Students planning to apply to the Air Force Academy must place heavy emphasis on their SAT or ACT score if they hope to be successful in earning an appointment. While other colleges are de-emphasizing standardized tests, we have not yet seen this trend within the Service Academies.

The Air Force Academy has some of the highest standardized test scores across the Service Academies (USNA comes in at a close second). Students often times have these questions when it comes to their SAT score for the Air Force Academy:

  • What SAT score do I need to get in?
  • How important is my SAT score?
  • When should I take the SAT?
  • How long can I keep taking the SAT?
  • How many times should I take the SAT?

In this post, we want to answer all of these questions, and give you some additional direction and guidance. Too often candidates and parents are told, “just do your best”, by those giving advice on the admissions process, whether officially or unofficially connected to admissions.

First, let’s discuss the importance of the SAT.

Importance of the SAT in Air Force Academy Admissions

Academy admissions must in some way choose who gets in to the Air Force Academy, and who doesn’t. They are also legally bound to certain standards and methods of choosing candidates. We’re referring to Title 10 regulations, legislation created by Congress that provides a basis for admissions.

Now, admissions has a lot of flexibility within these laws, but understanding how a majority of the class is chosen can help clarify things. The Air Force Academy uses a formula called the Selection Composite Score (SCS) to rank candidates. Your SAT score is worth up to 40% of the SCS. It is critical you keep testing to raise your SAT, even if you think you have a score that is “good enough”.

Here is why:

What likely matters is not the national average for USAFA SAT scores, but instead the SAT scores (or ACT scores) of the other 9 students you are potentially competing against in your Congressional district.

Where did these 9 other students come from and why does that matter?

If you’re asking yourself that question, you must learn more about the Congressional nomination process. Bottom line: each Member of Congress can submit up to 10 students to fill 1 vacancy at the Air Force Academy each year.

We’re including Air Force Academy SAT averages, because it’s good to understand overall trends, but we recommend that you add a minimum of 50 points to the average score for each SAT component (or 100 to the composite) to be closer to the 75th percentile.

Air Force Academy SAT Scores Analysis

In the analysis below, we refer to each Air Force Academy graduating class year, so a student graduating high school in 2023 would be in the USAFA class of 2027.

Average Air Force Academy SAT Scores Chart

USAFA SAT Verbal Score Analysis

The scores saw a peak for the Class of 2024 with an average SAT EBRW score of 711.3 (Likely due to COVID).

There’s been a slight decline after the Class of 2024, moving to 686 in 2025 and settling at 682 for the Class of 2027.

Despite the fluctuations, the Air Force Academy SAT verbal scores have risen slightly – 12 points between the Class of 2022 and Class of 2027, starting at 670 and ending at 682.

USAFA SAT Math Score Analysis

The math scores reached their highest in 2024 with an average of 742.9.

The scores post-2024 have remained above 700, suggesting a consistent level of proficiency in math among the applicants.

Over the period from the Class of 2022 to the Class of 2027, Air Force Academy SAT math scores have seen a marginal net increase, moving from 695 to 697.

USAFA SAT Composite Score Analysis

The SAT composite score peaked in the Class of 2024 at 1454.2 (Likely due to COVID).

Following that peak, scores slightly reduced to 1389 for the Class of 2025 and further to 1379 by 2027.

In the span from the Class of 2022 to the Class of 2027, there has been a slight composite score growth for Air Force Academy SAT scores of 14 points, moving from 1365 to 1379.

Overall Observations on SAT Scores at the Air Force Academy

The Problem with SAT Averages

Remember, if there is a student in your district with a perfect SAT score (or close to it) they will likely have a higher Selection Composite Score than you (assuming they are involved in the community and have leadership experience), and therefore a better chance of earning the appointment from the Congressional nomination.

Since there is no way to predict the scores of your competitors in your Congressional district, our advice is to keep testing until you can’t improve your SAT score anymore! For the best chance of success, don’t stop just because you’ve reached the SAT averages mentioned above.

The COVID Trend

2024, being test-optional due to COVID, witnessed higher scores. However, this data might not accurately represent the larger pool of applicants since not all chose to submit scores.

Setting 2024 aside, the data from other years presents a more consistent picture. The slight increase in verbal scores over the years and the stability in math scores emphasize the consistent academic strength of Air Force Academy applicants.

The marginal decline in scores post-2024 could be due to multiple factors, such as changes in the applicant pool, variations in test preparations, or shifts in the broader educational landscape.

In essence, while 2024 remains an outlier year due to its test-optional nature, the overall trend for the Air Force Academy SAT scores across these years indicates sustained and steady academic strength among its applicants.

Timing for the Air Force Academy and the SAT

Given the Air Force Academy application’s opening in July between junior and senior years, it’s pivotal for students to consider which testing dates align best with their academic journey.

Junior Year Testing

As a general guideline, students should consider taking the SAT when they’ve gained a foundational understanding of Algebra 2. For many, this happens after sophomore year, therefore start testing sometime during the beginning of junior year. Taking the test earlier offers a beneficial glimpse into the testing environment and helps students gauge areas needing improvement.

SAT Timing Tips for Air Force Academy Candidates:

Strategic planning is essential to make the most out of your SAT experience. The goal is to be fully prepared and confident in your capabilities by the time you sit for the exam.

Plan Ahead and Start Early: The earlier students begin their SAT preparations, the better. With a baseline knowledge of Algebra 2 in place, initiating test preparations during the first half of junior year can be advantageous. Aim to have your SAT taken and scored before the summer leading into your senior year. This will give you ample time to focus on other aspects of your Air Force Academy application.

Study Effectively: Consider setting up a study plan, either high intensity over a short duration or low intensity spread out over a few months. Consistent practice and understanding the SAT format will be key to achieving a high score.

Retake Considerations: Even if the initial score isn’t optimal, early testing allows ample room for retakes. Given the significance of the SAT score in your Air Force Academy application, it’s essential to leave space for potential reattempts. Ideally, you’d want an excellent score before diving into senior year.

Balancing Other Commitments: Achieving your SAT goal score before senior year has the added benefit of freeing up time during senior year. This extra time is valuable for focusing on academics, athletics, and focusing on additional college applications (think: Air Force ROTC).

Stay Updated: Keep in mind there are upcoming changes to the SAT with the new digital SAT.

Upcoming SAT Test Dates

To aid in your planning, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming SAT test dates, their respective registration deadlines, and the last day you can cancel your registration.

Oct 7, 2023 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: Sept 8, 2023
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: Sept 26, 2023

Nov 4, 2023 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: Oct 6, 2023
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: Oct 24, 2023

Dec 2, 2023 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: Nov 3, 2023
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: Nov 21, 2023

Mar 9, 2024 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: Feb 23, 2024
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: Feb 27, 2024

May 4, 2024 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: Apr 19, 2024
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: Apr 23, 2024

June 1, 2024 SAT

  • Registration Deadline: May 17, 2024
  • Deadline for Regular Cancellation: May 21, 2024

How Late Can You Test?

Realistically, you can continue to take the SAT until December of your senior year of high school for it to count on the Air Force Academy application. However, admissions boards begin meeting in August. We recommend aiming to have a solid score no later than August.

How Many Times Can You Test?

One of the Air Force core values is excellence. Keep testing until you have reached your limit. Since the Air Force Academy super scores the SAT, you can continue to raise each component and raise your overall composite, even if one score goes down. Don’t just send your most recent scores to the Air Force Academy, send at least two test dates (the best SAT Math test and the best SAT EBRW test).

How Can You Improve Your SAT Scores?

Improving SAT scores typically requires a combination of understanding the test format, practicing test-taking strategies, building foundational skills, and addressing individual weaknesses. Here’s a comprehensive list of ways to improve SAT scores:

1. Self-Study Methods:

  • Official College Board Materials: Use the “Official SAT Study Guide” and online SAT practice tests.
  • Flashcards: Create or buy SAT vocab flashcards.
  • Khan Academy: The official College Board partner offers free SAT prep.
  • Study Groups: Form or join a group to study and quiz each other.
  • SAT Apps: Use apps like Daily Practice for the New SAT.

2. Test Strategies:

  • Practice Timing: Ensure you can complete each section in the given time.
  • Guessing Strategy: Learn when to guess and when to skip a question.
  • Understand Question Types: Familiarize yourself with the question formats for each section.
  • Pace Yourself: Develop strategies to pace yourself throughout the test.

3. Courses & Prep Programs:

  • Kaplan: Offers online and in-person courses, books, and tutoring.
  • The Princeton Review: Provides online and in-person courses, books, and private tutoring.
  • Magoosh: An online-only prep program with video lessons and practice questions.
  • PrepScholar: Online prep program tailored to individual student needs.

4. Tutoring:

  • Private Tutors: One-on-one instruction tailored to your needs. We recommend Test Prep Wizards.
  • Tutoring Centers: Local or national chains that offer structured SAT prep.

5. Practice Tests:

  • Take Regular Practice Tests: Simulates the real testing experience and builds stamina.
  • Analyze Mistakes: After each test, review mistakes to understand the reasoning behind correct answers.
  • Alternate Conditions: Try taking some tests under stricter or more relaxed conditions to adapt to different environments.

6. Books:

7. Holistic Approaches:

  • Mindfulness & Meditation: Can help reduce test anxiety.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Regular sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet can have a positive effect on cognitive functions.
  • Join a Club or Organization: E.g., a debate team or writing club can help improve critical reading and writing skills.

8. Focus on Weaknesses:

  • Targeted Practice: Concentrate on areas of the test where you consistently score lower.
  • Additional Classes: Take extra classes in school that can help, e.g., if you struggle with the essay, an advanced English class may help.

9. Alternative Resources:

  • YouTube Channels: Many channels offer free SAT tips and lessons.
  • Online Forums: Websites like College Confidential or Reddit’s r/SAT can offer advice, strategies, and support from fellow students.

10. Keep Taking the SAT

  • Multiple Attempts: Since colleges typically consider your best score, you can benefit from taking the SAT more than once.

Remember, consistency in practice and finding the study method or combination of methods that work best for you is key. Everyone’s learning style is unique, so it might take some time to find the most effective approach for you.

11. Keep Studying!

Spending 10-15 hours a month studying with low intensity over three months is a good first start to studying on your own. There are a few different methods you can use to improve your scores. We recommend taking an initial SAT to get a baseline of where you’re at.

Study Plan

If you can hold yourself Here’s a 3 month, low-intensity study plan for your SAT prep:

Month 1: Building a Strong Foundation

Week 1: Setting the Stage

  • Take a full-length practice test to understand where you stand.
  • Review your answers to analyze strengths and weaknesses.

Week 2: Understanding the SAT Blueprint

  • Dive into the intricacies of the SAT format.
  • Scrutinize your practice test answers, making a note of recurring mistakes.

Week 3: Reading – More than Just Words

  • Dive deep into the SAT Reading format.
  • Experiment with various passage-reading techniques, selecting the one that boosts your efficiency and accuracy.

Week 4: The Art of Writing & Language

  • Differentiate between the SAT Reading and Writing & Language sections.
  • Refine your grammar and punctuation skills.

Month 2: Math Mastery & Strategy Refinement

Week 5: Foundations First

  • Familiarize yourself with the Math section’s nuances.
  • Review essential mathematical concepts, ensuring you’re comfortable with the basics.

Week 6: Diving Deeper into Math

  • Delve into core algebraic topics.
  • Broaden your knowledge spectrum, covering areas from statistics to trigonometry.
  • Memorize pivotal SAT Math formulas, especially those not provided during the test.

Week 7: Enhancing Reading & Writing Skills

  • Refine techniques specific to the Reading and Writing sections.
  • Intensively practice both sections, aiming for consistency and speed.

Week 8: Math Strategy & Application

  • Master critical Math techniques.
  • Engage in dedicated practice, focusing on your weak spots.

Month 3: Perfecting Your Approach

Week 9: Progress Analysis

  • Simulate test conditions with another full-length practice test to measure improvements.

Week 10-11: Focused Revision

  • Dedicate two weeks to concentrated reviews, ensuring no topic is left untouched.
  • Prioritize areas that you find most challenging, ensuring a holistic preparation.

Week 12: The Home Stretch

  • Refresh your knowledge, targeting any last-minute areas of concern.
  • In the final days leading to the test, prioritize relaxation and mental well-being.

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Want to maximize your potential of earning an Air Force Academy appointment?