5 minute read
Having worked with 7,000+ students, our warm and welcoming teachers have answered all sorts of questions. And there’s one question that our students ask our teachers in nearly every class, and the students never really anticipate the answer. In this blog, we’ll explain how this question isn’t as simple as it seems, and why that’s actually a good thing for students.
Our most-asked question: What is a “good” SAT score? And what is a “good” ACT score?
And the answer? It depends.
Some students find this answer somewhat frustrating because they would prefer that we give a specific score that falls squarely in the “good” zone. And that makes sense! An important part of goal setting is making the goal specific, so that steps can be laid out which result in success.
Let’s dive deeper. A “good” SAT or ACT score depends on…
- The average test scores of the student’s short-listed schools
- If those schools offer the option to superscore
- The strength of other parts of the student’s application
Before we get into those factors, let’s first imagine that there was a set standard for a “good” score on, for example, the SAT. Maybe colleges across the nation would agree that they expect students to get this certain score to be seriously considered for admission. Here’s what might happen in this fictional scenario:
- Students would all aim to get this score, possibly overwhelming themselves (and their mental health) with studying, thinking that college won’t be an option if they don’t achieve this goal score.
- Students who could score higher may feel less motivated to exceed a score that was declared “good.”
- Students who aren’t the strongest test takers would get discouraged and may not try to take the SAT at all or choose another route than college.
All of those outcomes result in colleges missing out on really excellent candidates for admission – hurting both the college and also the student applicants. Colleges know that standardized tests are very challenging and that many students have reasons why tests could be particularly difficult for them, including family responsibilities that take precedence over prep time, not having access to affordable test prep programs, and many others. It’s to the benefit of both colleges and students that a “good” score on the SAT or ACT is subjective.
Now, let’s look at the factors we mentioned earlier.
1. It depends on…the typical score ranges of a student’s chosen colleges.
Colleges with lower acceptance rates usually have higher average SAT and ACT scores and while the schools will not set minimum test scores for admission they do share a range of where most students fall. They often report this by showing the mid range for admitted and enrolled students. This means that 25% of students scored below the lower number and 25% scored about the higher number. This range varies greatly by school so you should look for, and apply to, schools with different ranges.
While the higher your scores the more likely your chances of admission are, your scores represent just one part of your application, and colleges do accept students at the lower end. Most private and some public universities take a holistic approach and look at all aspects of student applications. So those with lower test scores would need the other parts of their application to carry the extra weight.
On the flip side, if a student finds that their score is within a school’s usually accepted score range, they may have a higher chance of being accepted. As well, they may also have a better chance of receiving a scholarship or other merit aid. And remember, students want to have a range of schools to apply to – some where the scores fall near the top, some in the middle, and some at the lower end of the range.
2. It depends on…if a student’s chosen colleges allow for Score Choice.
Many students take the SAT and ACT more than one time. This gives them the option of score choice, which means they can submit their best test score from one sitting of the ACT or SAT. While this gives the student an advantage, it also allows the colleges to report higher test scores for their incoming class. Most schools allow students to take advantage of this option; if they do not, they will let the student know as part of the application, and then the student must submit all scores. Whether or not a school participates in score choice for the SAT, most all do superscore the SAT which means they look at the student’s best reading or math score, even if they are from different sittings.
Knowing that most colleges superscore should allow students to feel a bit more comfortable taking the SAT a second or third time as the colleges will only look at their best score from each section. For example, if a student’s reading score goes up but the math score goes down, the student still comes out ahead. While most colleges allow score choice for the ACT, most do not superscore the ACT. To understand if a particular college does participate in score choice and/or does superscore, we recommend that students review the school’s admissions page or contact the admissions office directly.
3. It depends on…the strength of the other parts of a student’s application.
A student’s SAT or ACT score represents only one part of their college application, and sometimes other elements outshine the test score. And that’s okay! Colleges understand that students have different strengths. Even if a student’s standardized test score is lower than they would hope, colleges still consider essays, recommendations, AP scores, class rank, and many other components. With so much evidence of hard work, some colleges may put less emphasis on the standardized test score.
The bottom line: a “good” score on the SAT or ACT is relative.
Just as colleges consider context when evaluating a student’s test scores, supportive parents and peers should not judge a score on its face value. A student’s main focus should simply be to do their very best on the ACT and SAT, while knowing that however their scores turn out, there will be a college that welcomes them.
Thorough test prep is a must for students to achieve their best possible scores. Students and parents can register for SAT and ACT classes today with The Answer Class!