Understanding The Importance Of SAT Percentile Ranks

SAT Scores Explained

The SAT Test is a standard test usually taken by students who wish to make admission applications to colleges in America. Colleges use the scores that these applicants secure in the test to determine between successful and unsuccessful applications. The SAT scores percentile plays an important role for both the test taker as well as the colleges as it provides a lot of insight about the current competition, self evaluation and comparison between test takers at different locations, standards set by colleges for admission etc. An explanation about how the test is scored and how the percentile is derived would help you better understand the concept.

Writing Section

The essay that you wrote for your test is scored by two readers. Each reader scores the essay on a scale of 1-6 points. These scores are then allotted ranging from 2-12 points. Multiple choice questions are given 1 point for each correct answer, an incorrect answer deducts ¼ point from your score and a question left blank is given no score. Multiple choice questions are scored on a range of 20-80 points. These points are then converted into a scaled score from 200-800 points. You also receive an marks percentile for every section of the test.

Critical Reading and Math Section

The Critical Reading and Math Section are also scored like the multiple-choice questions of the Writing section. A point for each correct answer, ¼ point deducted for wrong ones and no points for a blank answer. However, the Grid-in questions in the Math Section do not have a penalty for incorrect answers; they are not given any points. These scores are also converted into scaled scores ranging from 200-800 points.


It helps you understand how you have performed compared to others that took the test. You will see your percentile score next to every section score on your score card. The official website publishes statistics about the performance of test takers locally, nationally and internationally. This helps students know how well they have performed as compared to the others. Colleges also publish information about the 25th and the 75th percentile of admission applications. If the information published by a college about the results is Critical Reading-490/570, SAT Math-560/658, SAT Writing-520/640 for the previous batch of applicants, this would mean that the 25th percentile for Critical Reading is 490 points and that 25% of the enrolled students at the college scored less or as much as 490 points. The 75th percentile for Critical Reading is 570 points which would mean that 25% of the students got scores higher than 570 points or that 75% of the students enrolled secured less than 570 points. The percentile help students in making decisions about choice of colleges, discipline of study and scope of admission by comparing them.

Key points

Points are usually deducted for an incorrect answer, however no points are deducted as penalty towards an incorrect answer for Grid-in questions in the Math section.

You receive score percentiles for every section of the examination. To know more about the information you receive on your score card check the following link: http://sat.collegeboard.org/scores/how-sat-is-scored.

Percentiles help you measure your performance with others simultaneously as you have. It helps you observe competition and make decisions both before and after the actual test. To read more about percentiles visit the following link: http://sat.collegeboard.org/scores/understanding-sat-scores.