How are the SAT and ACT Scored?
Before trying to interpret the scores, you need to understand how the scoring systems are for ACT and SAT. The SAT has two sections (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math), each of which is worth up to 800 points, so you would get a total score out of 1600.
The ACT has four sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science), each section being scored out of raw scores of 36. Those scores are then averaged to get a final score out of 36.
What is a Perfect Score?
Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get a perfect score! Only about ~0.03% get a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT and about ~0.01% get a perfect score of 36 on the ACT. Our founder Kalyan Ray-Mazumder who wrote the curriculum for Prepmedians is one of the few people I know who got a perfect score on the test.
The top tier American colleges like the Ivy-League schools are looking for scores above the 90th percentile. For the SAT, the 90th percentile score is approximately 1350 and for the ACT, the 90th percentile score is approximately 28.
While a less than perfect score doesn’t dictate your chances with the top colleges and universities, a perfect score doesn’t determine your odds of getting in. There have been a lot of cases where students who have scored perfect scores, even multiple times, still were not able to get into some of the top tier schools. So, if the score you expected was not the score you got, don’t be disappointed.
High SAT or ACT Score
When interpreting SAT scores, realize that the average score of all SAT test-takers in 2018 was ~1050. Broken down into sections, that works out to 520 in math, 530 in reading and writing. Realize that getting a score above 1050 itself puts you above the 50th percentile. The average for ACT score falls between 21 and 22. Scoring above a 22 would mean that you have scored above the 50th percentile.
While there is no one ideal score, you want to interpret the scores based on how selective the colleges in your list are. A 1200 or higher, along with other excellent application factors, should gain you admittance into many highly regarded American colleges. Depending on all the other factors of your application, an average score won’t keep you out of a good school.
What’s the Worst Score?
The low end for the SAT is a 400, and the lowest possible ACT score is 1.
You have to work pretty hard to get a score that bad. Even if you don’t answer a single question, the companies that administer the tests are more likely to throw out your test, assuming an error was made, than to actually send it to any colleges.
The question has been asked many times whether merely entering your name gets you the minimum SAT and ACT scores, and there seems to be no definitive answer.