This week the College Board finally released the percentile charts for the new SAT. As we reported last month, the College Board had released preliminary data on the first round of new SAT scores but a big missing piece was the percentile charts.
What are percentiles?
Percentiles measure how a student’s SAT score compares to other students’ scores. A Math score of 610 is in the 76th percentile, meaning a student who earned a 610 in Math did better than 76 percent of students who took the SAT.
Watch out! Just like on the new PSAT, there are now TWO percentiles on your score report. The first, the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile, compares your score to all 11th and 12th graders in the country. The SAT User Percentile compares you only to college bound 11th and 12th graders. This second percentile is the most important one if you are using the SAT for college admissions. It compares you to other students applying to college and helps you determine how competitive your scores are for your application. You will also notice that this percentile is lower than your Nationally Representative Sample Percentile (sometimes as much as 14 percentile points lower). This difference is entirely expected because the Nationally Representative Sample is a much bigger pool and includes students who are not on track to go to college.
Why does having percentiles matter?
Percentiles put your scores into context. They tell you (and colleges admissions experts) how well you did compared to other students.
Where can I view the new percentiles?
Your percentile will be on your score report when you log into your College Board Account.
If you want to see a full chart of all possible scores and their corresponding percentiles, you can download a copy here.
Have we learned anything new from these percentile charts?
One new piece of data on these charts is the average scores for the new SAT for college bound 11th and 12th graders:
Reading/Writing: 543 (out of 800)
Math: 541 (out of 800)
TOTAL SAT SCORE: 1083 (out of 1600)
We’ve also analyzed how closely these percentiles line up with the old SAT percentiles. In the graphs below we have charted the score a student would need in Math and Reading/Writing to reach a certain percentile goal. For example, if a student wanted to be in the 75th percentile, on the old SAT she would have needed a Math score of 600 but on the new Math she would need a 610. For a 75th percentile rank in Reading/Writing, she would have needed a 570 on average on the old Reading and Writing sections, but now needs a 610 on the new SAT Reading/Writing.
What do we see in these trends? The old and new Maths are pretty close actually. There’s a big gap at the low end of the scale, likely because of the elimination of the guessing penalty. But in the 50th–60th percentiles, a student will only need about 20 more points on the new exam than she needed on the old exam to maintain her percentile rank. That point discrepancy drops to only 10 points in the 60th–75th percentiles and then pretty much disappears above the 75th percentile.
In Reading/Writing the spread is larger. In the 50th–60th percentiles, a student will need about 60 points more on the new SAT than on the old SAT. In the 60th–80th percentiles she will need an additional 50 points. Above the 80th the gap is 10–20 points.
What does this mean? Percentile gaps happen because the tests are so different. What’s most important is that students don’t make the mistake of assuming that a 650 on the old test is the same as a 650 on the new test. Because the tests and their percentiles have changed, so have the benchmarks. Your best bet is to convert your scores and goals all to the same format (the new SAT score scale) using tools like the College Board’s score converter app. It’s the best way to really know what your scores mean.