How to Understand and Use Your SAT Percentiles

The scholastic aptitude test, more commonly known as the SAT, is one of the shared challenges of almost every American teenager. If you want to pursue higher education after earning your high school degree, you will need to bend all of your energy in preparing and studying for the SAT. According to experts, approximately 3 million high school students take the SATs every year in hopes of getting high enough scores to enter the college of their choice.

Preparing for the SATs is one of the most difficult hurdles between graduating high school and enjoying your freshman orientation. However, although many high schoolers think getting their early SAT scores and what scores they should get on their tests, few consider the ramifications of their SAT percentiles.

Today, learn the importance of understanding what your SAT percentiles mean, how is it different from your SAT score and how you can use it to get into your college of choice.

What Do Your SAT Percentiles Mean?

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Your SAT percentiles are key to putting your scores in context. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Simply put, your SAT percentiles tell you exactly how many of the other SAT you “beat” in a particular area. Here is a hypothetical situation that can illustrate what this means. Imagine you get your early SAT scores and you see that you only got 75 questions right out of 100 in one portion of the test. Sounds disheartening, right? But when you check your percentile, you find out that you are in 90th percentile in that section. What does that mean? Why are the numbers different?

The key to understanding the difference between your percentile and score relies on knowing what they represent.

Your SAT score tells you how many of the questions you got right. Your SAT percentile tells you how many students got the questions wrong. In the above example, although you only got 75 of the questions correct, it means that 90 percent of the other test takers got more questions wrong than you did.

SAT percentiles are more fluid than your score because it depends on the aptitude of the other students taking the test. Their weight similarly varies across different fields.

For example, getting into the 80th percentile of the Math portion of the SAT is more impressive to some colleges than getting into the same percentile of the History portion. Your SAT percentiles put your test scores in context with the rest of the batch, letting college admissions offices understand how well you did when compared to others.

For example, the average score in the SATs Is 1,051 out of 1,600, but which areas did takers struggle in the most? Which did more students get the questions right? Percentiles help test makers and colleges understand these questions.

The SATs are not the only standardized testing systems out there. The GED test, MCATs and LSATs all use percentiles to determine the aptitude of batches and individual test takers.

How Can You Use Your SAT Percentile?

Use your SAT percentiles to better prepare yourself for the test. Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Now that you understand what your SAT percentiles mean and how they relate to your scores, what makes them so important in getting into college? How can you use your percentiles and early SAT scores to determine your next steps in academia?

  • Choosing a College

Knowing which percentiles you are a part of can help you determine which colleges you can reasonably get accepted in. If you are in the upper percentiles in the math or science portion, you most definitely have a career waiting for you in those fields. You can also use this information as leverage when getting into college.

For example, you may not have stellar scores in your Social Studies portion of the test, but if you are in the 90th percentile, you can present a case that you are still good enough to enter the college. This can be particularly effective if you are trying to enter a college that specializes in that area.

  • Taking the Test Again

One of the hard facts of being a high schooler is that you may have to retake your SATs if your scores the first time around aren’t where you need them to be. Your SAT percentiles may help you determine whether or not you should retake the SATs at all. After graduating high school, some students have to think carefully whether they want to take summer jobs as a prelude to full-time employment or preparing for college.

If your percentiles aren’t where you want them, it could be a sign that you should explore other options rather than retake the SATs.

  • Focusing Your Studies

Finally, your SAT percentiles and your earl SAT scores can tell you which portions you need to focus on if you are planning on retaking them. This is important, especially if you can only spend a limited amount of time on your remote learning classes.

For example, if you meet with an SAT tutor twice a week, your percentiles will tell them which areas they should devote that time to. Topics where you have high scores and in a high percentile can be touched on briefly, but the bulk of your time should be focused on areas where you have low scores and are in the low percentiles.

Your SAT percentiles are important tools for you to fine tune your approach to this rigorous standardized test. Knowing what they mean and learning how best to put your percentiles to use will be key in determining whether you get into your college of choice or if you get into college at all.

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