1020 SAT Score: Is This Good? (Target Colleges and Stats Revealed)

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The SAT is a standardized test by College-Board that tons of students take every year. Colleges use this test to assess (amongst other things) whether or not to admit certain students. If you got a 1020 SAT score (or around it), chances are you’re wondering how you stack up against other students. This post will answer the questions: is 1020 a good SAT score on the new SAT? What is a good SAT score? Should you retake the SAT if you scored 1020? What are some test-taking tips to improve your score? Also, you’ll find colleges and universities that you might want to consider if you scored 1020. Let’s dive in!

1020 SAT Score Stats

Because the SAT is a standardized test, there are lots of data on SAT scores publicly available. Before trying to dissect whether or not 1020 is a good test-score, let’s take a quick look at some of the stats:

This means that 1020 is lower than the score of the average SAT test-taker. Percentiles indicate where you fall compared to others. For example, being in the 99th percentile for the SAT means that you have performed better than 99% of other test takers and that only 1% of test-takers beat you. Likewise, being in the 10th percentile means that 10% of people scored lower than you, but 90% scored higher than you.

If we’re just looking at the USA, 1020 places you in the 52nd percentile. This means you performed better than 52% of all USA test takers but got beaten out by 48% of them. If we’re looking at all 2 million + SAT takers, 1020 places you in the 45th percentile, slightly below average.

Is 1020 a Good SAT Score?

Whether or not 1020 is a good SAT score is completely up to your personal goals. If you are taking the SAT as a freshman looking to gauge your potential, then 1020 might be a fantastic score for you. On the other hand, if you’re in your junior year needing the SAT score for your college application to Yale, 1020 might fall short of your goal score.

A few factors to look at to determine what your goal score should be are:

  • Target Schools – how good an SAT score is to you will largely be dependant on what kind of schools you want to get into. Ivy League schools and other top schools are typically much more rigorous with their SAT score requirements compared to other colleges.
  • Readiness – the first time I took the SAT, I only prepped for about a week; unsurprisingly, I didn’t get the score I wanted. Looking back, I should have realized that SAT prep takes closer to 2 months if you’re to really maximize your potential.
  • Tutoring access – in a similar vein of thought, the amount of tutoring access you have can significantly impact your test score. Getting a tutor can seriously increase your proficiency and knowledge in a short period of time.

Taking all these factors into consideration, you can decide for yourself whether 1020 is a good score. 1020 sits right around the average score, so it isn’t bad. But it’s also pretty far from a perfect score of 1600, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

Schools You Might Consider

With a 1020 SAT score, here are some schools you might want to consider:

  • Alabama State University
    • 880-1020 average SAT Score
    • 15-19 average ACT Score
    • 2.89 average GPA
    • 97% acceptance rate
    • State: Alabama
  • University of Memphis
    • 1010-1230 average SAT Score
    • 19-26 average ACT Score
    • 3.33 average GPA
    • 85% acceptance rate
    • State: Tennessee
  • Washington State University
    • 1020-1230 average SAT Score
    • 20-26 average ACT Score
    • 3.3 average GPA
    • 76% acceptance rate
    • State: Washington
  • Georgia College & State University
    • 1110-1260 average SAT Score
    • 23-28 average ACT Score
    • 3.4 average GPA
    • 80% acceptance rate
    • State: Washington
  • Sam Houston State University
    • 990-1140 average SAT Score
    • 19-23 average ACT Score
    • 3.25 average GPA
    • 83% acceptance rate
    • State: Texas

What if You Improve By 100 Points?

Like most things in life, a marginal improvement on your SAT can mean a lot. Let’s assume you did some SAT test prep and improved your score by just 100 points to 1120… how would your stats look then?

With an 1120 SAT score, here’s what your stats will look like:

  • Nationally Representative Sample (USA) Percentile: 70th
  • Percentile (All SAT Takers): 62nd

Increasing your SAT score by just 100 points moves you up to “above average.” You now have a higher score than 70% of American test takers and 62% of all test takers. This isn’t too hard either. One hundred points amount to about 10 questions on the SAT. In reality, that’s achievable by doing stuff like being a little more careful on the reading passages and studying SAT math for a week or two more.

Some schools that drop down from “reach schools” to “target schools” are:

  • Arizona State University
  • Penn State
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • East Carolina University

Tips for Improving Your SAT Score

This isn’t a post about improving your test scores, but I do have a few tips and tricks that helped me significantly raise my own SAT score. I’ll lay them out for you below, and hopefully, they can help you in your own test prep journey:

  1. Read Smart Stuff: pick and choose articles out of New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books to read and analyze. Doing this will sharpen your critical reading skills and prepare you for the reading test portion of the SAT.
  2. Learn English Grammar RULES: if you’re a native English speaker, you’ll be tempted to just go by “feel” on the SAT writing section. Unfortunately, this is not enough. To improve a lot in a short amount of time, I suggest learning the actual rules that feed into your instinctive “feel” of English.
  3. Do tons of practice tests: practice tests provide you with a REAL feel of how the actual SAT will go. Do as many real, full-length, timed tests as you can before taking the actual SAT. Khan Academy offers 8 of them (closest to real SAT I found), and you can find many more in Barron’s books, Ivy Global, and Princeton Review.

Is 1020 SAT Score Good?

At the end of the day, with a 1020 SAT score, you’re sitting right around the middle of the pack. It’s true, most colleges and universities take a holistic approach when it comes to college admissions looking at other factors like:

  • Overall academic excellence
  • SAT subject tests
  • AP classes
  • School counselor recommendations
  • Class rank

Your standardized test scores aren’t the most important thing in the world, but they still do matter.

With 1020 you’ll be able to get into a lot of schools but will probably struggle a bit with “top schools.” Luckily, there are lots of ways you can increase your math testing, reading comprehension, and writing analysis abilities in a short period of time. The road might seem rough now, but just keep on pushing forward, and you’ll end up where you need to be.


Thanks for reading through this post revealing how good a 1020 SAT score really is, and thank you for following along! If you’re a Canadian Student, check out the Ultimate Canadian Student’s Guide to Personal Finance! If you want to be financially free sooner, check out this page here! To learn more about me, head over to this link here. If you want to get exclusive updates and tips, drop your email in the “get updates” box (you might have to scroll up a bit.) Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!

4 Comments

  1. A 1020 is going to limit your choices of majors as well as the colleges that will consider you. The average SAT for engineering students at the higher rated universities is 1448. I had thought my 1450 was a good score until I enrolled in my chemical engineering college and realized I was merely average among my peers.

    1. Yup totally agree that a lot of colleges look for a higher score than 1020. That being said, if you’re goal is to go to a university like Virginia State, then 1020 will work just fine for you.

  2. Interesting post Jeff! Of course if someone wants to go to Harvard like you, they’re going to need much higher than a 1020…haha.

    1. Maybe… or maybe not. A lot of colleges stopped requiring the SATs so if you do poorly on the SAT but stellar in your extracurriculars and other stuff, you still have a shot at a school like Harvard.

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