SAT Scores for Top Universities

March 1, 2019

If you're studying for the SAT, more than likely your brain is filled with numbers. Oh, sure, numbers that may relate to the Math section, for sure—but also, statistics regarding your score. There are national averages, gender averages, demographic averages—not to mention university averages and percentiles. It's easy to get lost in a sea of information about other people's scores instead of focusing on enhancing your own. After all, isn't that what optimal SAT study is for—focusing on you and your own progress?

It's not easy studying for such an important exam. The SAT has been administered for decades now and has been the gold standard in undergraduate college readiness. When we look at SAT scores, it's important to see how they line up with particular schools. After all, by looking at SAT averages and percentiles per school, you are able to get a better understanding of the "lay of the land", so to speak, in regards to the student population you hope to be a part of.

Let's take a look the SAT and its connection with elite and non-elite universities. Hopefully, you walk away with a better understanding of the test, as well as your own score.

SAT Basics Overview

It's important to note that the SAT is scored on a range from 400-1600. The two main sections are Critical Reading (Evidence-Based Reading & Writing) and Math, both equaling 800 points each. The 2017 average published in a 2017 College Board Report was 533 for EBRW and 527 for Math, totaling to 1060 for a national average.

SAT Score Data: At a Glance

Before we get into specific schools and their SAT averages and percentiles, it's important to examine the information and data published by the College Board about national averages. The statistics below were derived from the past few years as part of the College Board's annual Profile Report. These averages are reported by section:

YearCritical ReadingMathWriting
2013496514488
2014497513487
2015495511484
2016494508482

SAT scores, in general, are slowly declining over time. For example, the national average in 2006 for Critical Reading was 503—518 for Math—497 for Writing. Why the decline? Perhaps a decreased interest in the SAT due to its more popular rival exam, the ACT, has contributed. Regardless, if you are a high-scoring student or one with high-scoring goals, surpassing the national average is good news for you and your application.

Additionally, below is a chart published by the College Board based on 2017 test results by gender:

2017 SAT Score Averages by Gender
GenderEBRWMathTotal SAT Score
Male5325381070
Female5345161050

SAT Score Averages for Elite League Schools

Naturally, finding out the average SAT score of students in a particular school is a phenomenal advantage when applying to undergraduate programs. While you always want to aim for a higher-than-average SAT score, knowing a specific school's median is always useful, particularly when entrenched in SAT strategy. Below is a chart of average SAT scores for elite schools. Due to their popularity and reputation, these SAT averages are higher-than-normal in comparison with state schools and community colleges.

SAT Average Score for Elite Schools
UniversityAverage SAT Score Range
Brown1410-1570
Cornell1390-1550
Columbia1460-1580
Dartmouth1440-1580
Harvard1480-1600
University of Pennsylvania1440-1570
Princeton1470-1600
Yale1480-1600
Princeton1400-1590
MIT1470-1590

While several Ivy League and elite schools may be on the top of your list, hopefully, you also have some safety schools you're applying to, as well. Below is a list of middle-range schools with stellar reputations and slightly lower SAT averages than the ones above. Do you see any schools you're applying to listed on here? If so—take note!

Average SAT Scores by School
UniversityAverage SAT Score
Baylor University1290
Bringham Young University (BYU)1320
Loyola Marymount University (LMU)1290
Ohio State University1330
Rutgers University1300
Pepperdine University1290
Pace University1140
Texas A&M University1250
Syracuse University1270
University of Vermont1280

SAT Percentile

How can knowing your SAT score percentiles help you? Well, first of all, they give you an idea of how an admissions committee might be weighing your application. Sure, there are other factors that come into play when it comes to your college application—such as your admissions essay, letters of recommendation, GPA, and maybe in some cases an in-person interview. However, your SAT score is important, as well, and with all of your competition, it's important to keep in mind how admissions officers compare you to the other students. Percentiles come into play here, as they are a tool for those deciding your university fate to organize applicants.

For instance, if you are a high-scoring student and you're in the 98th percentile, isn't it valuable to know? That can rest your mind at ease when waiting to hear back about your admission status. Similarly, if you're in a lower percentile—say, the 61st or 51st, you are well aware of the other students ahead of you, meaning you will need to rely on your other application materials as a counterbalance. Below is a general chart chronicling the various percentiles. If you have had the opportunity to sit for a practice SAT or have taken the real thing and know your score, finding out where you line in up relationship to these percentiles can be of great use.

SAT Composite Score Percentiles
Total Score (0-1600)Percentile
160099+
155099+
151099
145098
140095
133090
123080
117071
111061
106051
100040
95031
89021
81011
7505
6801

And while it's important to know your composite score percentile, it's also incredibly useful to know it on a section-by-section level, as well. Below is a chart chronicling percentiles from both the EBRW and Math sections. Perhaps you have a greater percentile in one over the other? Depending on your intended undergraduate major, this could be useful.

SAT Section Score Percentiles
Section Score RangeSAT EBRW PercentilesSAT Math Percentiles
780-80099+99 to 99+
760-78099 to 99+98 to 99
740-76098 to 9997 to 98
720-74097 to 9895 to 97
700-72095 to 9794 to 95
680-70092 to 9591 to 94
660-68089 to 9288 to 91
640-66085 to 8984 to 88
620-64079 to 8581 to 84
600-62073 to 7976 to 81

Additionally, knowing the 25th percentile and 75th percentile of your school is of great value. Here is a table detailing a handful of schools that may be on your application list. This data is garnered from a recent U.S. News Report.

SAT Percentile By School
University25th Percentile75th Percentile2016 Acceptance Rate
Princeton University143015706%
Harvard University146015905%
University of Chicago148015809%
Yale University142015907%
Columbia University145015806%
MIT149015707%
Stanford University139015405%
University of Pennsylvania142015609%
Duke University1480159011%
Caltech153015908%
Dartmouth University1430156010%
Cornell University1390155013%
Brown University141015708%

Finally, according to Niche.com, an educational services blog, the following top ten schools are “the most popular of 2018” when it comes to students who score a 1340 or above:

  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Yale University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • MIT
  • Brown University

SAT Scores for Schools: The Takeaway

In the end, this information about average scores and percentiles needs to be absorbed and then placed in the back of your mind while you pursue your course of study. While this is highly useful when aiming for your target composite score, it also cannot consume you while you focus on essential test-taking strategies. Structure your course of study over a three to four-month period and allot room for exam retakes, if necessary. If you're applying to an elite school, it may take more than once to get your ideal score.