According to the College Board, millions of soon-to-be college-bound students take the SAT test in more than 170 countries across the globe. After hours of test prep and actually making it through the exam itself, you'll want to fully understand the number grade and percentile before you start applying to colleges.
Pointing Out the Points
Analyzing your SAT score involves first understanding how the test's point system works. Like what you would expect on any exam, the SAT awards test-takers one point for correct answers to the questions. If you get a multiple-choice answer wrong, you'll lose one-quarter of a point, instead of a whole one. Wrong answers on non-multiple-choice questions in the math section won't cost you anything, but won't win you any points -- having a score of a zero. If you omit, or don't answer, a question you will also get a zero.
Equating and Analysis
Your SAT scores don't stop at the one, negative one-fourth or zero mark. After completing the test, the College Board analyzes your raw score, ensuring that it shows your skills and knowledge in a fair way. This includes an equating process that pits your current score with what you would score on a prior edition of the test, making sure that it holds up and isn't skewed. The test-makers then convert this raw score into a scaled one that has a point value between 200 and 800. This doesn't mean you actually answer between 200 and 800 questions, but that the College Board equates the numeric value of your correct responses into this scale.
Totaling It Up
You will receive two scaled scores that fall between 200 and 800 points: one for critical reading and the other for math. Additionally, you'll also get an essay score that ranges from 2 to 12 points and 20 to 80 points for your multiple-choice writing questions. Two separate evaluators review the essay section, rating it between one and six points a piece. If the score varies more than one point between the raters, a third person must score it. According to the College Board, a 500 is the average score on the SAT, meaning that if you get this exact total 50 percent of students did better than you and another 50 percent did worse.
When you receive your percentile score, it shows you how well you did on the exam in comparison to other test-takers. For example, if you rank in the 60th percentile, your score was better than 60 percent of students who took the previous year's SAT. The College Board provides you with a total percentile that includes all test-takers as well as a state-specific number. The score to percentile conversion may change based on the year and the specific version of the test. For example, in 2012 a 750 score would put you in the 98th critical reading percentile, while a 570 puts you in the 73rd.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.