Are you curious about how your SAT score compares with the average SAT score in your state? Want to know how your home state’s average SAT score compares against other states’ averages? Looking for a reason to brag to your out-of-state family and friends about how much smarter your state is than theirs?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the average SAT scores from each state. We’ll mix in a few territories as well to keep it fresh (and because the SAT was so kind as to compile data from them too).

Average SAT Score by State, Graduating Class of 2021

StateNumber of Test-TakersPercentage of State’s 2021 Graduates*Average ERW** Section ScoreAverage Math Section ScoreAverage Total Score
District of Columbia4,11790%500487987
New Hampshire11,05071%5405261065
New Jersey54,41548%5625631125
New Mexico6,27030%508488996
New York116,21955%5265311057
North Carolina26,52023%5785711150
North Dakota961%6316281258
Puerto Rico2,383511483994
Rhode Island7,83368%5144971011
South Carolina25,59548%5295071036
South Dakota1391%6056101215
Virgin Islands478484435920
West Virginia8,07345%5204871007

*These numbers represent 2021 graduates who took the SAT at any point during high school.

**ERW stands for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. These two sections are combined into one score.

What This Chart DOESN’T Tell Us

There’s a lot of cool data on the chart above. For more analysis, check out the College Board’s reporting website. You’ll find a detailed report for each state AND territory (shout out to our loyal readers in the US Virgin Islands).

However, there are a few things this chart doesn’t tell us. For example, how many of these students are taking the SAT for the first time, and how many have already taken it at least once before? And how old were the students when they took the SAT? Lastly, how were these numbers affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? Almost 2.2 million students took the SAT from the graduating class of 2020, and this number dropped to 1.5 million students from the class of 2021.

These questions are tough to answer, but important to keep in mind as we dig deeper into these findings.

Why do some states have a higher percentage of test-takers?

You’ll notice that some states have a much higher percentage of test-takers than others. Some states have a contract with the SAT to provide free tests to all juniors. States with existing SAT partnerships include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia. For more information on your state’s relationship with the SAT, visit your state’s Department of Education website.

In states that don’t require the SAT, there may be a higher percentage of students who choose to take the ACT. I wrote earlier this month about the average ACT score from each state. What’s interesting is that out of the 13 states where less than 2% of students took the SAT, 12 of those states had at least 50% of students take the ACT. Similarly, in the five states where more than 75% of students took the SAT, four of those five states had less than 20% of students take the ACT.

In states where the percentage of test-takers is higher, you’ll likely have a lower average SAT score in that state. When all students are taking the test, you’ll have a higher percentage of students who are not interested in going to college, or who may not be taking time to adequately study and prepare for the SAT.

On the other hand, in a state with a lower percentage of testers, students are likely especially motivated to score well. These students may want their application to further stand out, or they may be applying for a school that prefers an SAT score rather than an ACT score. They are more likely to study and prepare well, and in turn, score higher.

How to Use This Chart to Evaluate Your State’s Average SAT Score

With these factors in mind, the best way to use this chart is to compare your state against a state with at least one similar metric. For example, if you’re from Michigan, where 68% of 2021 graduates took the SAT at some point, you probably don’t want to compare your score with Wisconsin’s, where only 1% of graduating seniors took the SAT. Wisconsin’s still reeling over that 21-point home loss in last season’s Michigan-Wisconsin football game anyways.

Which State Had the Most Test-Takers?

Over 225,685 Texas students from the class of 2021 took the SAT, which was 50,000 more students than in any other state.

More Than 100,000

At over 225,000 students, Texas had the most test-takers of any state. Four other states had more than 100,000 students take the SAT: Florida, Illinois, California, and New York. Altogether, these five states make up 49.7% of all nationwide SAT testers (they also make up five of the six most heavily populated states in the country).

Out of these five states, California and New York tied for the highest average score at 1057, only three points behind the national average of 1060. Both states also had a strikingly similar number of test-takers (116,394 from California and 116,219 from New York), although New York had a higher percentage of students testing than California did (55% to 24%, respectively). Florida had the lowest average score among this group of states at 993, while also having the largest percentage of students tested (81%).

More than 20,000, but Fewer than 100,000

12 states had between 20,000 and 100,000 students take the SAT. These states are Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina. The average score among this group alone is 1100, with most schools scoring between 1070 and 1125.

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Out of this group, Massachusetts had the highest average score (1184) with 34% of students testing, followed by Virginia at 1151 and North Carolina at 1150. It’s worth noting that Virginia tested about 12,000 more students than North Carolina (38,927 to 26,520). Michigan had the lowest average score in this group at 1031, but also tested nearly 15,000 more students than any other state in this category. South Carolina is also near the bottom of this list with an average score of 1036.

More than 5,000, but Fewer than 20,000

At 96%, Delaware had the highest percentage of test-takers among any US state or territory.

The ten states in this category are Washington, Ohio, Idaho, New Hampshire, Delaware, Arizona, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Oregon, and New Mexico. These states vary widely in the percentage of students tested. At the high end, you have Delaware testing 96% of their students and Idaho testing 90%. On the other hand, you have Arizona, Ohio, and Oregon all testing less than 20% of students statewide.

Arizona tops this category with an average score of 1181. There is a pretty large gap between Arizona and the second state on this list (Oregon at 1119). Three states from this group have average scores under 1,000 – Idaho, Delaware, and New Mexico. Overall, the average score among these ten schools is 1047, and Ohio ALMOST hit that mark exactly with an average score of 1048.

More than 1,000 but Fewer than 5,000

These states make up the largest group on the list. There are fourteen states/territories that fall into this category: Maine, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Vermont, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Missouri, Minnesota, Alabama, Louisiana, Nevada, and Kentucky.

In this group, we start to see some states stand out in terms of average scores. For example, at 1263, Minnesota has the highest average SAT score both in this group and among all states and territories surveyed. Minnesota also had the highest average math score at 636, and the second-highest evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) score at 626. In case you were wondering, North Dakota had the highest average ERW score at 631, but data only represents 96 students tested or 1% of students in the state.

Three other schools in this group posted average scores above 1200: Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Out of these states, Tennessee had the highest percentage of students tested at a whopping 4%. However, that 4% includes over 2,600 students, so it should not be overlooked.

On the low end in this section, we have two areas with average scores under 1,000: the District of Columbia at 987 and Puerto Rico at 994. Altogether, the average score among all fourteen states/territories in this category is 1141.

Under 1,000

Not only did these 12 states/territories each test less than 1,000 students, but none tested more than 5% of their students. To round out this list, we have Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, Iowa, Montana, Virgin Islands, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

All but two of these areas have average scores over 1200, and Arkansas wasn’t far behind with an average score of 1194. The highest score from this group can be found in North Dakota, which registered an average score of 1258. Following North Dakota is Nebraska at 1246, and two states tied at 1243 (Iowa and Kansas).

I bet you didn’t know North Dakota was this beautiful. No wonder they only had 96 students take the SAT last year. They’re probably all too busy exploring!

Which State Had the Highest Percentage of Test-Takers?

As mentioned in the above section, overall numbers are just one way to compare the average SAT score by each state. You can also look at the percentage of students from the state/territory who took the test. This metric might be a better tool to use to compare because it gives you an idea of students’ motivation for testing. A state with a higher percentage of testers likely administers tests during the school day to all students. A state with a lower percentage likely only has students testing who are especially invested in their score and motivated to do well.

For the sake of space, we won’t do nearly as much analysis in this section, but we’ll still line out each category, and the states within, to give you another tool to use to compare states’ average scores. Keep in mind that when we say “students tested,” we are referring to 2021 graduates only.

More than 75% of Students Tested
  • 5 States/Territories (Delaware, Idaho, District of Columbia, Florida, and Illinois)
  • High Score: Illinois (1007)
  • Most Students Tested: Florida (172,869)
More than 50%, but Less than 75%
  • 7 States (New Hampshire, Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, Texas, Colorado, and New York)
  • High Score: Tie between Connecticut and Colorado (1072)
  • Most Students Tested: Texas (225,685)
More than 25%, but Less than 50%
  • 14 States (New Jersey, South Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Maine, Washington, and Hawaii)
  • High Score: Massachusetts (1184)
  • Most Students Tested: Pennsylvania (56,934)
More than 10%, but Less than 25%
  • 6 States (California, North Carolina, Alaska, Oregon, Ohio, and Arizona)
  • High Score: Arizona (1181)
  • Most Students Tested: California (116,394)
More than 2%, but less than 10%
  • 6 States (Oklahoma, Montana, Tennessee, Nevada, Alabama, and Louisiana)
  • High Score: Montana (1225)
  • Most Students Tested: Oklahoma (2,631)
Less than 2%
  • 13 States (Missouri, Minnesota, Kentucky, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Utah, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota)
  • High Score: North Dakota (1258)
  • Most Students Tested: Missouri (1,796)

NOTE: Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands did not record what percentage of their 2021 graduates took the SAT.

Which State Had the Highest Average SAT Score?

One last way to compare states’ average SAT scores is to look at what states had similar scores. We’ll break states down into five categories below based on their average overall score:

Higher than 1200
Minnesota posted the highest statewide average SAT score at 1263. North Dakota was close behind, with an average score of 1258.
  • 14 States (Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Mississippi)
  • Highest Percentage Tested: Montana (5%)
  • Highest Number of Students Tested: Tennessee (2,625)
Between 1100 and 1200
  • 14 States (Nevada, Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Arizona, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Hawaii, New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Oregon)
  • Highest Percentage Tested: New Jersey (48%)
  • Highest Number of Students Tested: Pennsylvania (56,934)
Between 1060 (National Average) and 1100
  • 8 States (Maine, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, Washington, New Hampshire)
  • Highest Percentage Tested: New Hampshire (71%)
  • Highest Number of Students Tested: Georgia (49,170)
Between 1000 and 1060 (National Average)
  • 10 States (New York, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Michigan, Rhode Island, Illinois, West Virginia, and Texas)
  • Highest Percentage Tested: Illinois (80%)
  • Highest Number of Students Tested: Texas (225,685)
Below 1000
  • 7 States/Territories (New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Florida, District of Columbia, Idaho, Delaware, Virgin Islands)
  • Highest Percentage Tested: Delaware (96%)
  • Highest Number of Students Tested: Florida (172,869)

Other Interesting Pieces of Data

Honestly, I don’t know much about the US Virgin Islands. But I just looked at some pictures on Google, and I’ve already decided to plan a vacation there.

Before we wrap up, let’s look at a few more interesting numbers surrounding the average SAT score by state:

  • Only nine states had a higher score in math than in ERW: Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, New York, Kansas, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
  • The Virgin Islands had the largest score discrepancy between their two section scores. The average ERW score was 484, and the average math score was 435. This gap represents a 49-point difference. Florida and West Virginia tied for the second-largest gap at 33 points between the two section scores.
  • Hawaii had the same average score in both ERW and Math (572)
  • 37 states’ scores beat the national ERW average of 533, and 16 states had an average above 600 on this section.
  • 36 states beat the national Math average of 528, and 13 states had an average score above 600 on this section.

What Do We Do With This Information?

While it’s fun to look at average SAT scores by state side-by-side, it’s not ultimately going to help you improve your own score. Remember, you’re competing against yourself, not against your state’s average or another state’s average. That said, this information can still be helpful. Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:

  1. How does your SAT score compare with your state’s average? College recruiters may look at these numbers when they are reviewing your application. For example, I’m you’re in New Jersey, where the average SAT score is 1125, you may want to shoot for 1130 or higher to stand out among other applicants in your state.
  2. If you’re applying out of state, how does your score compare with that state’s average? When you apply out of state, you’re likely going to be compared with in-state applicants. For example, if you live in Kansas, but are applying to the University of Nebraska, you may want to look at the average SAT score from the state of Nebraska to see how you might compare with in-state applicants.
  3. How do these numbers impact the goals you set for yourself? While your goals shouldn’t depend on the average of what everyone else is doing, it can be a helpful source of motivation.

The most important question (which doesn’t have anything to do with averages) is what are you doing to achieve your best score? At Test Geek, we want to help you score your highest, and we can provide the tools, training, and tutors to help you get there. Reach out today to learn more about our services and get connected with one of our top-notch tutors.

Brady Ross

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