SAT Score Percentiles – Your Ultimate Guide

Are you an SAT aspirant? Or have you taken the SAT recently? Well, we understand how tough it feels when you have to decide whether you should retake the SAT or what composite score you should aim for in order to get into the top colleges. We won’t leave you alone in this tough decision, so this quick and concise guide will provide you with all the information about SAT Score Percentiles that will help you maximize your SAT score and increase your chances of getting admission into one of the top colleges.

What Are SAT Score Percentiles?

You might be wondering now, what exactly is SAT Score Percentiles! Well, let’s first dig deeper into this and understand the basics of SAT Score Percentiles.
Your SAT Score Report will provide you with two things, your total composite SAT score that ranges from 400 to 1600, and your percentile ranking that will range from 1 to 99. Like your total SAT score, your percentile ranking will also be provided for your overall SAT exam and also for each of the two sections – Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

Percentile is an everyday use term and in the layman’s language, it means a number where a certain percentage of scores fall below that number or simply they help you compare your performance with other test-takers. It plays the same role in SAT, your SAT percentile helps you understand your performance in comparison with the other SAT-takers. Your SAT percentile rank will tell you the percentage of students who have scored lower than or equal to you. Your SAT Percentile rank, unlike the SAT Score, helps you determine where you stand and evaluate the chances of your getting into the top college. It clearly states to you, how well have you performed in context with direct comparison to other test-takers.

For instance, your composite percentile of 85 infers that your score is higher than 85 percent of students who appeared for the test.

The Two Types Of SAT Score Percentiles
Let’s move ahead to understand what the two types of percentiles displayed on your SAT score mean and in what context they differ. Your SAT score percentiles, either overall or for individual sections, have been divided into two types – the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile and the SAT User Percentile. These are divided with the aim of comparing student scores and their performances on the basis of two different reference populations.

The Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles are concluded from a detailed research study of the U.S. Students of grades 11 and 12. Regardless of whether these students typically took the test or not, these percentiles are leaden to represent all U.S. students in the 11 and 12 grades.

On the other hand, the SAT User Percentile represents and compares the performance of students based on actual scores in the past three current graduating classes and who typically took the current SAT.
Conclusively, since your User SAT Percentile doesn’t take into consideration the students who didn’t typically appear for the test, it becomes more useful in determining how competitive your scores are with respect to college admissions. Your Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles will be higher than User SAT Percentiles.

Do Not Get Confused!
With score percentiles, your performance will not be measured as points against fixed or objective scales, instead, everything about score percentiles is based on your individual performance against all your other competitors for the same exam.

Simply put, if you get the 70th percentile, it means that your score is better than 70 percent of your competitors and not that you have correctly answered 70% of questions.

Percentiles – A Complete Data To Help You
The data mentioned below provides you with the information about what composite score you need to bag to hit a certain percentile range. The inferences from the data will help you prepare a scheduled study plan and help you prioritize.

The College Board releases data about the composite score and simultaneous percentile ranges. Though this data changes slightly from year to year, we will provide you with the latest information to provide you an estimate.

Table – Percentile Range for Composite Scores

SAT Composite Score Range Percentile
1550-1600 99 to 99+
1500-1550 98 to 99
1450-1500 96 to 98
1400-1450 94 to 96
1350-1400 90 to 94
1300-1350 86 to 90
1250-1300 81 to 86
1200-1250 74 to 81
1150-1200 67 to 74
1100-1150 59 to 67
1050-1100 50 to 59
1000-1050 41 to 50
950-1000 33 to 41
900-950 25 to 33
850-900 18 to 25
800-850 11 to 18
750-800 6 to 11
700-750 3 to 6
650-700 1 to 3
600-650 1- to 1
550-600 1-
500-550 1-
450-500 1-
400-450 1-

From the above data, we can infer that the percentile ranks change enormously for the middle scores. For instance, if we look at the difference in percentile ranks for a score range of 1450 to 1600 that is the highest score, it is only 4 points difference from 96 to 99. However, for the middle score range of 1100 to 1250 the percentile rank takes a huge leap from 59 to 81.
Therefore, if you boost your score up by 150 in the retake test, if you scored around 1100 or lower in the current one, your percentile rank will boost up by huge numbers.

Table – Percentile Range for Section Scores

SAT Section Score Ranges EBRW Percentiles Math Percentiles
780-800 99+ 98 to 99+
760-780 99 to 99+ 96 to 98
740-760 98 to 99 95 to 96
720-740 96 to 98 93 to 95
700-720 94 to 96 91 to 93
680-700 91 to 94 89 to 91
660-680 88 to 91 86 to 89
640-660 83 to 88 82 to 86
620-640 78 to 83 79 to 82
600-620 73 to 78 75 to 79
580-600 67 to 73 69 to 75
560-580 60 to 67 64 to 69
540-560 54 to 60 58 to 64
520-540 47 to 54 50 to 58
500-520 40 to 47 42 to 50
480-500 34 to 40 36 to 42
460-480 27 to 34 30 to 36
440-460 21 to 27 24 to 30
420-440 15 to 21 19 to 24
400-420 11 to 15 15 to 19
380-400 7 to 11 10 to 15
360-380 4 to 7 7 to 10
340-360 2 to 4 4 to 7
320-340 1 to 2 2 to 4
300-320 1- to 1 1 to 2
280-300 1- 1- to 1
260-280 1- 1-
240-260 1- 1-
220-240 1- 1-
200-220 1- 1-

From the above data, you can note the same change that the percentile scores increase dramatically for the middle scores. For instance, the total score of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing at 500 is at 40 percentile but at 600 it goes to 73 percentile. Just with a leap of 100 score points, you can boost your SAT score percentiles tremendously.

Also if we compare the sections with each other, we can deduce that the math curve becomes more competitive near the top as compared to the EBRW curve. For instance, at a 700 score, the percentile will be approximately 91 for math and 94 for EBRW. And at a 760 score, the percentile becomes around 96 for math and 99 for EBRW. So if your aim is to get a similar percentile in both sections, you need to work more rigorously and get a higher score in Math.

Table – Percentile Ranks for total and section scores by Gender and Race/Ethnicity
Sat_percentile_ranks
Source: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-percentile-ranks-gender-race-ethnicity.pdf

SAT percentile scores are not directly affected by other factors like gender, race, ethnicity, financial background, etc. but it does share a symbiotic relationship with that. The above table from the college board’s official website shows the minute effects this symbiotic relationship has.

What is a Good SAT Score Percentile?

A good SAT score percentile is usually any score that will place you in the top half of the test-taking candidates.
The table below displays the best, good, average, and least percentile along with their corresponding section scores and total scores from the 2020 data.

Percentile Math EBRW Total
99th (Best) 790 and above 750 and above 1510 and above
90th 680 – 690 670 1340
75th (Good) 600 610 1200 – 1210
50th (Average) 520 530 1050 – 1060
25th 450 460 910
10th 380 – 390 400 800
1st (Least) 310 and above 330 and below 680 and below

SAT Score Percentiles Matter
You are all informed about the percentiles. Wondering why the SAT score percentiles matter? Well, we’ll tell you:
● These percentiles help you decide if you want to opt for a retake and also help you develop your target score.
● For a better understanding of SAT scores, you need to understand SAT score percentiles. For instance, the data above helped us determine the focus area for preparation should be math. It helps to increase the percentile more than the EBRW. That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the EBRW section but prioritize your focus areas accordingly.
● It helps you realize that an increase in a relatively small composite score helps you leaps and bounds in your percentile.
● The percentile readings help you develop a strategic study plan.
● It is a quick comparison procedure by the college to compare your performance with other students. For instance, if your percentile is 90th, it means you are highly competitive since you performed better than 90% of students. Thus, percentiles help the college in determining your admission competitiveness.
● The composite score and the percentile rank together give you the best idea of performance and assist you in deciding which colleges to apply for.

What Percentile Range To Aim For!

Now that you are aware of the importance of percentile range, the next step you have to figure out is to set your target score to hit your target percentile. What we will next work on now is, how to decide your target percentile. The things that will assist you through this decision are doing research about the schools you are applying for and what they are expecting from you with regards to your percentile. You can get all that data easily and with this, you know approximately what your target percentile score is. Next is to hit that percentile score, you need to be aware of your target SAT score. To figure that out, you can go through the data mentioned in the tables above that are sourced from the college board’s official website. This will help you hit your target score and your target SAT percentile score through thorough preparation.

Conclusion

Your SAT score percentiles help colleges decide and the above-average percentile increases the probability of students for admittance in top colleges and universities. To have thorough research and plan for your target scores, you can refer to the data above and also earlier data from 2013 onwards since the percentiles don’t change much from year to year. With the required and consistent efforts, a proper plan, and informed decisions, you can get a good SAT composite score that will lead to high SAT percentile rankings.