Many American colleges and universities require all applicants – international students included – to submit an SAT or an ACT test score as part of their admissions application. The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a standardized test that measures a student’s skills in three core areas: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing.
The SAT is generally required for students seeking admission to undergraduate courses in the US and sometimes in Canada as well. Some schools in the UK, Australia, and Germany also accept SAT scores as part of their admission criteria.
Even though some global universities don’t require international students to submit SAT scores, a good SAT score can do wonders for the strength of your application. Your score on this test shows how you compare to your US peers, which is crucial when you’re coming from a different education system.
If you’re an ambitious student hoping to get into a top university, a good SAT score is a good place to start. You’re probably wondering “What is a good SAT score?” Well, let’s talk about that and everything you need to know about SAT scores as an international student.
What is a Good SAT Score?
What is considered a good SAT score is largely dependent on the specific college or university. That said, a minimum 1200 composite score is generally considered to be a good SAT score.
The SAT is scored on a range between 400 and 1600. For better evaluation of a student’s performance, the score is further categorized into four different parts: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (divided into No Calculator and Calculator subsections), and an optional 50-minute essay. Some colleges will require you to take the SAT with the essay; others will let you choose if you’d like to do the essay or not.
The higher your score, the more likely you are to get into top universities abroad. A good SAT score will also make you eligible for more scholarships.
But while a good SAT score helps, it isn’t the only component of a college application. It will be considered in tandem with your academic background, application essays or statements, recommendation letters, extracurriculars, charity work, and so on.
How is the SAT Scored and Calculated?
The SAT is scored by adding up your two section scores, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math–which are scored out of 200-800. When you receive your SAT score report, your total SAT score is the big number you’ll see listed.
In some cases, colleges might look at your section scores to determine your eligibility for a course. For example, if you’re applying for admission to an engineering school, they may value high Math scores over a high Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score.
To calculate your SAT score, the raw score for a section (the number of questions you got right in that section), is converted into a “scaled score.” To do this, the College Board uses a conversion chart unique to each test. The scaled scores in each section are then added together to come up with your total SAT score.
What is a Raw SAT Score?
A raw SAT score is the number of questions you answered correctly on your SAT. For every question you answer correctly on the SAT, you get one point. There are no penalties for guessing or skipping. The maximum possible raw score varies from section to section, depending on the number of questions. For instance, if there are 52 questions for the Reading Test, then the maximum raw score for that section is 52. The Essay section is usually graded separately on a scale of 2-8 and isn’t factored into your composite score.
Average SAT Score for Top US Universities
A majority of universities and colleges in the US accept SAT scorecards for admitting undergraduate students. In most cases, the SAT requirement is defined by specific departments in the eligibility criteria for a specific course.
To give you an idea of the SAT scores to aim for, below is a list of the average SAT scores required by some of the top US universities in 2022.
|University||Location||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
|Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||1390||1530|
|Duke University||Durham, NC||1315||1570|
|Harvard University||Cambridge, MA||1470||1570|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||1500||1570|
|Princeton University||Princeton, NJ||1380||1540|
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||1390||1540|
|Tufts University||Medford, MA||1410||1540|
|University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||1280||1490|
|University of Chicago||Chicago, IL||1460||1560|
|Yale University||New Haven, CT||1460||1600|
What Does 25th and 75th Percentile Mean?
The 25th and 75th percentiles show the range in which a student’s SAT scores fall at each university. The 25th percentile score shows that under 25% of students were admitted with that SAT score or less. On the other end, the 75th percentile shows the score at which only 25% of students at a university scored above. The range between the 25th and 75th percentile is known as an interquartile score.
Let’s take a look at Harvard University, for example. 25% of students achieved an SAT score lower than 1470, and 25% of students achieved an SAT score higher than 1570 to gain admission. It means that 50% of the students at Harvard University score between 1470 and 1570 on SAT.
If you want to get into a top university, aim for a score that is in their interquartile range. The closer the SAT score toward the 75th percentile, the better.
Pros and Cons of the SAT for International Students
Are you considering taking the SAT? You might be wondering about the pros and cons of the standardized test for international students. Let’s explore them below.
Pros of the SAT
The SAT is the most popular college entrance exam for international students. There are several reasons why international students will like the SAT:
- The verbal sections count for half of the exam score. The decrease of emphasis on Reading and Writing might make the SAT a little easier for students whose first language isn’t English.
- The SAT no longer features obscure vocabulary words – which were challenging for both native and non-native English speakers.
- The three required sections of the SAT – Reading, Writing, and Math – feature graphs, charts, and tables. If you’re strong at interpreting data, you’ll find this feature to be advantageous.
Cons of the SAT
There’s one big con to the SAT for international students: It emphasizes reading comprehension in all of its sections, including the math section. This could be especially challenging for students for whom English isn’t the first language.
How to Improve Your SAT Score as an International Student
Here are some tips to help you get a high SAT score:
- Make use of SAT prep courses: Look for SAT prep courses online and enroll. Such courses will familiarize you with the kind of questions to expect and how to complete as many of them as possible under the time restraint.
- Retake SATs: You can retake the test as many times as you want. Most students gradually increase their SAT scores with the number of attempts.
- Super-score your SAT scores: Many universities allow students to superscore all their SATs. Basically, this means you can pick and choose the highest scores from various attempts at the SAT.
FAQs for the SAT for International Students
What is a good SAT score?
A good SAT score depends on the college or university you want to get admitted into.
Is 1200 a good SAT score?
Yes. A 1200 SAT score is quite good. It puts you in the top 76th percentile of those who take the test and above the national average.
Is 1300 a good SAT score?
Yes. A 1300 SAT score is really good. It puts you in the 88th percentile of those who take the test.
Is 1400 a good SAT score?
Yes. A 1400 SAT score is excellent and places you in the top 5% (95th percentile) of those who take the test. If you get an SAT score of 1400 or higher, you’re likely to gain admission into the most selective colleges.
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