As a tutor or teacher you might well be asked: What’s a good SAT score? That depends on a student’s goals and the college(s) she or he wants to go to.

At some colleges, a score of 1600 or 1800 out of 2400 is above the average for applicants. At the most prestigious schools, you’d need to score well above that just to merit consideration for admission. A 2100 is below average at the top schools.

You can point your students to several online sources where they can find out the test score ranges for schools they’re interested in. Among these are the College Board’s new “BigFuture” website and

To locate scores by school on the College Board site, just type in the school name in the search box on the home page, and then click the SAT, AP, CLEP link. Generally you’ll see scores (out of a possible 800) across the three major test sections for the “middle 50% of first-year students,” which means that 25% of incoming freshman scored below that range, and 25% scored above that range.

The COLLEGEdata site breaks the scoring down more, and also provides a breakdown of grade point averages for incoming freshman.

You can also share some of the College Board’s most recent statistics on the SAT. I found interesting and related analysis across several posts on Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s The College Solution blog, a great source of information for college-bound students and their families.

Here are some of Lynn’s stats and insights that tutors might want to be aware of:

  • The average SAT score in 2011 was 1500 out of 2400 possible points. The breakdown of that overall average score was:

Math — 514
Critical Reading — 497
Writing — 489

You can read the College Board’s 2011 “Total Group Profile Report” here.

You can also check out reports on 2011 SAT performance by state.

  • A record number of students – about 1.65 million – took the SAT in 2011. 44% of them were minority students, so this was also the most diverse group ever to take the SAT. An amazing 27% of students taking the test in 2011 speak a language other than English, and 36% would be the first in their families to attend college.
  • More than 350,000 students from low-income families obtained SAT fee waivers in 2011, which enabled them to take the SAT test for free. Students receive fee waivers through their school counselors.
  • Students who completed a core curriculum in high school scored an average of 143 points higher on the SAT than students who didn’t. The College Board’s definition of “core curriculum” is one that includes at least four English, three math, three natural sciences and three social sciences/history classes.

I also learned on The College Solution blog that the College Board has developed a “college readiness benchmark,” which I’ll blog more about in the future. The purpose of this benchmark is to “offer states a valuable tool for measuring the college and career readiness of groups of students.” According to this benchmark, an SAT score of 1550 out of 2400 indicates that a student has a 65% likelihood of achieving a B- average or higher during their freshman year of college. A score above 2000 indicates about a 90% chance of making a B- (2.67) average or better.

What if a student flat-out bombs the SAT? First off, remind the student that his or her GPA is a far bigger factor in admissions, and a better predictor of college success, than an SAT score – and colleges know this. There are over 800 test-optional colleges out there – nearly one-third of all accredited schools! Even some elite institutions are test-optional.

What’s your take on what makes a “good” SAT score?

Featured image courtesy of orangeacid.

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