What do the SAT scores actually MEAN?!?

Almost everyone in high school who would like to go onto college stresses about their SAT or ACT scores.  But what is a good score?  What do they mean?  Let’s start with a few basics:

  1. The minimum and maximum scores
    The minimum score for both the reading and math is 200 each and the maximum is 800 for a combine score of 400 and 1600.  Some schools do what is called a “super score” which is when they take the best reading score and add that to the best math score, regardless of when your child takes the test.  However, not all schools do that so you want to check.
  2. The mean (average) scores
    The mean (or average) score in 2015 was 495 in Reading and 511 in Math.So what does that mean (pun intended :) )?  It means if your child is above those numbers, he or she did better than the average of all students taking the test in the world.
  3. The 25th and 75th percentiles numbers
    These numbers are normally what you see when you look at college data information.  For those who have not just spent hours helping your child with box and whisker plots J, these numbers represent the score of the  25th percentile of accepted students and the score 75th percentile, or in other words, 50% of their accepted students fall in the range of these scores.


  1. Common 25/75 Scores
    Every school is different but to get some idea of what colleges are looking for:Smaller state schools with a 75% or higher acceptance rate tend to look have 430-520 for Math and 440-530 for Reading – so right around the mean scoresLarger, more known, public schools tend to have higher SAT scores with ranges in Math going from 560-710 and 540-680 for Reading – so above averageIvy League schools have the highest SAT scores and those tend to range from 710-800 in Math and 700-800 in Reading – so well above averageIf your child knows what they would like to study in college, check out this article by Business Insider that has test scores grouped by college major.

    If you want to know about specific colleges, you can check out the college board’s Big Future website, that lists the information for every college.

  2. What if your child is above those 25/75 scores?
    That’s terrific!  The higher the scores, the more likely they will be able to get into the college of their choice.  However, more important, almost every school has academic scholarships based on SAT scores and GPA.  The higher the score the more money they will receive from the college off their tuition.  Woo-Hoo!  I always tell my students that school is their day job for 4 years.  The more they do now in High School, the more money they will get for the next 4 years in college.
  3. What if your child is below those 25/75 scores?
    Don’t get overly worried.  If your child has many extracurricular activities and a high GPA with hard classes in high school, it will definitely help in their favor, remember 24% of the students admitted are below those scores.  However, they will get very little, if any, academic scholarship money.  They can always re-take the SAT but I suggest doing a class somewhere that holds them accountable to do the work (hint, hint, hint J We offer SAT/ACT bootcamps!  Please contact us if you want more information!)


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