If I had to come up with an artificial number of what constituted truly impressive combined scores on the recentered SAT I, I would say over 1,490 or 1,500. Those are still considered very high scores, ones that are not easy to attain, no matter how bright a student is.From what I can see, this view still holds true (though take my observation with a grain of salt).
I hesitate to give this example, because, as always, it is not the combined score that matters as much as the breakdown. It is still, as it has always been, more impressive to see high verbal scores than high math scores, since most students at the highly selective colleges will be doing much more writing and reading than math. Verbal ability is still a good indicator of how strong a reader the student is. The ability to read well will ultimately have a bigger impact on most college students than the ability to do SAT I math very well, especially since the level of SAT math is not particularly high. There are many students who do terribly on the SAT I math and yet who manage to get the highest score of 5 on the AP calculus exam. If any math is useful at the college level, it is calculus, not the basic math covered on the SAT I. Therefore, SAT I scores of 750V, 630M would be much more impressive for most highly selective colleges than a 640V, 780M, even though the latter score has a higher combined total by forty points.
A is for Admission by Michele A. Hernandez 1997
I do wonder whether the high-end test prep industry may have actually increased the value of a high Critical Reading score, given that the reading test is the one you can't tutor.
I use the words "can't tutor" because those are the words everyone uses: it is extremely difficult to raise the critical reading score via tutoring, and everyone knows it, including college admissions officers presumably. Nonetheless, I believe there are tutors who do raise reading scores.*
But it's not easy.
My guess is that college admissions officers at highly selective colleges assume the parents bought 50 points on math, but the reading score came from the kid.
* I should probably add that C. wasn't tutored in reading. I have confidence in Erica because I've met her and I like her book.