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How Many People Get a Perfect Score on the SAT?

Picture of Michal Goldstein
By Michal Goldstein on August, 23 2021 | 4 minute read

What is the scoring scale of the SAT?

The SAT’s composite scoring range is from 400 to 1600. The total range is split evenly between the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (200 – 800 Points) and the Mathematics section (200 – 800 Points).

When you take the SAT, you will get a certain number of questions right—your raw score—on the Reading, Writing, and Math sections. Your raw scores from each subject will then be converted into a scaled score on the 200 – 800 point scale. Each test has a slightly different scoring scale than all others, though generally, they are very similar to one another.

Each section is scaled in 10-point increments, so it is possible to get a 200, a 210, a 220 (and so on up the line), up to an 800.

 

What is a perfect score on the SAT?

A perfect score on the SAT is a 1600. This is arrived at by getting an 800 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and an 800 on the Mathematics section.

 

What is an average score on the SAT?

The average SAT score from the Class of 2020 was a 1051. The average Reading score was a 528 and the average Math score was a 523. This average represents nearly 2.2 million test-takers from the United States.

 

How many people get a perfect score on the SAT?

This is a tricky question to answer, but it is a good one. The top 1% of all test-takers comprises those scoring in the range of 1550-1600 on the SAT scoring scale. That top 1% of 2.2 million test-takers comprised nearly 22,000 test-takers from the Class of 2020. This suggests that there are some few thousand (at a maximum) who received a perfect score.

For reference, the 1400-1600 range comprises the top 7% of all test takers (and 7% of the testing population in total).

 

How to get a perfect score on the SAT

There are two elements to receiving a perfect score on the SAT: a bit of hard work and a little luck. In order to achieve a perfect (or near-perfect) SAT score, it helps to have familiarity with the SAT, its sections, its style, the timing and pacing of the sections within the exam, and the content found within it. This means reviewing things like (but not limited to) the grammar rules found in the Writing section, the properties tested in the Math sections, and the types of passages found in the Reading section.

Because of the structure of the Math sections, which feature numeric entry questions at the end of each, it is necessary to know how to pace yourself through those sections. It is very difficult to randomly guess on those questions and get them right, so make sure you have time to consider them if the goal is an 800 on the Math section.

It helps to have some luck on your side, too: it is a little more likely to score an 800 on the Math section if the test you take has concepts that you’ve reviewed previously. Don’t know what a margin of error is? That makes it difficult to confidently answer Math questions featuring that concept. See an idiom or a particularly obscure piece of vocabulary on the Reading section you don’t know? You’ll have to leave it to fate to answer those questions correctly on the Reading and Writing sections.

As such, achieving a perfect score—which, on the SAT, does mean getting nearly every question right in three distinct subjects—has an element of randomness to it. To some degree, chance favors the prepared mind, so study up if the goal is to get to a 1600.

Remember, though, not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There are very few universities where scoring in the 1500-1600 range would be essential, and none where a perfect score is necessary for getting in. Moreover, a perfect SAT score does not guarantee admission. More on that point below.

 

Do I need a perfect score on the SAT? How important is a perfect score on the SAT?

The simple answer to the first question is a resounding no, and the answer to the second question is “not very important.” Is a perfect score helpful? Surely. But so is almost anything else a person may put into the application process.

Here’s one way to think about SAT scores in the 1550-1600 range (which is to say, in the top 1% of all scoring results): if you were to add up the freshman classes of every Ivy League school, you’d be short of the 22,000 students in the top 1% of all SAT test takers. This suggests two things: (1) Not everyone going to some of the most competitive schools in the nation has scores in the top 1% range and (2) Not everyone who has an SAT score in the top 1% matriculate to the most competitive universities.

Perfect scores (and, generally, high scores) may be helpful with the admissions process, but they don’t guarantee admission, and they certainly aren’t at the center of why a school may accept an applicant.

 

What is a good score on the SAT?

A good score on the SAT is the one that helps you get into the college of your choosing. It doesn’t matter if that score is a 950, or a 1050, or a 1250, or a 1450, or higher or lower than any of the values cited here. Check university admissions webpages to see where students matriculating to the schools of your choosing tend to land: if the middle 50% are scoring from a 1050 to a 1250, then a good score falls somewhere in the middle (and, ideally, above).

 

SAT Scoring Data:

https://reports.collegeboard.org/pdf/2020-total-group-sat-suite-assessments-annual-report.pdf


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