Learning the Difference Between a Good vs. Bad SAT Score

The SAT is a standardized test that most colleges and universities use to help make admissions decisions. There is just no passing or failing score on the SAT. However, colleges and universities often have specific SAT score requirements for applicants without unique talents.

For example, certain colleges may require that applicants have a total score of at least 1200 to be considered for admission. Others may have higher or lower requirements. Given that the SAT can be an essential factor in the college admissions process, it’s important to do your best and score high on the test.

However, students may wonder what a good SAT score would constitute versus a bad one. Continue reading to learn more about the difference:

How Does the SAT Scoring Work?

Your total SAT score is the sum of your Math score and your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score, ranging from 200 to 800 for each section.

Your scores will also correlate with percentile rankings. Your SAT percentile indicates what percentage of students you scored the same or above.

What’s a Good SAT Score?

While 1600 is considered a perfect score, anything above 1500 demonstrates that you are academically competitive and have what it takes to do well in college. A score of 1500 or above on the SAT means being in the top 1-2% of all students who take the test. This means you’ve scored better than almost all other students who have taken the SAT.

What’s a Bad SAT Score?

A score of 1040 or below is considered below average for SAT test-takers. A score of 890 or below puts you in the bottom quarter of test-takers. This means that if you scored a 1040 or below, you should consider retaking the exam to improve your chances of getting into a good college.

What’s the Ideal SAT Score for You?

There is no single “ideal” SAT score, as colleges and universities vary in their expectations. A good rule of thumb is to target a score that puts you at or above the 75th percentile (3rd quartile) of accepted students at the schools you’ll be applying to. This information can be found on the admissions webpage of each university for stats about the incoming class of students.

How Can You Get Your Desired SAT Score?

You can self-prep for the SAT, take a class, or hire a tutor to guide you through your preparation. Usually, you’ll take at least several practice tests, learn from your mistakes, identify your weaknesses, and sharpen those skills.


The SAT can be quite a daunting test, but with the right preparation and mindset, you can get the score that’ll land you into the college or university of your choice. If you don’t get the score you want, keep prepping and retake it to attain your goal.

In need of SAT tutoring? Kenny Tan Test Prep helps students get into the best public and private schools, as well as achieve the best scores for high school and college exams. Get in touch with us today!