Raw scores, scaled scores, and percentiles

Students receive their online score reports approximately three weeks after test administration (six weeks for mailed, paper scores), with each section graded on a scale of 200–800 and two sub scores for the writing section: the essay score and the multiple choice sub score. In addition to their score, students receive their percentile (the percentage of other test takers with lower scores). The raw score, or the number of points gained from correct answers and lost from incorrect answers (ranges from just under 50 to just under 60, depending upon the test), is also included. Students may also receive, for an additional fee, the Question and Answer Service, which provides the student's answer, the correct answer to each question, and online resources explaining each question.

The corresponding percentile of each scaled score varies from test to test—for example, in 2003, a scaled score of 800 in both sections of the SAT Reasoning Test corresponded to a percentile of 99.9, while a scaled score of 800 in the SAT Physics Test corresponded to the 94th percentile. The differences in what scores mean with regard to percentiles are because of the content of the exam and the caliber of students choosing to take each exam. Subject Tests are subject to intensive study (often in the form of an AP, which is relatively more difficult), and only those who know they will perform well tend to take these tests, creating a skewed distribution of scores. The percentiles that various SAT scores for college-bound seniors correspond to are summarized in the following chart:
Percentile Score, 1600 Scale
(official, 2006)
Score, 2400 Scale
(official, 2006)
99.93/99.98* 1600 2400
99+ ≥1540 ≥2290
99 ≥1480 ≥2200
98 ≥1450 ≥2140
97 ≥1420 ≥2100
88 ≥1380 ≥1900
83 ≥1280 ≥1800
78 ≥1200 ≥1770
72 ≥1150 ≥1700
61 ≥1090 ≥1600
48 ≥1010 ≥1500
36 ≥950 ≥1400
15 ≥810 ≥1200
4 ≥670 ≥1010
1 ≥520 ≥790
* The percentile of the perfect score was 99.98 on the 2400 scale and 99.93 on the 1600 scale.

The older SAT (before 1995) had a very high ceiling. In any given year, only seven of the million test-takers scored above 1580. A score above 1580 was equivalent to the 99.9995 percentile.


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