Several weeks after taking the SAT, high school juniors and seniors receive their SAT score reports. It is imperative that test-takers know what to expect with these reports in order to make sense of their results and take the appropriate next steps. By accurately interpreting their SAT scores, students will be better equipped to make decisions about their education.
Here are three of a number of items that you can expect to see on your SAT score report.
Your total score and section scores. Your overall SAT score will fall on a scale from 400 to 1600. This total score is both visually and mathematically the largest number on your SAT score report and you will not be able to miss it. Your total score is the sum of your scores on two sections: evidence-based Reading and writing and math. These sections are graded on a scale from 200 to 800.
It is important to note that the College Board has established benchmark scores for both sections: 480 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 530 for Math. Meeting or exceeding these benchmark scores suggests that you are 75% likely to earn a C or higher in a related introductory college-level course. Your score report will indicate whether or not you have reached them.
[Read: When Retaking the SAT Makes Sense.]
Benchmark scores guide students in making post-SAT plans. Failing to meet a benchmark score may indicate that you will struggle with college-level courses, and therefore may need extra preparation before starting university. However, meeting a benchmark score is not a guarantee that you will do well. Instead, it is an indicator that a student is ready for college. By no means should you be discouraged from pursuing college because of your benchmark status.
Subscores. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section provides data in four subscore skill areas: Command of Evidence, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions and Words in Context. The Math section assesses three subscore skill areas: Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. Together, they combine to form a total of seven subscores, which are graded on a scale from 1 to 15.
While subscores are not the only in-depth results that students receive, it is important to review your performance on all seven subscores. The subscores give you a clearer, more specific understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. If you plan to sit for the SAT a second time, your seven subscores can steer your study efforts.
Percentile rank. In addition to a total score, section scores, test scores, cross-test scores, subscores and essay scores if applicable, your score report will also include a percentile rank informing you of your percentiles for total score, evidence-Based reading and writing, and math.
Your percentile rank indicates the percentage of students you outperformed or who performed at the same level as you. For example, placing in the 60th percentile overall would mean that you performed better than or equal to 60% of all other test-takers.
Understandably, students may not know how to interpret their total scores, section scores or subscores. It is for this reason that the College Board provides benchmark status and percentile rank on students’ score reports.
You may feel disappointed or elated about your percentile rank, section scores or total score. It is, however, recommended that you first place your results within the context of college admissions. More specifically, determine your chances of acceptance to the colleges you are considering rather than your chances of acceptance to colleges as a whole.
[Read: What’s a Good SAT Score?]
For example, Harvard University reports a range of 600-800 on each SAT section. If you were to score a 740 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and a 760 on Math, you would fall within their window and could reasonably apply.
Properly making sense of your SAT score report will ultimately ensure you make the right post-test moves, whether that means taking the SAT again, being content with your score or creating another plan altogether.
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