Dave Evangelisti Authored By: Dave Evangelisti
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. Online SAT prep is a great way to ensure you get a top score on your exam.

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.

How Do SAT Scoring Percentiles Work?

First, before we delve into how we came across this data, let’s define some terms. What exactly is an “average SAT score” and how do these scoring percentiles even work? 

There are actually several different ways you can calculate these numbers. Some states and colleges will come up with their average SAT scores by taking into account factors like gender, family income, high school type, or ethnicity. 

Test-Guide examined the average SAT scores by state and geographic location, also taking into account how that impacted a student’s ability to be accepted into college. Read more about our methodology below. 

Methodology

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.

What is the Average SAT Score?

The average state 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. 

In comparison, the 2020 College Board Annual report stated that the average SAT score was 1051, with the average Reading and Writing score being 528 and the average Math score being 523. 

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?

SAT Average Scores by STate vs. College Admission Rates

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.

State Average ACT Score (Out of 36) Average SAT score (out of 1600) College Admission Rate
Alabama 18.7 1159 77.25%
Alaska 20.6 1119 66.00%
Arizona 19.8 1181 68.05%
Arkansas 19 1194 81.35%
California 26.1 1057 63.92%
Colorado 23.6 1072 72.50%
Connecticut 27.2 1072 64.71%
Delaware 25.7 984 58.75%
District of Columbia 25.6 987 62.60%
Florida 20.4 993 65.61%
Georgia 22.6 1086 64.85%
Hawaii 18.2 1144 72.57%
Idaho 23 985 68.18%
Illinois 25.2 1007 86.11%
Indiana 23.1 1095 67.65%
Iowa 21.5 1243 71.90%
Kansas 19.9 1243 70.80%
Kentucky 19.2 1219 70.68%
Louisiana 18.4 1188 66.58%
Maine 25.6 1099 58.66%
Maryland 25.5 1073 69.38%
Massachusetts 27.6 1184 68.89%
Michigan 25.1 1031 72.83%
Minnesota 21.6 1263 70.26%
Mississippi 18.1 1202 70.47%
Missouri 20.6 1219 72.06%
Montana 20.4 1225 72.56%
Nebraska 20 1246 63.56%
Nevada 17.8 1195 80.22%
New Hampshire 26.6 1065 72.33%
New Jersey 25.1 1125 76.21%
New Mexico 20.7 996 71.79%
New York 26.3 1057 69.11%
North Carolina 18.9 1150 84.40%
North Dakota 19.6 1258 66.42%
Ohio 19.6 1048 68.75%
Oklahoma 19.7 1042 71.48%
Oregon 20.6 1119 79.57%
Pennsylvania 25 1123 73.48%
Rhode Island 25.8 1011 57.83%
South Carolina 18.6 1036 65.66%
South Dakota 21.6 1215 80.45%
Tennessee 19.1 1220 71.93%
Texas 20.1 1003 70.65%
Utah 20.6 1238 77.63%
Vermont 24.7 1124 68.88%
Virginia 25.5 1151 71.31%
Washington 23.6 1072 80.24%
West Virginia 20.8 1007 73.56%
Wisconsin 20 1215 73.50%
Wyoming 19.8 1233 96.00%
National Average 22 1123 71.38%

College Admission Rates FAQs

How is the SAT test scored?

The SAT is scored out of 1600 points. There are two sections, Math and ERW, where you will get a scaled score between 200 and 800. There is no penalty for skipping questions or questions that you get wrong.

Your total score will be the sum of your Math score and ERW score. The max SAT score you can get is a 1600. You will also see SAT subscores which will tell you how you did on different skills within each category.

Is the SAT ever graded on a curve?

According to the College Board, the SAT is never graded on a curve. Since students often take different versions of the SAT, performance comparisons can be difficult.

The board instead uses an equation to grade the overall score as some tests are easier than others, but the scores are always comparable. A 500 in reading in 2019 is the same as a 500 in reading in 2021.

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.

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