Average SAT Scores Over Time – 2023 Edition

October 5, 2023

average sat score over time

If you’ve just received your SAT score results for the first time, then you might wonder how your score compares. During your research, you decide to look for the average SAT score. Of course, you want to know if you scored well on the SAT. As well, you might be preparing to take the SAT this upcoming year. Average SAT scores over time have been fairly consistent with a few fluctuations over the years. However, the data is worth reviewing to notice the trends in averages. In this article, we’ll look at the national average SAT score as well as SAT trends in certain U.S. states.

Average SAT Scores Over Time – Continued

In this article, we’ll pull average SAT scores from earlier decades through more current years. That way, you’ll be able to notice if scores are on the rise or have held consistently. We’ll also take a look to see which states have the highest percentage of SAT test takers. Typically, students want to secure high SAT scores for college admissions. These scores may come in handy if a student later decides to transfer colleges.

In the U.S., there are two standardized tests that are most widely used for college admissions: the ACT and the SAT. However, this article will focus primarily on data relating to the SAT. So, let’s get started with the most recent 2023 report for SAT test takers.

Each year, the college board releases their annual SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report. Typically, this information is available to the public by the end of September. This data compiles the average SAT score as well as information about students’ ethnicity, test-taking history, school location, and more.

Some quick stats related to these further categories of data. A majority of SAT test takers in 2023 were female students (51%), which is equivalent to approximately 966,726 students. Additionally, white students (39%) made up the largest ethnicity of test takers this year at approximately 752,632 students. Hispanic/Latino (24%) students were the next largest ethnicity at approximately 462,186 students. Suburban schools also made up the largest percentage of school locations (40%), with over 700,000 students reporting.

In 2023, over 1.9 million students took the exam at least once. That’s a higher number than 2022, with an increase of about 200,000 students!

The data below will reflect the College Board’s most recent 2023 findings. Let’s start with how many students scored within specific percentiles.

2023 Score Percentiles

1400-1600 1200-1390 1000-1190 800-990 600-790 400-590
7% 17% 29% 31% 16% >1%

Average SAT Scores Over Time – Continued

In 2023, the average SAT score was 1028. Interestingly, this means the average SAT score was slightly lower than in 2022, when the average was 1050. While this number isn’t dramatically different, it could suggest a downward trajectory of performance on the SAT. Overall, it looks like the percentage of students who met the benchmark for their math and reading scores on the SAT dropped this year. This could suggest that average scores over time will continue to fall. However, these numbers may be influenced by the lingering effects of the pandemic. So, it’s difficult to accurately predict what future trends will look like.

But, we can see how past trends look. Let’s compare the average SAT score for 2023 to earlier decades. This information is compiled using the National Center for Education Statistics’ data. Additionally, the College Board Top Profile data was used for compiling this graph.

It’s also important to remember that the scoring system was updated in 2016. Before 2016, the test was graded on a sliding numeric scale from 600-2400. After 2016, the sliding numeric scale now ranges from 400-1600.

Previously, section scores were graded on a sliding scale of 200-800. As well, these averages are calculated based on the national average. Plus, these scores will only have the average reading and math SAT scores. These are the average scores before the writing section of the SAT was offered. Keep that in mind as you look at the SAT averages over time.

What is the Average ACT Score – Through the Years

Year Average SAT Score (Reading) Average SAT Score (Math)
1972 530 509
1973 523 506
1974 521 505
1975 512 498
1976 509 497
1977 507 496
1978 507 494
1979 505 493
1980 502 492
1981 502 492
1982 504 493
1983 503 494
1984 504 497
1985 509 500
1986 509 500
1987 507 501
1988 505 501
1989 504 502
1990 500 501
1991 499 504
1992 500 501
1993 500 503
1994 499 504
1995 504 506
1996 505 508
1997 505 511
1999 505 512
2000 505 514
2001 506 514
2002 504 516
2003 507 519
2004 508 518
2005 508 520

What is the Average SAT Score – Through the Years – Continued

When looking at this data, the most striking trend is that while math scores continued to improve, reading scores decreased. In fact, between the lowest and highest point of the average SAT score for math, there was a jump of 28 points. Conversely, the average score for reading continued to steadily decrease. Between the lowest and highest point of the average score for reading, there was a drop of 31 points.

Most noticeably, the biggest drop from year to year happened between 1974 and 1975 when the average score for reading fell 9 points. However, this graph demonstrates that there was an upward trend in the average SAT score for reading by 2005.

The next graph will compare average SAT scores starting from 2006-2016. The difference is that this graph will include average writing scores. 2006 was the first year that the writing portion of the exam was offered. Additionally, this graph will include the final years of the former grading scale, with a possible perfect score of 2400.

What is the Average SAT Score – Through the Years

Year Average SAT Score (Math) Average SAT Score (Reading)  (Writing)
2006 519 503 497
2007 514 501 493
2008 514 500 493
2009 514 499 492
2010 515 500 491
2011 514 497 489
2012 514 496 488
2013 514 496 488
2014 513 497 487
2015 511 495 484
2016 508 494 482

What is the Average SAT Score – Through the Years – Continued

Like the previous graph, this also shows a trend in consistently lowered average SAT reading scores. Interestingly, over this 10-year span, the same can be said for the average SAT math scores. In all columns and subjects, the average score is lowered each year.

Most noticeably, in the writing portion of the SAT, the score drops 15 points over 10 years.

Finally, let’s conclude with a graph demonstrating the average scores from 2017-2023. This scale will account for the new scoring system for the SAT.

Year Average SAT Score (Math) Average SAT Score (Reading)
2017 527 533
2018 531 536
2019 528 531
2020 523 528
2021 528 533
2022 521 529
2023 508 520

Average SAT Scores Over Time – Continued

Interestingly enough, students on the coast take the SAT more than students in other parts of the country. Let’s take a look at which states have the highest and lowest percentages of SAT test takers.

Coming in at the highest percentage is the District of Columbia with 100% of students taking the SAT. Other states with the highest percentage of test takers are Delaware (95%), Idaho (95%), Illinois, an exception to the rule at 96%, and Rhode Island (95%).

Some states with the lowest percentage of test takers are Arkansas (2%), Kansas (2%), Kentucky (2%), and Mississippi (1%). These states most likely favor the ACT as a standardized testing method.

If you’re wondering what the average SAT score is for each state, we’ll review some of the states with the highest percentages of SAT test takers. For the purposes of this graph, we’ll pull data from states with at least 80% of students taking the exam. This graph will account for 2023 data. As you review this next chart, remember that the national average score for 2023 was 1028.

State Percentage of Test Takers Average SAT Score
Colorado 90 996
Connecticut 93 1007
Delaware 95 958
District of Columbia 100 969
Florida 90 966
Idaho 95 970
Illinois 96 970
Michigan 97 967
New Hampshire 82 1035
Rhode Island 95 958
West Virginia 90 923

Average SAT Scores – Continued

When looking at this graph, it appears that New Hampshire earned the highest average score in 2023. In fact, New Hampshire’s average SAT score is higher than the national average. Connecticut is a close second with 1007—21 points away from the national average.

In Review

Ultimately, there are many reasons why scores can fluctuate over time. One reason may be access to quality education and resources to properly prepare for the test. Access to SAT prep courses and materials can significantly affect the overall score.

An interesting metric found that the higher the family’s reported median income, the higher the student performed on the test. For example, for students who reported family income in the Lowest Quintile ($0-$53,263), only 38% met the benchmark for the SAT reading score and only 16% met the benchmark for the SAT math score. Compared to reported family income in the Highest Quintile (>$113,341), where 83% of students met the benchmark for their SAT reading score, and 64% met the benchmark in their SAT math scores.

When looking at the averages of these two instances, when reported family income was in the Middle Quintile ($69,093-$86,073), 58% of students met the reading benchmark, and 33% met the math benchmark.

The good news is that the SAT score, while utilized by colleges for admissions, does not necessarily predict a student’s aptitude for school. There are certain qualities, like motivation and drive, responsibility, and initiative that the test cannot measure. College admission boards are also likely to take other factors into consideration, like extracurriculars, work experience, and personal statements.