What Do SAT® Score Percentiles Mean?

Standard bell curve graph showing an even distribution of student SAT score percentiles.

Important SAT Update: Transition to Digital SAT
Effective December 3, 2023, the traditional paper-and-pencil format of the SAT has been discontinued. Starting in 2024, all students are required to take the Digital SAT, ushering in substantial changes in duration, format, material coverage, and question types. This shift to the Digital SAT represents a departure from traditional testing methods. It is crucial for students, educators, and test-takers to acquaint themselves with the new examination structure. Read more about the Digital SAT here.

If you have received your score report, you may be trying to figure out what SAT® percentiles are. This blog will explore SAT score percentiles, how they are calculated, and how they can help you in improving your score.

SAT Score Percentiles

The score percentile represents the percentage of students who did better or worse than you on the test. The SAT score percentile range is from 1 to 99 and are received for the total score as well as the section scores.

Percentile Range for Total Scores

The percentile range for total scores shows the percentage of people you outperformed in the test. For example, if your percentile for the total score is 86, it means that you scored better than 86% of the students who took the SAT. It does not mean that you scored exactly 86% on your test.

Percentile Range for Section Scores

The section score percentile shows how you performed in both the sections as compared to other students. For example, getting a percentile of 70 on your Math section means that you scored better than 70% of students in the Math section.

But before you dive deep into SAT percentiles, make sure to check out our SAT scoring guide to understand how SAT scores are calculated.

Types of SAT score percentiles

There are two types of SAT percentiles that are released by the College Board® for both total and section scores. This is done by comparing two different student populations. They are:

  1. Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles: These percentiles are calculated by conducting research among U.S. students in grades 11 and 12, regardless of whether they take the test.
  2. SAT User Percentiles: These percentiles are calculated by taking into account the actual score of students from the past three graduating classes who were a part of the current SAT test.

What are good SAT score percentiles?

A percentile of 75 is considered to be good for the SAT, which would mean getting a total score of 1200. For getting a percentile of 90 and above, you need to score at least 1350 on your SAT test.

How Do SAT Percentiles Get Calculated?

The College Board publishes SAT score percentiles every year for the total score as well as the section scores. This data is important to know how well you and others performed on the test. For your reference, the below tables show a list of the SAT score percentile charts released by the College Board in 2022:

Total score percentiles

The following table displays the total score ranges and their respective percentiles:

Total Score Range Percentile
1550 - 1600 99 to 99+
1500 - 1550 98 to 99
1450-1500 96 to 98
1400-1450 93 to 96
1350-1400 90 to 93
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 51 to 59
1000-1050 42 to 51
950-1000 34 to 42
900-950 26 to 34
850-900 19 to 26
800-850 12 to 19
750-800 7 to 12
700-750 3 to 7
650-700 1 to 3
600-650 1- to 1
550-600 1-
500-550 1-
450-500 1-
400-450 1-

Section score percentiles

Below is the list showing section score ranges and their respective percentiles:

Total Score (Range) EBRW Percentile Math Percentile
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 88 to 91
660-680 87 to 91 85 to 88
640-660 83 to 87 82 to 85
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 61 to 67 64 to 69
540-560 54 to 61 58 to 64
520-540 48 to 54 50 to 58
500-520 41 to 48 43 to 50
480-500 35 to 41 37 to 43
460-480 28 to 35 31 to 37
440-460 22 to 28 25 to 31
420-440 16 to 22 20 to 25
400-420 11 to 16 16 to 20
380-400 7 to 11 11 to 16
360-380 4 to 7 7 to 11
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-

SAT percentiles vs SAT averages

SAT percentiles help you analyze your performance as compared to other students and range from 1 to 99. On the other hand, SAT averages do not tell you much about your own performance. This is the mean or average of the SAT scores of a particular year. SAT averages are calculated by adding up the scores of every test taker and dividing the sum by the total number of students who took the test. SAT score averages are also calculated based on state, gender, ethnicity, race, and other demographics.

How to find the average SAT percentile scores for your college?

You can find the average percentile scores for your prospective colleges by checking out their respective admission policies.

How Can Knowing Your SAT Percentile Help You?

As you may already know, the most important thing for college admissions is your total SAT score. However, your percentile helps the admissions officers compare your scores with other students and analyze how you performed on the test.

Knowing your percentile can help you a lot, especially if you are confused about whether to take the SAT a second time or not. A small difference in your total score can have a significant impact on your SAT score percentile. For example, if you score a 750 on your EBRW section and a 650 on your Math section, it might not seem like an enormous difference. But if you check your percentile, you would have received 98 percentile points for EBRW and 83 percentile points for your Math section. That makes a huge difference! In this case, the percentile will help you understand how much you need to improve on both sections. While scoring 50 more points on the EBRW can give you a 99+ percentile score, scoring 100 more points on the Math section can get you more than 95th percentile.

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