What Is a Bad SAT® Score?

Arrow showing if an SAT score is bad or good

If you have taken the SAT® but are unsure of how you performed, you might end up wondering, what is a bad SAT score? When evaluating your performance on the SAT test, there are some key points that you need to understand. In this blog, we will discuss what counts towards a low SAT score and how to know if your score needs improvement.

First, you need to start by learning about how to read your score report.

Reading Your Score Report

After taking the SAT, you will receive your score report. This report includes your scores and a breakdown of the areas in which you met or exceeded the performance benchmark. Seeing where you rank against this benchmark will help determine how ready you are for college-level coursework. Moreover, it can help evaluate your performance on the tests, subsections, and question types throughout the SAT, and establish if there are any specific areas where you can significantly improve.

So, what is a bad SAT score? A short answer to this question is simply falling below the benchmark.

Note that on your SAT score report, you will find seven components to measure your performance on the test. To learn about each of these components, read our blog on How to interpret the SAT score report.

What happens if you get a low SAT score?

Remember, you can always retake the SAT, so a low score is not the end of the world!. The good news is that your SAT score report will include an outline of all the areas where you can improve. After looking over your SAT score report, take a note of your strengths and weaknesses, and prepare for your next SAT attempt with an aim to score higher.

How Do You Know If Your Scores Need Improvement?

There are three ways to decide whether or not you need a higher SAT score:

  1. You have not met the general college readiness benchmarks.

    The College Board® lists the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing college readiness benchmark as 480, and the Math college readiness benchmark as 530. If you get a low SAT score and do not meet these benchmark numbers, it is assumed that you may be less likely to succeed in college-level classes.

  2. Your score is lower than the score your potential colleges expect from applicants.

    A good way to gauge whether you need to improve your scores is by researching the scoring threshold that will result in acceptance from your potential schools. If you are wondering what is considered a bad SAT score for schools, then this is what you need to know. Every college is different, and depending on the size of the applicant pool and the competitiveness of the school, the score needed to get in will vary. If you have received a score that is substantially lower than the scores that resulted in acceptance letters the previous year, then you should work on improving your performance.

  3. Your percentile is low and you score less than the National SAT Average.

    Another way to evaluate your SAT score is by comparing it to the national averages and percentiles provided by the College Board. Seeing where you rank against other students who took the SAT can help you understand where improvements need to be made; however, it is not useful in deciding if improvements are necessary for college admissions. If you want a direct way to navigate your scores, the most useful information about scoring data will come directly from the colleges or universities you are applying to.

How can you avoid getting a bad SAT score?

To avoid a bad SAT score, first set a goal. Properly setting this goal will give you a clear perspective on how to prepare for the SAT. Next, you will need to study and practice. Trying UWorld’s SAT practice questions will familiarize you with the test and help cement your skills.

Make UWorld your study partner and take the first step toward success.
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SAT score report from UWorld
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