Combined Math And Critical Thinking/Verbal Sat Score

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Taking the SAT is often a high school rite of passage. Each year, millions of students nationwide take the SAT, one of two major standardized tests that assess college readiness by measuring math, verbal, and reasoning skills. While the test does measure your knowledge to some extent, its purpose has always been to measure a student’s critical thinking skills and ability to apply knowledge, rather than measuring the amount or strength of background knowledge a student brings to the test.


The current SAT consists of two primary test sections, and one additional optional test section. One of the primary tests is the Math Test. This is actually comprised of two smaller test sections: the Math Test With Calculator and the Math Test, No Calculator. The other primary test is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. This is also comprised of two smaller test sections: the Critical Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test. The final component of the SAT, the SAT Essay, is optional.


For both the Math Test and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test, you will receive a section score ranging from 200-800. These scores are calculated from your performance on the subtests in each section.


You will also receive what is referred to as a composite score. This is basically the total score you received on all required sections, and it is calculated simply by adding together your Math Test section score with your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test section score. Your composite score ranges from 400-1600.


When students receive their score reports, they often are most anxious to see their composite score. This score is displayed prominently at the top of the score report, and many students and colleges alike think of it as a total measure of success on the test.


But is the composite score always the most important number on your SAT score report? Not necessarily. While it is certainly the most commonly reviewed and referred to, there are a few scenarios in which section scores might become more important.


In this post, we will outline the unique circumstances in which a section score may be weighed heavily in college admissions decisions, other times when section scores might be reviewed, and the situations in which you should consider retaking the SAT to improve a specific section score, even if you’re content overall with your composite score. To learn more about how to weigh your SAT composite score and your SAT section scores, read on.


When is the composite score most important?

In most cases, the composite score is the first thing that any admissions committee will look at. In some cases, it is the only thing they will look at. For that reason, composite scores are generally the most important number on your score report.


Sometimes, a composite score will automatically qualify you or disqualify you from further screening in the admissions process. In these cases, your SAT score is used as a screening tool to thin the applicant pool. If your score meets a certain threshold, your application stays in the admissions game. If it does not, you could be denied admission. Remember, an admissions committee does not always have time to read through every line of every single application, so things like GPA or SAT scores are easy tools to help with initial screenings.


That is not to say, though, that your section scores are never reviewed. This simply means that in many cases, a composite score will be used for initial screenings, while section scores and other details are reviewed later.


When do section scores matter?

Of course, just because an admissions committee might review your composite score first doesn’t mean that your section scores are completely irrelevant. It simply means that this layer of scrutiny usually comes later in the process, and that sometimes, your application will never undergo this kind of scrutiny.


If, however, an admissions committee reviews your section scores, it will usually be for one of three reasons.


The first reason that an admissions committee generally reviews your section scores is to ensure that you are a fairly well-balanced applicant. Particularly if you are applying to a liberal arts school or as a liberal arts major, the admissions committee will want to see that you are generally capable of college-level work in both the math and language fields.


If, for example, you happen to score exceptionally high on one section and put forth a significantly weaker performance on the other, your composite score may place you in the acceptable range, but you might ultimately not be accepted if the admissions committee is concerned that you will not be able to handle the work across all fields of study.


Another scenario is when you are applying to a specialized major or program, and one section score is significantly more relevant than the other. In this circumstance, the scenario of mismatched scores above could actually work to your favor. If you are applying to an engineering program and your composite score is competitive, the admissions committee will likely be impressed by an exceptionally high math score, even if your language scores suffer somewhat. If this case, it is not your general abilities across the board that they are interested in so much as your specific abilities in your intended field.


The final reason that an admissions committee might choose to review your section scores would be to further screen your strength as a candidate. If they cannot make a decision about your candidacy and are scrutinizing the finer details of your application, it’s likely that they will look at your SAT section scores. In this case, obviously it is best to present no obvious weaknesses, but sometimes factors that you cannot control will come into play. For example, they may be dealing with a pool of accepted candidates that is particularly strong in math and wish to level it out a bit with some more language-oriented applicants.

Your score on your SATs can be a critical factor in determining your acceptance at the college of your choice. Your SAT Scores are comprised of three items: your SAT Score, your percentile, and your score range.  Each of the three main sections (critical reading, math, and writing) is scored on a scale of 200-800.  Additionally, you will receive subscores for the essay (scale of 2-12) and multiple choice writing questions (scale of 20-80).

Your test score is determined by first calculating your raw score, and then determining a scaled score.  Your raw SAT Score is determined by giving you 1 point for each correct answer and deducting ¼ point for each incorrect answer.  Your raw score is then “equated” to derive a scaled score.  A scaled score reduces the impact of different test versions and the students who take specific versions.

SAT Score Range

Your score range is an attempt to measure your true performance on the SAT Test.  The SAT Score Range represents an estimate of how your scores might vary if you were tested repeatedly.

Interpreting your SAT Scores

The best way to understand your SAT Scores is by comparing them to other students and seeing what your preferred colleges require. The table below lists your percentile compared to other students.  For example, if you scored a 580 on your SAT Critical Reading score, this implies that your percentile score is 75 (i.e., you scored better than 75% of the other students who took the SAT Test).  For the most recent graduating class, the average (mean) SAT Scores were 502 for Critical Reading, 515 for Math and 494 for Writing.  Below the SAT Score Percetiles table is a listing of the SAT scores (25th and 75th percentile) for the top 200+ universities (based on enrollment).

SAT Score Percentiles


ScoreSAT Critical ReadingSAT MathSAT Writing

 Source: College Board (pdf)

SAT Scores for Top Universities (by Enrollment) 


SAT I Verbal SAT I Math Students submitting SAT scores 
 25th Percentile75th Percentile25th Percentile75th PercentileNumberPercent
Arizona State University480600490620621565%
Ashford University400518482525151%
Auburn University50060052062085020%
Ball State University480580480580270971%
Boston University580670600700379886%
Brigham Young University-Provo570680580680163729%
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona460580490630190094%
California State University-Fresno400520420540233486%
California State University-Fullerton440540450570375596%
California State University-Long Beach440560460590379395%
California State University-Los Angeles380490390510194995%
California State University-Northridge400520410530408979%
California State University-Sacramento410530430540253393%
Central Michigan University450568450605612%
Colorado State University-Fort Collins510620520630133730%
Columbia University in the City of New York690780700790128292%
Cornell University630730670770290788%
CUNY Hunter College520620530630154987%
CUNY Queens College490580530610109073%
DePaul University53064052062050320%
Drexel University530630570680273587%
East Carolina University460550490570407497%
Eastern Michigan University4305804505801558%
Florida Atlantic University490570490580194958%
Florida International University490580490580306667%
Florida State University550650560640274545%
George Mason University520620530630205477%
George Washington University600690610700178875%
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus590690650740248393%
Georgia Southern University510580510600286279%
Georgia State University500590500600261790%
Grand Valley State University4706005106201424%
Harvard University690790700800149390%
Indiana University-Bloomington510630540650553175%
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis430550450560254783%
Iowa State University4606405306704149%
Johns Hopkins University630730670770115285%
Kennesaw State University500580500580219573%
Kent State University at Kent460570460580110428%
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College51063053065076714%
Metropolitan State College of Denver460570450570945%
Michigan State University440600540670102613%
Middle Tennessee State University4005103605701916%
Mississippi State University48060549063042415%
Missouri State University-Springfield490630510650713%
New York University630720630740350775%
North Carolina State University at Raleigh530620560660439193%
Northeastern University610700640730187661%
Northern Arizona University470590480590235261%
Northern Illinois University445550470580803%
Northwestern University680750700780142167%
Nova Southeastern University46057047059047972%
Ohio State University-Main Campus540660600700299642%
Ohio University-Main Campus480600480590133434%
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus490600510620111829%
Old Dominion University460560460560255593%
Oregon State University470600490620275074%
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus530630560670585181%
Portland State University460590460580101468%
Purdue University-Main Campus490610550690484173%
Rutgers University-New Brunswick520630560680583996%
San Diego State University480580500610311293%
San Francisco State University440560450570336692%
San Jose State University440560470590263495%
St John's University-New York480590490620291794%
Stony Brook University540640590690230892%
Syracuse University510620540650287084%
Temple University500600510610407495%
Texas A & M University-College Station530650570670561465%
Texas State University-San Marcos470570480580331671%
Texas Tech University490590520610268760%
The University of Alabama500620500640120021%
The University of Tennessee52064053064084820%
The University of Texas at Arlington460580490610231890%
The University of Texas at Austin540670580710611886%
The University of Texas at El Paso390510420530195872%
The University of Texas at San Antonio450560470580414484%
Towson University490580500590238994%
University at Buffalo500610550650282992%
University of Arkansas500610520630124728%
University of California-Berkeley600730630760389494%
University of California-Davis520650570680430595%
University of California-Irvine510620560680427396%
University of California-Los Angeles570680610740436994%
University of California-Riverside450560480610435497%
University of California-San Diego540670610720378995%
University of California-Santa Barbara540650550670352894%
University of Central Florida530630560650353256%
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus500620520640342987%
University of Colorado Boulder520630540650286951%
University of Colorado Denver47061048062021820%
University of Connecticut550640580670308093%
University of Delaware540650560660414497%
University of Florida570670590690440468%
University of Georgia560660560670428190%
University of Hawaii at Manoa480580510610152482%
University of Houston480590520630330389%
University of Illinois at Chicago4506005006501435%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign540660690780176124%
University of Iowa4506305406853959%
University of Kentucky49062050063083420%
University of Louisville50063050064049017%
University of Maryland-College Park580680610710368592%
University of Massachusetts Amherst530630560650443395%
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor630730670770214734%
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities54069061074081715%
University of Missouri-Columbia5306505306505759%
University of Nebraska-Lincoln5106605206703468%
University of Nevada-Las Vegas440560450570185064%
University of New Mexico-Main Campus48062048062072520%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill590700610710376295%
University of North Carolina at Charlotte480570500590283295%
University of North Texas480600500610353484%
University of Oklahoma Norman Campus510650540655143635%
University of Oregon492607499611315879%
University of Pennsylvania660750690780211086%
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus570680600690338890%
University of South Carolina-Columbia530630560650292666%
University of South Florida-Main Campus520620540630188454%
University of Southern California610720670770245884%
University of Utah49063051365044414%
University of Virginia-Main Campus610720630740319793%
University of Washington-Seattle Campus520650580700492785%
University of Wisconsin-Madison530670620740122621%
Utah State University4706104806102608%
Virginia Commonwealth University480600490590350394%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University540640570670491394%
Washington State University470580480600369588%
West Virginia University460560480580229747%
Western Kentucky University430550430580953%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics/IPED data center

SAT Test and College Requirements

The table below summarizes the SAT Test requirements for public and private 4 year institutions.


Public 4-year institutions

Private 4-year institutions

SAT scores



Critical reading, 25th percentile



Critical reading, 75th percentile 



Mathematics, 25th percentile 



Mathematics, 75th percentile



 Source: US Department of Education

To improve your SAT scores, try our Free SAT Practice Tests.


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