SAT Percentiles and Score Rankings (Updated 2020)

 

Have you recently taken the SAT and are unsure whether you should retake the exam? Or perhaps you haven’t taken the SAT yet but want to set a goal score.

Understanding your SAT score percentiles is one of the best ways to understand your SAT scores. Understanding percentile rankings can help you maximize your study time, find the biggest score gains, and impress your dream school. Continue reading for a guide to using SAT score percentiles to improve your SAT score and college admissions chances.


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What Are SAT Score Percentiles?

In addition to your SAT composite score (a number between 400 and 1600), you’ll receive a percentile ranking ranging from 1 to 99. The SAT assigns a percentile rank to your overall composite score, as well as to each of the two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math.


Your percentile indicates how well you performed on the SAT in comparison to everyone else who took the test.

For example, if you received a composite percentile of 76, this means you outperformed 76 percent of the students on the entire test. If you received a percentile of 47 on the Math section, you outperformed 47 percent of SAT Math students.


Your percentile score is not the same as a letter grade. For example, a percentile of 90 does not imply that you correctly answered 90 percent of the questions. It simply means that, when compared to everyone else who took the SAT, you outperformed 90% of them. (See our scoring guide for more information on how the SAT is scored.)

So, why are percentiles important? Colleges compare you to other students using percentiles. If you received a SAT score in the 90th percentile, for example, you would be competitive for many schools because you outperformed 90 percent of students nationwide.

Paying attention to your percentile ranking as well as your composite score can provide you with the most accurate picture of your performance and assist you in making strategic decisions about which colleges to apply to.

What Are the Percentile Ranges for the SAT?

 

So you understand why percentile rankings are important. But, if you haven’t taken the SAT yet, or if you have and plan to retake it, what composite SAT score should you aim for to achieve a specific percentile ranking?

Fortunately, the College Board publishes data on composite scores and matching percentile rankings to assist you in determining this. These figures vary slightly from year to year, but we have the most up-to-date information from 2020.


We’ve created a percentile chart to summarize the SAT percentile ranges. Simply find your score to determine your estimated percentile.


SAT Composite Score Range

Percentile Score
1550-1600 99 to 99+
1500-1550 98 to 99
1450-1500 96 to 98
1400-1450 94 to 96
1350-1400 90 to 94
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 50 to 59
1000-1050 41 to 50
950-1000 33 to 41
900-950 25 to 33
850-900 18 to 25
800-850 11 to 18
750-800 6 to 11
700-750 3 to 6
650-700 1 to 3
600-650 1- to 1
550-600 1-
500-550 1-
450-500 1-
400-450 1-

It’s worth noting that the percentile ranks change the fastest with the middle scores. For example, the difference between 1450 and 1600 (the highest possible score) is only 4 percentile points, from 96 to 99.


The same point difference between 1100 and 1250, on the other hand, has a huge percentile difference—59 to 81. This means that if you scored 1100 or lower, increasing your overall composite by just 150 points would give you a significant boost in percentile rank and admissions competitiveness!

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SAT Percentile Charts by Section

We also have data on percentile rankings for EBRW and Math score ranges. Check out the graph below to see how your scores compare.


Section Score Range

SAT EBRW Percentiles

SAT Math Percentiles

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 89 to 91

660-680
88 to 91 86 to 89

640-660
83 to 88 82 to 86

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
60 to 67 64 to 69

540-560
54 to 60 58 to 64

520-540
47 to 54 50 to 58

500-520
40 to 47 42 to 50

480-500
34 to 40 36 to 42

460-480
27 to 34 30 to 36

440-460
21 to 27 24 to 30

420-440
15 to 21 19 to 24

400-420
11 to 15 15 to 19

380-400
7 to 11 10 to 15

360-380
4 to 7 7 to 10

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-

 

 

Again, the percentile ranks shift dramatically toward the middle scores: 500 in EBRW is only 40%, but 600 is 73%. In other words, a 100-point boost—which is very doable with some strategic studying—could transform your score from poor to good.

 

It is worth noting that the Math curve is more competitive at the top than the EBRW curve. A 760 is in the 96th percentile for Math but in the 99th percentile for EBRW, whereas a 700 is in the 91st percentile for Math but in the 94th percentile for EBRW. This means that if you wanted to achieve the same percentile on both sections, you’d have to score higher on Math than on EBRW.

Check out our guide to average SAT scores, which also looks at score breakdowns by gender and ethnic group, for more information on SAT scores and rankings.

How Can Knowing Your SAT Percentile Help You?

We know that percentiles are important, and that in some cases, a relatively small increase in your composite score can have a significant impact on your percentile ranking.

The most important factor, however, is your target composite score for the colleges to which you wish to apply.

While percentiles assist college admissions officers in comparing your scores, schools also have their own score ranges that rarely change from year to year.

To find SAT score ranges for a college, Google “[School Name] SAT scores PrepScholar” to find our Admission Requirements page, which includes SAT/ACT score ranges as well as information on GPA ranges and overall competitiveness. See our guide on what a good SAT score is for more information on how to use this strategy (as well as a table you can fill out for your specific colleges).

Finally, SAT percentile rankings can be a valuable resource for you. Especially when deciding whether or not to retake the SA, percentiles can help put your SAT scores into perspective. The difference between your 700 in EBRW and 600 in Math, for example, may not appear to be significant, but your EBRW score is in the 94th percentile, while your Math score is in the 75th percentile. What a difference!

This means that focusing on the Math section for your retake will give you more bang for your buck. By increasing your Math score by 100 points, you can move from the 75th to the 92nd percentile. Increasing your EBRW score from 700 to 800, while impressive, only improves your percentile ranking by 5%.

Of course, this does not mean you should disregard EBRW—in fact, a 50-point increase would put you in the 99th percentile! Recognizing that you stand to gain more with Math, on the other hand, can help you prioritize your study time better.

What’s Next?

Now that you understand the intricacies of national SAT percentiles, find out what the average SAT scores are, as well as the average SAT scores in your state.


Trying to figure out what your SAT target score should be? Perhaps you took the SAT but are unsure if your score is competitive. Our guide can assist you in developing a personal SAT target score based on the colleges to which you are applying.

Trying to reach for the stars? Check out what a good Ivy League SAT score looks like.

Are you ready to go beyond simply reading about the SAT? Then you’ll appreciate our SAT Complete Prep program’s free five-day trial. PrepScholar SAT experts designed and wrote our SAT program, which customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so you can focus your studying on what will get you the most score gains.