SAT Percentiles | All You Need to Know About How Your Score Stacks Against Other Test Takers

Do you know what SAT percentiles are? Do you wish to understand them so that you can come up with an excellent target score? If you recently sat for the SAT, you might want to understand the SAT score percentiles to decide if you will retake the test. 

Understanding the percentiles is also vital in helping you maximize your study time. You may also want to understand the types of SAT scores and which ones are important for you. 

Getting a high percentile in the SAT is not easy. In this post, we recommend the best prep book that you can use to ace the test. 

What Are SAT Percentiles? 

Apart from looking at your overall SAT score, you can also look at your SAT percentiles to evaluate your performance. The SAT scores percentiles show the number of people who did the test and scored lower or higher than you.

In the SAT scores, the higher the numbers, the better your performance. The same applies to the percentiles where higher numbers indicate you had a better performance. 

The ranking of percentiles for SAT scores ranges from 1 to 99. You will receive a ranking for the overall SAT score and two sections, including Math, Evidence-Based Reading, and Writing. 

Your percentile is an indication of how best your performance is compared to other test-takers. 

For instance, if you get a composite percentile score of 90, it means only 9% of other test-takers performed better than you. If your percentile score is in the 30th percentile, 30% of other students who took the test would have lower scores. On the other hand, 70% of students got a higher score than you. 

If you get 51st percentile in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you will have performed better than 51% of the other test-takers. 

Note, your percentiles for SAT are not an indication of your score on a grade out of 100. For instance, if you are in the 76th percentile, it doesn’t mean that you got 76% of the questions correct. It means you performed better than 76% of the other students who took the test. 

Are percentiles important in looking for your desired college?

You should put the effort in preparation for the test to ensure both your SAT scores and percentiles are high. Here are our reviews of the best prep courses that could help raise your score. 

Colleges and universities will compare your percentile with that of other students to decide on your admission. 

If you are in the 90th percentile, you are better positioned to get admission as you performed better than 90% of other test-takers. 

What Are the Percentile Ranges for the SAT?

Percentile scores are just as important as the overall composite scores. 

If you are taking the SAT or wish to retake it, which composite score should you aim to get the percentile you want? 

The College Board releases composite scores with matching percentiles so that you can figure out your score. The percentiles in the SAT percentiles chart give two digits of precision. 

For instance, you will get that people with a composite score ranging from 1510 to 1600 are in the 99th percentile. 

Also, the percentiles change fast with the middle scores. For example, for the composite score between 1450 to 1600, the percentiles' difference is 4 points from 96 to 99. But, the difference between 1100 to 1250 composite scores ranges from 58 to 81 percentiles. 

Even in the subject test percentiles, there is a dramatic change in the percentile ranks towards the middle scores. For instance, a 500 score in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing is 39%. On the other hand, a 600 score is 73%. Thus, with the right strategies and smart studying, you can achieve 100 points that can affect your SAT subject test percentiles dramatically. 

Also, note that if you want to get the same percentile in both Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you’ll have to work harder in math.

For example, a 750 score is in the 99th percentile in EBRW but in the 96th percentile in math. 

As it is evident, the two-digit percentile is not very precise. It doesn’t contain decimals or fractions. 

The following is a table with some samples of 6-digits high precision percentiles:

Old SAT Score

New SAT Score

Percentile

2400

1600

99.9826

2390

1600

99.9581

2380

1590

99.9411

2370

1590

99.9157

2360

1590

99.8801

2350

1580

99.8413

2340

1580

99.7950

2330

1570

99.7354

2320

1570

99.6664

2310

1560

99.5923

2300

1560

99.5141

2290

1527

99.4276

2280

1550

99.3395

2270

1550

99.2459

2260

1540

99.1397

2250

1540

99.0273

2240

1530

98.9104

2230

1530

98.7855

2220

1520

98.6515

2210

1520

98.5063

2200

1510

98.3528

2190

1510

98.1924

2180

1510

98.0238

2170

1500

97.8469

2160

1500

97.6597

2150

1490

97.4642

2140

1490

97.2555

2130

1480

97.0358

2120

1480

96.8045

2110

1470

96.5559

2100

1470

96.2958

2090

1460

96.0276

2080

1450

95.7529

2070

1450

95.4650

2060

1440

95.1588

2050

1440

94.8398

2040

1430

94.5099

2030

1430

94.1634

2020

1420

93.7955

2010

1410

93.4120

2000

1410

93.0201

1990

1400

92.6195

1980

1400

92.2101

1970

1390

91.7854

1960

1380

91.3402

1950

1380

90.8779

1940

1380

90.3975

1930

1370

89.9012

1920

1360

89.3846

1910

1350

88.8429

1900

1350

88.2867

1890

1340

87.7155

1880

1340

87.1305

1870

1330

86.5287

1860

1320

85.9086

1850

1320

85.2697

1840

1310

84.6085

1830

1300

83.2498

1820

1300

83.2498

1810

1290

82.5362

1800

1290

81.7995

1790

1280

81.0451

1780

1270

80.2791

1770

1270

79.4952

1760

1260

78.6945

1750

1250

77.8770

1740

1250

77.0333

1730

1240

76.1735

1720

1230

75.3036

1710

1230

74.4108

1700

1220

73.4994

1690

1210

72.5711

1680

1210

71.6280

1670

1200

70.6719

1660

1200

69.7021

1650

1190

68.7169

Methodology: How Did We Calculate These High-Precision SAT Percentiles?

In calculating the new SAT score percentiles, we used the exact number of students who got a particular score and not an estimate. The precise number of test-takers was then summed with data from the College Board. 

With this percentile, a 400 score doesn’t correspond to a 0.0000 percentile; neither does 1600 correspond to 100.0000 percentile. 

Do SAT Percentiles Change From Year to Year?

There are no new SAT score percentiles every year. The last time the College Board released charts with details of the exact numbers of students who did the SAT was 2015. 

Since the SAT subject tests scores percentiles don’t change much from year to year, you can use 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

It is also essential to note that the SAT underwent a significant shift in 2016. The shifting was from the old SAT with 2400 as the top score in the scale to the new SAT with 1600 as the top score. 

Throughout the years, the SAT percentiles haven’t undergone much change, and you can still use the high percentile table to estimate your target percentile. 

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How Can Knowing Your SAT Percentile Help You?

The SAT is vital in your college or university admission. Therefore, making an effort to increase your ranking is essential.

Your percentile ranking puts you in a competitive position, especially when you want admission in top colleges. Sometimes, all you need is an effort to increase your composite score to improve your percentile ranking.

Some schools also have their score range for admission. Being able to calculate your percentile will help you target your college of choice. 

If you have already taken the SAT and you wish to retake it, your percentile ranking can come in handy. For instance, assuming you had a score of 620 in maths and 700 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The 620 composite scores will put you in the 79th SAT math percentiles, while the EBRW will be in the 94th percentile.

If you put effort and increase your composite math score with 100 points, which is possible, you will go to a 720 score, which is the 94th percentile. Therefore, during your retake, you can concentrate on math, and you will be more competitive. 

What is a Good Score Percentile For SAT in 2020? 

The best score is one that will allow you to get admission to your college of choice. Ordinarily, a good score should put you on the upper half of all the students who sat for the test. 

For instance, the College Board puts the average composite score for 2019 at 1059. A good score should, therefore, put you above the average 1059. 

Let’s have a look at the following table to see what would be considered a good score. The table is prepared using data from the 2019 percentile. 

Percentile

EBRW

Math

TOTAL

99th (Best)

750 and above

790 and above

1510 and above

90th (Excellent)

670

680-690

1340

75th (Good)

610

600

1200-1210

50th (Average)

530

520*

1050-1060

25th (Poor)

460*

450*

910

10th (Poorer)

400

380-390

800

1st (Poorest)

330 and below

310 and below

680 and below

With this data, if you get a 910 score, you will have a poor score as you will have 85% of other students who have performed better than you.

At the same time, you may not need to get the 1600 perfect score. With 1340, you have an excellent score, and you are ahead of 90% of your competitors.

Final Thoughts  

Percentiles, whether they are the SAT essay score percentiles or the overall percentile, are vital when you are preparing for your SAT, or you wish to retake. The higher the percentile number, the more competitive you are, and the better your chances of getting admission to a college of choice. You should strive to be in the top percentile so that you will be among the best. 

Leonard Haggin
 

I created this site to help students like you learn from the experiences my team had learned during our extensive academic careers. I am now studying Law at Stanford, but I also make time to write articles here in order to help all you fellow students advance in your academic careers and beyond. I hope our efforts on Study Prep Lounge will arm you with the knowledge you need to overcome whatever trial or test you find in front of you.

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