How to Interpret Your SAT Scores

June 28, 2017
Stephanie Jolly

Learn what your SAT scores mean for college admissions.

Knowing how to interpret your SAT scores will help you before and after the test.

After analyzing your SAT score report you’ll likely have some questions about what this means in terms of college admissions and what next steps you need to take.

Don’t worry—you don’t have to figure things out on your own. Here are some pointers to help you make sense of it all and make the best impression on college applications.

Understanding your performance

SAT scores are based on a 1600 point scale, comprised of two 800 point section scores: Math and Evidence Based Reading & Writing. Your Evidence Based Reading & Writing score is based on your performance of the Reading and Writing & Languages tests. Your Math score is based on your performance on the calculator and non-calculator portions of the math test.

In addition to your section scores, you’ll also receive a score for each of these tests—Reading, Writing & Language and Math—on a scale from 10-40. If you took the optional SAT Essay, you’ll receive three separate scores, each out of 8 points for reading, analysis and writing, which do not impact your overall SAT score out of 1600.

To understand how you compare against other students taking the test, you need to look at your percentile. For instance, if you score in the 90th percentile, it means you scored better than or equal to 90% of other students. Your score report also contains a breakdown of cross-test and sub-scores that can help you identify the particular areas of the test where you excelled and your areas for growth.

What your SAT score tells you

Now that you’ve seen your score, you’re likely to have one major question: Is this a ‘good’ SAT score? Remember that good SAT scores help you achieve your personal college and university goals, so it’s not always useful to compare your score with the SAT scores of others. That said, a competitive SAT score will generally be on the upper end of 25th-75th college admissions percentile for the schools you’re considering.

Colleges and universities publish these ranges indicating what percentage of their entering class had score ranges above and below the 25-75 range. This means that 50% of their admitted freshman had scores that fell between those two numbers, 25% above and 25% below.

So how do your SAT scores measure up? Just because your score is in the 25-75 range doesn’t mean you have a 50/50 shot at being admitted. However, SAT scores near the 75% and above range will give you confidence that you are a competitive applicant at that institution.

Should I take the SAT over again?

The SAT does not have to be a one-and-done deal. There is no penalty for taking the SAT more than once. In fact, many schools encourage students to take the SAT multiple times by offering Super Score and Score Choice options. Score Choice allows you to send your highest score from a single administration of the test, and a Superscoring is taking the sum of your highest section scores across multiple test dates.

Thus, you can continue to boost your skills, confidence, and performance in time for college admissions deadlines. Your subscores provide you with valuable information that helps you personalize your prep and prioritize your weaker areas. Put them to use!

Want to know more about your new SAT score and what it means? Check out our conversion chart explaining your score within the context of the old SAT.


Stephanie Jolly Bio: Stephanie Jolly is an alumna of NYU, and earned a perfect 800 on SAT Math. She loves to identify patterns and to break down Reading passages using the same analytical approach. She tutors, teaches, and writes content for Kaplan SAT, ACT, and AP programs in her home base of Kentucky—internationally and for Live Online.

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