers earned a perfect ACT score. Roughly three times more students earned the next-highest score of 35; however, this is still a very rare score that just 0.925% of test takers earned.
How Many People Get A Perfect SAT Score? Yearly, less than 1% of all test-takers get a perfect score. That's hundreds out of nearly three million people who take the test. The people who score perfect aren't necessarily the smartest test-takers but are often the most prepared.How many questions can you get wrong to get a 1600 on SAT? ›
As you can see with the above SAT scoring chart, it's possible to get some questions wrong and still earn the max SAT score. Generally speaking, you can miss 1-2 questions on each section and still get a perfect 1600.Can I get into an Ivy League with a 32 ACT? ›
98th percentile: A 32 ACT score is above the national average. This score is excellent for most Ivy League universities. So if you are wondering, 'is 32 a good ACT score' to get into any of the highly selective Ivy League colleges, you should know that this score is sufficient to stand out among your competitors.Can I get into Yale with a 32 ACT? ›
SAT-Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 720-770. SAT-Math: 740-790. ACT Composite: 33-35.Will a 33 on the ACT get scholarships? ›
A 33 ACT score qualifies you for merit aid from both your potential future college or university, as well as from third-party scholarship providers. Be sure to apply for all types of scholarships, though, including ones for life circumstances, passions, extracurriculars, location, and more.