The Stanford Achievement Test is a norm-referenced standardized test that your child will take to determine how well he or she is doing in school. Although not necessarily an indicator of future success, understanding the Stanford Achievement Test, or SAT and being able to interpret the results can show you the areas in which your child may need additional help. The SAT contains several sub tests which asses reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, math problem solving and procedures, language and spelling.

Some parents have difficulty when trying to interpret SAT results, but if you can break the code, you'll find that it's easy to figure out the Stanford Achievement Test results. Scores will be reported as number correct, scaled scores, national percentile ranks, comparisons and grade equivalents. Each score is interpreted differently and it is important to understand how the scores combine to create an overall picture of student performance.

Understanding the Raw Score

The raw score is essentially how many questions the test taker got correct. You will find this at the upper left corner of the test results and it will include the raw score and total number of items. This will tell you how many questions were on the exam and how many answers your child got right. This is also reported as 'Number Correct,' and it is not statistically important.

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Interpreting the National Percentile Rank

The National Percentile Rank is scored between 1 - 99 with 50 being the average. This score indicates how a test taker performed in comparison to other test takers of the same age. This is the percentile into which your child fell when compared with other students on a national level. The score, reported as a percentage, indicates that your child did better than that percentage of students nationally. For example, if your child is in the 80th percentile, it means that he or she did better than 80 percent of the students within the same age group who took the test.

Understanding School Percentile Rank

The School Percentile Rank is similar to the National Percentile Rank, however this score compares your child with other students in his or her school. Under the national percentile score, you will find a score that compares your child with the other test takers in his or her school. This score is interpreted in the same way as the national percentile, but the comparison is within your specific school; a considerably smaller pool of students.

Interpreting the Grade Equivalent

The grade equivalent provides a general grade level of overall performance. The score is reported with two numbers separated by a decimal. The number before the decimal indicates the grade year and the number after the decimal indicates the grade month. If a test taker has a grade equivalent of 5.6, it means that a students earned a score equivalent to a typical student in the sixth month of fifth grade. This does not say that your child is performing at that grade level; however, it means that a student at that same grade level would have gotten the same score as your child if she were to take the same test as your child.

Understanding Percentile Bands

Percentile bands represent an overview of strengths and areas of weakness. The areas are reported by subject area or domain and offer a quick overview of performance in each area.

In some cases, practice makes perfect, however not necessarily in this case. There are arguments for and against taking a standardized test multiple times in an attempt to improve your score. One theory is the law of diminished return, which indicates that the more you take a test won't likely increase your chances of improving your score. The main reasons include the possibility that nervousness, test anxiety or unfamiliarity will negatively affect your score.

However, giving it a second try may be a good idea, although it's not always a necessity. If for, example, the first try was wrought with test anxiety, a second attempt may improve your score because of familiarity. Practice tests are always a good idea, too.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.