Ever wonder what is the best SAT score a student can achieve? In simple terms, it’s 1600 (from a score range of 400-1600). But the real answer is more complicated. That’s because instead of asking what is the best SAT score, students should ask themselves the following three questions:
- What are the average SAT scores accepted by my top universities?
- What’s the best SAT score I, personally, can reasonably expect to achieve?
- How do I prepare for the SAT to ensure I can achieve my own personal best score?
Let’s get into it
If you’re preparing to apply for college, and the SAT will be one part of your application package, you might have already thought about how to get a high SAT score. This guide will help you answer those three key questions, improving your chances at getting the scores you need to get into your top schools.
Question #1: What are the average SAT scores accepted by my top universities?
Remember that, instead of asking yourself “what is the best SAT score,” the question you should be asking is, “what are the average SAT scores accepted by my top universities?”
According to the data, the average SAT score of all test takers in 2022 was 1050. Your total score is a combination of your scores on the reading and writing sections and your scores on the two math sections (one with calculator, one without).
Of course, the average score of incoming freshmen at the schools of your choice will likely be much higher than the national average. This is especially true if you’re hoping to attend an Ivy League school (which will have one of the highest average SAT scores in the country) or the top school in your state.
The middle 50% of students accepted at Harvard University have an SAT score range of 1460-1580, for example. At Tulane University – also a well-known, highly-ranked school, though not located in the Ivy League region – the middle 50% of students accepted have an SAT score range of 1430-1530.
When researching which schools you’d like to attend, be sure to note their average accepted SAT score. Schools publish this information, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. Once you know the range of scores you’ll need to achieve to hit the average, you’ll have a goal in mind when preparing for and taking the test.
Keep in mind, of course, that your college application isn’t dependent on your SAT score alone. Notice we said those were average scores – many students got into the school with lower scores than the average. This is because they likely stood out in other areas of their application, whether that was in strong grades, key extracurriculars, or powerful essays. A college application is a package, with each element playing a role.
Answer #1: Instead of asking yourself “what is the best SAT score,” the question you should be asking is, “what are the average SAT scores accepted by my top universities.” And you can easily find these scores on college and university websites.
Question #2: What’s the best SAT score I, personally, can reasonably expect to achieve?
Some SAT test takers will go into the prep and test taking process asking, “how can I get my SAT scores the highest they can possibly be?” In other words, they’re looking to get a perfect score.
A perfect score on the SAT – 1600 – is not impossible to achieve, but it is exceedingly rare. According to LinkedIn, roughly 0.07% of SAT exam takers get a perfect score. That’s only 7 out of 10,000 students. And it doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll land an acceptance letter from your top university, because, as we already discussed, the SAT score is only one part of the entire application package admissions committees will take into consideration.
The question students should be asking themselves is, “what is the best SAT score I can reasonably expect to achieve?”
Now, a number of variables will go into your calculation of your best SAT score. First, think about your strongest and weakest subjects. If you excel at mathematics, but it takes more effort for you to perform at a higher level in writing, you might calculate that you’re not going to get a perfect score on the writing section.
Or, let’s say you wanted to go for a perfect score anyways. If you were going to try to get a perfect score, you’d want to calculate the time you’d need to put into studying for the writing sections to achieve that goal. Is it worth spending more time on SAT writing test prep vs. maybe working to get your grades up, or landing a set of really high-quality recommendation letters?
Additionally, you might feel that test taking isn’t something you enjoy or that comes super easy to you. If the average SAT score for your top choice schools is in the 1400-1500 range, it’s reasonable to calculate against spending the extra time (and stress) of trying for perfection.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a perfect score on the SAT, or researching “how to get a high SAT score.” Every single year, dozens of students do achieve a perfect score on their SATs.
But you’re putting together a whole picture with your application package. Getting in requires more than just an SAT score. Based on your skills, time, interest, and test taking abilities, you could just as easily make the calculated decision to focus more energy on other parts of the full picture of your college suitability.
Answer #1: Instead of asking yourself “how can I get my SAT scores the highest they can possibly be?,” the question you should be asking is, “what’s the best SAT score I, personally, can reasonably expect to achieve?” Calculate this answer taking into consideration your current skills, timeframe, and other factors in your application package.
Question #3: How do I prepare for the SAT to ensure I can achieve my own personal best score?
Now that you have your ideal SAT score in mind, it’s time to start thinking about test prep. For most students, their SAT scores’ highest potential is only possible through some form of preparing for the exam. And the good news is, test takers have options for how to approach getting ready for the big day.
One option that is popular with strong test takers is the at-home study method. These students obtain test prep materials either online or at their local library, and work through them on their own schedule.
If you’re on a budget but don’t study well on your own, another option is to get those free study materials and gather other test takers for group study sessions. The owners of the SAT provide some free SAT resources that show students how to get a high SAT score. You can find supplemental materials at a bookstore or the library – or share resources with other students in your study group.
Students who don’t do self-study well, or who need extra help in one or more of the exam subjects should consider working one-on-one with an SAT tutor. Alternatively, you could enroll in a test prep class, where an instructor will guide you through the entire exam, helping you understand not only the material in the exam but also the pacing and rules. With this option, of course, there are also time and budget constraints that might come into play.
Answer #3: Create a personalized test prep plan to get your SAT scores the highest they can be for your unique college application needs. Consider options like self-study, group study, and one-on-one tutoring.
How to Get a High SAT Score
So, what is the best SAT score? The answer depends on you! Factors to consider when determining your best SAT score include:
- The average SAT scores accepted at your top choice schools
- Your ability to or interest in committing time to test prep
- The strength or weakness of other aspects of your application package
- Your test-taking skills
In basic terms, the 1600 is your SAT scores’ highest possibility. Your achieve this score by combining your scores on the reading and writing sections (highest score: 800) with your scores on the two math sections (highest score: also 800). But a perfect score is exceedingly rare, and not at all required to be considered college-ready by U.S. colleges and universities. In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll land an acceptance letter from your top university, as the SAT score is only one part of the entire application package they will evaluate.
More important than trying for a perfect SAT score is making sure your score matches the averages of the universities you’d like to attend.
In short, The best SAT score is the one that, combined with the other components of your full application package, helps get you into your dream school.