Every student (and parent) dreams of achieving an SAT 2400 perfect score. How hard is it? Pretty hard. Depending on the year, anywhere from 300-500 test takers score perfectly (out of over a million test takers), so we are talking less than 1% or 1% of test takers.
In my career, I have had several students score perfectly on the SAT, and I have a system for preparing students who I feel might be able to achieve a perfect score. So I will share some of the traits I look for in students I feel could achieve SAT 2400.
When I speak to prospective students, I ask for the sophomore year (or junior year) PSAT scores. If a student scores 200+ (ideally even higher), then the student has a shot at the SAT 2400. Remember, the average score increase with test preparation is 150-200 points, and the same goes for no matter where you start. So I like to see high diagnostic SAT scores.
Of the three sections to score perfectly, the Critical Reading is the most elusive (and the Math the most frequent). So even if a student can achieve a perfect score in Math does not mean that this student can achieve a perfect score in Critical Reading. Coming into the test, a student must be a very strong reader with a great vocabulary (and even then this type of student will need to study hard).
To score perfectly, you need to exhibit steady focus, calm confidence, and enthusiastic optimism. Nervous test takers will have a more difficult time because you need to be VERY consistent (like not miss a single questions consistent). A common trait of perfect score students is that these students look forward to test day, like an elite athlete looks forward to game day. No nerves, just ready to strut their stuff.
Of course, some students just waltz in on test day, take the SAT, and score perfectly (with no practice), but this is not always the case. Several of my students worked very diligently for months on the test preparation (some even scored SAT 2400 on the second or third try). There are many students who could achieve a perfect SAT score but do not want to put in the effort. And for many, an SAT 2340 is probably just fine! But if you have the desire for that perfect score, study hard and give it all you got!
Even really bright students can do even better by preparing for the SAT or ACT. One young woman I worked with who will be attending Harvard in the fall received a 2230 on her first SAT without any preparation. Even though she already had a good score, she needed an even higher score to be admitted to Harvard, so she diligently prepared again and received her perfect score. She was rather shocked but happy! So even really smart students benefit from a structured test preparation.
Remember: Colleges look at more than just SAT and ACT scores, such as the GPA, class rank, extracurricular activities, type of high school, geographic location, and special talents and athletic abilities. With that said, knowing the score ranges for different types of colleges, can be a motivating factor in determining whether or not a student needs to make test preparation a priority or not.
With my students, I usually set a goal score based on three factors: diagnostic score, high school GPA, and willingness to prepare. Those factors will typically give me a sense of the level of selectivity that a student is aiming for.