Interpreting Your Scores
Get the inside story on your SAT score report and find out what the numbers mean.
Score Report Video Tour
Did You Take the SAT Before March 2016?
You took a different SAT, with a different score scale. Learn how your test was scored.
Putting Your SAT Scores in Perspective
Your score report provides a lot of feedback, and it might be hard to know where to start. Mean scores, percentiles, and benchmarks — described below — can help you put your scores in perspective. Subscores and cross-test scores can help you identify strengths and weaknesses. But your score report won’t tell you if you passed because there’s no such thing as a passing score.
If you’re wondering whether your score will help you get into your top-pick colleges, you can use BigFuture’s College Search to find out how their freshmen scored. But keep in mind that although SAT scores are important, colleges consider a lot of other factors when they make admission decisions.
You might also be wondering what you would have scored if you’d taken the old SAT, last given in January 2016. The SAT Score Converter compares scores on the new SAT, the old SAT, and the ACT.
Retaking the SAT
As you learn more about scores, keep in mind that many students take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year, and then again in the fall of their senior year. Students usually do better the second time. Use your SAT scores to get free practice recommendations by linking your College Board and Khan Academy® accounts.
If you took the SAT before March 2016 and you like the scores you have, you don’t have to take it again just because there’s a new test. Colleges plan to accept scores from both tests for a few years. But there’s no advantage to taking one test over the other because the College Board provides tools that help colleges compare and interpret scores accurately and fairly.
Making Sense of the Numbers
Score ranges, mean (average) scores, benchmarks, and percentiles can be used to see if you’re on track for college readiness.
For the next few years, norm groups for the score ranges, mean scores, and percentiles will be derived from research data, not the prior year’s test-taking populations. A norm group, also called a reference population, is the group whose data your results are compared to.
Tests can’t measure exactly what you know, and many factors can affect your score. After all, no two days are the same, and if you were to take the SAT three times in a week or once a week for a month, your scores would vary.
That’s why it’s helpful to think of each score as a range that extends from a few points below to a few points above the score earned. Score ranges show how much your score might change with repeated testing, assuming that your skill level remains the same.
Usually, section scores for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math fall in a range of roughly 30 to 40 points above or below your true ability. Colleges know this, and they receive the score ranges along with your scores to consider that single snapshot in context.
Mean (Average) Scores
Your score report will show you the mean, or average, scores earned by typical U.S. test-takers per grade. Unless your score is much lower than average, you’re probably developing the kinds of reading, writing and language, and math skills you’ll need in college.
College and Career Readiness Benchmarks
You’ll see a benchmark for each section of the SAT. Benchmarks are the scores that represent college readiness. In other words, if you score at or above the benchmark, you’re on track to be ready for college when you graduate high school. Use the detailed feedback in your online score report to see which skills need the most improvement.
A percentile rank is a number between 1 and 99 that shows how you scored compared to other students. It represents the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below your score. For example, a test-taker in the 57th percentile scored higher than or equal to 57 percent of test-takers.
You’ll see two percentiles:
The Nationally Representative Sample percentile compares your score to the scores of typical 11th- and 12th-grade U.S. students.
The User Percentile — National compares your score to the scores of typical college-bound U.S. 11th- and 12th-grade SAT takers.
Educators: Get More Info
For percentile tables, means, and scoring details, download SAT: Understanding Scores 2016 (.pdf/428KB).