Confused about score percentiles? Don't be! If you've gotten back your score report, whether it's for the SAT, GRE, LSAT or another standardized test, and you're wondering what that percentage posted front and center on your score report actually means, then here's your explanation.
Score Percentile Rankings
One instance in which you'll be viewing score percentiles is when you look at school rankings to figure out whether or not you even have a shot at getting in your school of choice. Let's say you're looking at the SAT scores for the Really Prestigious School you're thinking about attending, and you find yourself staring at this information from last year's incoming freshman when you peruse their website:
Really Prestigious School:
- 25th percentile scores for incoming freshmen: 1400
- 75th percentile scores for incoming freshmen: 1570
So, what does that mean?
- 25th percentile means that 25% of the accepted students made a 1400 or below on the test. It also means that 75% of the accepted students scored above a 1400
- 75th percentile means that 75% of the accepted students made a 1570 or below on the test and that 25% of the accepted students scored above a 1570.
Basically, most incoming freshman from this school have scored at least a 1400 and that a quarter of their incoming freshman have scored a 1570 or higher.
Why Do Score Percentile Rankings Matter?
They are a great way to gauge whether or not your scores are in the range of the students entering the school of your choice. If you're shooting for Harvard, but your scores are more consistent with people going to community college in your area, then you may need to sign up for a prep service to help increase your scores.
Now keep in mind that scores aren't the only factor admissions counselors review when determining your acceptance (GPA, community service, school involvement, the all-important essay are in there, too). However, scores play a big part, so it's imperative to get the best score you can on your test.
Score Percentiles on Your Test
You also may be looking at your own score percentiles when you get back your score report for a certain test. Let's say you get some numbers like these:
- Evidence-Based Reading: 89th percentile
- Redesigned Math: 27th percentile
- Evidence-Based Writing: 90th percentile
Here's the interpretation:
- Evidence-Based Reading: You scored higher than 89% of the people who took this section. (You did really well!)
- Redesigned Math: You scored higher than 27% of the people who took this section. (You should have prepared a bit more!)
- Evidence-Based Writing: You scored higher than 90% of the people who took this section. (You did really well!)
Why Do Score Percentiles on Your Test Matter?
They are a great way to gauge whether or not your scores are in the range of the students who have also taken your test, which is helpful for understanding your competition for admissions, and learning the areas you could use more work. In the example above, for example, the math score was weak, so if you're considering going into a math field, it may be wise to figure out why you scored poorly in that area.