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Compare Scores

This information refers to the current SAT and is in effect through the January 2016 test date. Get information about the redesigned SAT, which starts March 2016.

How to compare SAT scores

Some frequently asked questions about comparing SAT scores include the following.

How do I know if a student did better on critical reading, writing, or mathematics?

Because the average SAT score for both critical reading and mathematics is near the midpoint of the score scale, it is easy to compare the two. However, when comparing scores, remember that the student's true score is not a single number—a test-taker may score slightly higher in one area but still be equal in both skills.

To consider one score better than another, there must be a difference of 60 points between the critical reading and mathematics scores, 80 points between the critical reading and writing scores, and 80 points between the mathematics and writing scores.

How can I use the percentiles and score range to interpret scores?

Use percentiles to compare a student's scores with those of other students who took the test. The number, between 1 and 99, tells what percentage of students earned a lower score. Percentiles are based on the most recent scores earned by current-year college-bound seniors who took the test at any time during high school.

For the SAT, percentiles are given for the nation and state. A student's percentile changes depending on the group he is compared with. Because the national group is larger and more diverse than the state group, the national and state percentiles may be different.

Scores are an approximation rather than precise measures of skill. Use the score range to get a better picture of a student's performance. The score range usually extends from 30 points below the score to 30 points above, showing where a student's score would probably fall if the student took the test again in a short period of time. Any score within the range is considered to demonstrate the same level of ability as the score the student received.

How did a student perform on each test section?

Knowing how a student performed on each type of question can help to identify skill strengths and weaknesses. There must be a difference of 20 or more points between percentile ranks before students can assume they have more skill in one area than in the other.

How can I tell that one student performed better than another on the SAT?

There must be a difference of at least 60 points between two students' scores in order for there to be a true difference in ability. See if your students should consider retaking the SAT.

Customized Entry Pages


Go to the SAT Downloads and Materials Ordering page to view and print these and other related materials:

  • Guidelines for the Release of Data
  • Score Reporting Options for High Schools
  • Electronic Data Layout for High Schools
  • Score Reporting Options for Higher Ed Institutions
  • Electronic Data Layout for Higher Ed Institutions

SAT-ACT Concordance Study

The College Board and the ACT have released a study of all the students in the high school graduating class of 2006 who took both the ACT and the SAT. Read more>>

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