SAT Scores Used for College Admission

How Do Your SAT Scores Matter?

SAT is a comprehensive tool that gives colleges a basic idea of a student’s ability. It is recognized around the world and many universities around the world base their admissions on exam scores. SAT tests you in areas of math, verbal ability and writing skills; things that are commonly taught in high schools. Most of the aspirants attempt the test in their junior year to get an idea and then again in senior year to get a better score.

Apart from the main test, there is another test called the SAT subject test. This test is available in many content areas like history, math, science, literature and language. It is an hour long test specifically designed to test your knowledge in a particular field. You are free to choose the subject in which you want to display your skills. You can also choose multiple subjects if you are interested in applying to more than one department or based on the university guidelines.

How Does a SAT Subject Test Matter?

Although some universities don’t ask explicitly for  scores in a subject test, they will consider these scores when your application is scrutinized. Most of the universities ask for subject test scores. When you apply to any university, the department allocation isn’t always in your hands. At this stage it will be wise to have subject test scores along with you maincollege scores. This will allow the university to know your strengths and interests and they will be able to place you in the right department.

Remember that your subject test scores are not a replacement for your other credentials like high school scores, academic record and SAT scores but are only a differentiating factor. This means you need to be good in those other credentials as well. Only after the basic screening process, will your subject test scores be considered. Some colleges also offer credit for introductory level courses based on your subject test scores, so overall it is definitely important that you score well in your subject tests.

What about the Main SAT Score?

As you will know already, SAT is scored on a scale of 600-2400 with each section having 200-800 points. There are very few people who manage a perfect score of 2400 even at the top universities. The average score is generally 500 in each section, which makes the total average score of about 1500. In 2011 the mean scores have been 514 in math, 489 in writing and 497 in critical reading.

From these numbers we also know that 25% of people who got admissions scored below the average. Another interesting point is that several colleges consider critical reading and math to be the dominant sections and base their admissions only on these sections. This is because the writing section is relatively new and most colleges don’t consider it to be a measure of your academic skills. Here are some numbers that will give you an idea of what some of the top universities consider as good scores-


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Note that these are not the absolute exam scores that you will need to get admission. It is only one part of the process. You can say that it is the basic pre requisite. That is the reason why these scores vary in such a large margin of almost 100 points. The main thing that you can conclude from these numbers is that if you want to get into one of the top universities you will have to score around the 90th percentile, which means a total score of around 2100.

You also have the “score choice” option, where you are free to choose which scores you want to send with your application (this is for people who have taken the test twice).

Other Criteria

As you saw above, there is a huge variation in the scores of people who get selected to various universities. The question is, “Why this difference?” Well, the answer is quite simple-there are several other parameters that these colleges consider apart from your SAT scores. These parameters include academic record, extra-curricular involvements, sports, subject interests etc. Therefore, when all these aspects are considered, you stand a great chance of getting admitted to a university of your choice (provided you have a decent score too).

Also note that the subject test scores are not mentioned in the above table. The reason is that there is no well-defined range for these scores. It means that either you will have to look up the website of the university you are interested in or contact the admission council personally to get an idea of what they consider a good score. However, to apply to a particular program the university will have definite guidelines on whether or not you need the subject tests.

In the worst case scenario that your SAT scores are too low or you don’t make the deadline to register for the exam, there are several colleges that don’t need SAT for an admission. The reason is that several universities that offer programs in arts, music or some other particular domain don’t consider the test to be the criteria to judge a student’s ability. They have different procedures and applications.

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