title image for test scores vs. college admission rates in every U.S. state

Over a million students take the ACT and SAT each year to help determine their college readiness. Both are important tools used in the college admissions process—sometimes even making or breaking the entrance decision.

The ACT evaluates English, math, reading, and science skills students have already learned. In comparison, the SAT tests math, reading, and writing, while also measuring students’ ability to learn. Most universities allow applicants to choose between sending either score, while others require both or none.

At Test-Guide, we want students to succeed. Our goal is to help pave the way for students to learn, study, and pass their exams like the SAT and ACT. That’s why we became interested in discovering the average college preparation test scores in each U.S. State and how they correlate with admissions rates.


To calculate we took several factors into account, including data from ACT.org, Collegeboard.org, and Univstats.com for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We collected the average SAT scores, ACT scores, and college admission rates for every U.S. state in the 2020-2021 school year. From there we found the national average by taking the average score of all 50 states. Where does your state rank? Keep reading to find out.

SAT Scores vs. College Admission Rates by U.S. State

The purpose of the SAT is to measure a students’ college readiness. The national average SAT score, which we found by taking the average of all 50 states’ scores, is 1123. If you score higher than this, you have scored better than a lot of other test-takers. 

The admission rate is the number of acceptances divided by the number of applicants, expressed as a percentage. Multiple factors are considered by colleges during the admission process: GPA, essays, extracurricular activities, etc. One way to distinguish yourself from another student is by taking the SAT. What is the ideal score for the SAT?

One way to measure is by looking at the average SAT scores by state. According to the data we collected, midwestern students tended to score higher on their SAT than students in other regions. Except for their two outlier states, Illinois and Wyoming, their college admission rate is between the 60-80% range. Comparing both college admission and average SAT scores by state gives a student better insight to the schools they’re applying to. 

Both the West and South regions had scattered results. In the South, Tennessee had the highest SAT average (1220), while North Carolina had the highest college admission rate (84.4%). Utah, in the West, had the highest SAT average score (1238). Although it didn’t have the highest college admission—it was 2.61 points away from Washington’s winning percentage of 80.24%. 

The Northeastern states showed the smallest difference between average college admission rate and SAT score. In the region, no state was above a 77% college admission rate or 1185 average SAT score. Rhode Island ranked lowest for both college admission rate (57.83%) and SAT score (1011). Massachusetts had the best SAT average (1184), meanwhile, New Jersey had the best college admission rate (76.21%).

The Smartest U.S. States, According to Test Scores

A chart showing the smartest U.S. states, according to test scores

Out of all of the states, Minnesota came out on top with the highest average SAT score of 1263, which was 140 points above the national average. North Dakota earned an average score of 1258, while Nebraska trailed closely behind with a 1246. Iowa and Kansas found themselves tied for fourth place for highest SAT scores, while Illinois and West Virginia were tied for seventh place for the lowest. Delaware is the lowest scoring state at 984, 134 points below the national average. 

In some states, taking the SAT is a requirement, meaning their participation rate is likely high. Delaware is a state that requires its students to take the SAT as a graduation requirement and they scored the lowest. According to PrepMaven, as of 2021, the same could be said for Illinois, West Virginia, and Rhode Island with composite scores below 1000. 

A state making the SAT a requirement for college admissions doesn’t automatically give them a low average. For example, the test isn’t required in DC, which scored 987 on average. Although it isn’t a must for students, it is offered for free to all juniors and seniors.

Why Do The State Averages Matter?

Instead of setting your state's average SAT score as your goal, let it act as a solid base to compare yourself to. Give yourself a competitive edge for college admission, especially if a lot of the other students from the same state are applying to the same universities. 

Though it is a good comparison point for students to have, remember scores aren’t the only important factor to college admissions. Though SAT scores play a major part in the process, other factors like GPA, grades, extracurricular activities, and recommendations are considered.

U.S. States With the Highest and Lowest College Admission Rates

A map depicting U.S. states with highest and lowest college admission rates

The states with the highest college admission rate are Wyoming (96%), Illinois (86.1%), and North Carolina (84.40%). The lowest scoring states are Rhode Island (57.83%) Maine (58.66), and Delaware (58.75).

State Facts

infographic comparing four states on SAT score and college admission

Full Dataset

Did your state not make the lists above? See how it fared with our full dataset comparing test scores to college admission rates from the 2020-2021 school year for all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

chart showing Test Scores vs. College Admission Rates in every U.S. state.

Closing Thoughts

At Test-Guide, we pride ourselves on helping millions of students prepare and ace their exams. Because SAT scores are so varied, it’s important to know what score is “good” in your state. We believe you should know where you stand within your state as well as in the state of your dream school.

Hopefully, collecting the average SAT scores and college admissions data will help you with SAT prep. To gain a competitive edge, check out our comprehensive test prep resources online.


About Test-Guide

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