3 years ago
Admissions Advice

How to improve my SAT score from 1520 to 1600?

Hello. I know we have a SAT live stream today but unfortunately I won't be able to attend it due to time zone differences.

I have been giving mock tests of SAT and I'm getting 800 in Math consistently (my lowest score being 760). My reading& writing score usually is around 700-720 (lowest being 680 and highest being 720).

I know these are pretty good scores already but I don't seem to cross the 1520 mark(my highest SAT score).

Most SAT guides are just about how to improve from a score like 1200 to 1400 so they aren't very helpful for me. I was wondering if there are any tips to improve my score from a 1520 to atleast 1550+?

PS: I'm an international student applying for full financial aid.


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4 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago


Have you heard of this website called Khan Academy? It's this amazing website that has instructional videos, articles, and discussion about a variety of subject and they have actually collaborated with CollegeBoard (the company that makes the SAT/AP exams) to provide real mock-SAT tests on the website (in fact, I recently did a mock exam on the site less than a week ago). When you do the test and finish it, it shows you DETAILED explanations on what you got right and wrong, and suggest extra practices on things that you need to work on. It's super helpful because it lets you see where you're messing up, and how to improve. So, I would DEFINETELY recommend going to Khan Academy and make a free account to access all this on the website. I would even recommend Khan Academy with anything education-based, because it truly covers a wide range of different topics with great explanations.

- Hope this helps!

3 years ago

So have you actually scored 1520 by taking sitting through a 4-hour exam at a CollegeBoard test center or is this all based on timed practice tests? If the latter, then there are competing viewpoints on this. Some CV members seem to think that if you took the practice tests on Khan Academy then the actual one might feel slightly easier, perhaps scoring higher. Other CV posters feel that the Official SAT guide and practice tests are not the best indicators of future performance because they are all based on old tests. What is well known is that each official CollegeBoard test is curved. So sometimes the Math is significantly easier and other Math tests, and sometimes the EBRW sections are harder and other tests. But very rarely will you get an SAT exam where both Math/EBRW are curved harder or curved easier, it's one or the other.

If memory serves me right, I think there is a repository or previous curves and what test date they correspond to on the College Panda Blog site. So you can look up the say the August 2019 SAT and see whether the Math or EBRW was curved and how much. What I think the next logical step would be is to figure out what Month/Year the SAT guides practice tests are so you can see if your 1520 was a test that had an easy Math curve or a hard Math curve.

If you sat for a real SAT at a test center and got a 1520, I'm not sure I would want to spend all the extra months trying to get a 1550 or better. I think it would be completely a futile exercise to target 1600 as a score because only 500-1000 out of 2 million test-takers get a perfect 1600. Since you already feel you can get a perfect 800 on the math, it might make more sense to get a high TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English score instead since you have to submit at least 1 of those at top schools. Another great surrogate for the EBRW exam would be scoring a 5 on either AP English Language and Comp. or AP English Lit and Comp. or the equivalent IB English HL Language or IB English HL Lit.

I think it's a coin toss about whether CV experts or members would suggest you keep at it for a higher score than 1520. If Harvard and Stanford really don't care if you have 1520 or 1580, then I doubt very much that anyone who had all their other credentials in line with qualified admits, would get denied for having a 1520. Again, I could be completely wrong about this since the next 2 cycles will be a continuation of hyper-competitive admissions.

If you have the financial means I do think there are coaches in the US that specifically work with clients who want to get from 1520 to 1580 but my best estimate is that these consultants would charge between $500-$1000 (Green Test Prep) an hour and probably have some minimum contract.


Good luck

3 years ago


I took the SAT last school year and I did not get a 1600. I got a little below that in the range of 1550 - 1600. At first, I was not satisfied with my score. I will be totally honest. My target score was at least 1550. When I was in middle school, I have seen so many sophomores, juniors, and seniors practicing the SAT and I thought, maybe it's just like a school course. You study hard and then you get a really good grade. As someone who was academic since childhood, I thought I could just work really hard and it will work.

I've seen so many people struggling. I have seen so many of my friends in the upper grade, trying to get at least 1550. Some people did in the end after going doing the SAT for approximately 3 years. As I grew older, I realized how hard that would be. I guess my target score was really high at first. Then, it suddenly got lower as I went through the SAT practice tests and books.

Similar to you, I got 800 for Math most of the time without studying that much. However, my problem was the English section. When I took multiple SAT practice tests from Collegeboard and books, I could see that I rarely got over 350 for the Writing portion and 330 for the Reading portion. This was last summer, I think. I calculated my score, and it was approximately somewhere around 1480 - 1500. I sometimes got higher, 1520 - 1530, but I could not reach my target score.

I decided to just take my first SAT because I did not want to wait too long. The adults told me it would be a good experience even if I don't get a good score. While taking it, I thought I would get 1450 - 1480. The Math portion and the Writing portion were easier than expected, but the Reading portion was really hard, very hard.

Next thing I knew, I was checking my score and I got my target score.

What I am trying to tell you is, maybe take one real SAT and then start from there. I don't think you can know your score for sure without knowing your score. I also want to tell you, I don't think you should get try very hard to get 1600. It is a really good score, but getting somewhere near that score is what matters more. Getting 1600 will impress your college admission officers, but struggling to get 1600 and losing the opportunity to do other things is probably a bad choice (as we only have 24 hours per day).

Also, I did not do Khan Academy and I only used the Erica L. Meltzer's SAT books and the practice tests that I could find.

I hope this helps.

3 years ago

I agree with @CameronBameron here. You've hit a point in your score where, unless you specifically know the concepts you need to work on, the amount of time and effort needed for those last 80 points is significant.

When you consider the time needed for those extra points and compare it to 1) the benefit you receive for those 80 points and 2) the other things you could do with your time instead of studying then, in my opinion, it's not really worth it.

Why? Because the difference in a 1520 and a 1600 for admissions is essentially negligible. Instead of focusing on those last points you can use the extra time saved from not having to study to improve your profile in other ways. Ideally the time will be used on improving your ECs, writing strong essays, and keeping your grades up (probably in that order).

Now, if you really want the 1600 for personal reasons or because you think it will still give you better chances then you need to figure out the specific concepts you need to work on. On your practice tests and sections start keeping track of the underlying concepts on the questions you get wrong or have trouble with. And you need to be specific here. Don't just write "punctuation" or something. Figure out the sub-topic you're being tested on and the specific rule you have trouble with (if it's writing). If you're lucky most questions you're getting wrong will hopefully come from 1-2 concepts. If that's the case you could consider working on improving your score but I'd still recommend not spending a ton of time on it. If it's a single concept for each question that will be more difficult. But once you know where you need to work you can hyper-focus on learning those concepts. This obviously works better the more practice sections and tests you can take so you can figure out what's an actual trend and what was a one-off fluke.

Best of luck to you!

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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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