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Resource CenterGetting in & Applying to CollegeStandardized TestsAssessing Your SAT or ACT Score

Assessing Your SAT or ACT Score

It can be difficult assessing your standardized test results. After all, the scoring systems for both the SAT and the ACT are vastly different than the grading with which we’re all familiar. You can easily interpret a “95” or a “B+.” But what does a score of 1850 or 19 really mean?

To begin with, as you probably already know, a 2400 nets you perfect score on the SAT. Similarly, a 36 is the top result on the ACT. Naturally, if you achieve either of those you’re in fantastic shape! Of course, it’s quite rare to earn a perfect score on either test. The average SAT and ACT scores are 1500 and 21 respectively. Therefore, if you score in that range, you’ll be on par with a number of other students.

Of course, the higher the score, the better positioned you’ll be. If you’re hoping to earn acceptance at an elite college, you’ll need to achieve results significantly higher than the aforementioned averages. For example, at many top ranked schools, students scored within the 90th percentile of test takers. This means a score of 2100 or above for the SATs and a score of 28 or above for the ACTs.

To see if you’re within competitive range of a particular college or university, you should research the mean scores of accepted students (this data is usually made available every year). Certainly, if you’ve earned a score that falls within or above the average, you’ll be in a comfortable range. If your score is lower than the mean, you might want to think about retaking the exam (if you believe there’s a likelihood that you can improve your results). Remember, colleges and universities typically only consider your best score. And they don’t usually judge the number of times in which you’ve sat for either exam.

If you haven’t yet taken either test, you can consider your PSAT and/or PLAN results as good barometers of how you might end up faring. Both exams are quite similar to their respective counterparts and both are taken under authentic testing conditions. 

Additionally, we’d be remiss if we concluded this article without asserting that what constitutes a good score is also a very personal matter. Indeed, we all have different academic strengths and weaknesses. You might be able to nail the verbal section but struggle greatly with the math. And your best friend might find he’s the total opposite. Further, your neighbor might be a fantastic test taker while you break out in a full sweat at the mere thought of the SAT/ACTs. Therefore, we recommend that you don’t gauge your results in light of how your friends did. When it comes down to it, a good score is simply the best result you’re capable of achieving. 

Finally, it’s essential to highlight the fact that these tests are only one component of your college application. Sure, they are important. However, your life won’t be over if you don’t achieve the score you hoped you would. After all, even admissions officers realize you are more than one simple number!  



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Don Munce