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SAT Score Ranges: Understand Your Score vs Class Grades

Posted by Dr. Fred Zhang | Apr 29, 2016 1:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

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What’s the best possible SAT score and worst possible SAT score you could get? How do you understand SAT scores if you’re used to letter grades like A- or B+, or test scores like 93%?  In this guide, we convert SAT scores into much more understandable class grades to help you interpret your SAT score. 

 

 

What's the Raw SAT Range?

First, if you are looking for the pure SAT score range, it is 200 minimum, 800 maximum per section.  

The old SAT, which stopped being used in January 2016, had three sections, so the range for the entire exam was 600 to 2400. The current SAT has two sections, so its range is 400 to 1600. It's as simple as that!

But that might not tell you much since it's rare that someone will get a perfect 1600 or as low as a 400. However, if you’re more used to thinking about class grades like A+, B-, etc. then we can map SAT scores into grades to give you a rough idea of the letter grade your SAT score corresponds to. Likewise, we can do the same if you’re more used to numerical class grades like 95% for a good test or 55% for a failing test.  

 

How Can You Understand Your SAT Score If You're Used to Class Grades?

We’ll first present the results of our conversion of SAT scores to class grades, and then we’ll interpret the results.  For those interested in technical details, we’ll then tell you how we got there.  In the final section, we’ll then discuss some other interpretations of what a good SAT score is.  

 

Conversion of Old and New SAT Scores to Class Grade Equivalents

Old SAT Score New SAT Score Numerical Class Grade Letter Class Grade
2400 1600 100.0 A+
2390 1593 100.0 A+
2380 1587 100.0 A+
2370 1580 100.0 A+
2360 1573 100.0 A+
2350 1567 100.0 A+
2340 1560 100.0 A+
2330 1553 99.9 A+
2320 1547 99.9 A+
2310 1540 99.9 A+
2300 1533 99.9 A+
2290 1527 99.9 A+
2280 1520 99.9 A+
2270 1513 99.8 A+
2260 1507 99.8 A+
2250 1500 99.8 A+
2240 1493 99.8 A+
2230 1487 99.7 A+
2220 1480 99.7 A+
2210 1473 99.7 A+
2200 1467 99.7 A+
2190 1460 99.6 A+
2180 1453 99.6 A+
2170 1447 99.5 A+
2160 1440 99.5 A+
2150 1433 99.5 A+
2140 1427 99.4 A+
2130 1420 99.4 A+
2120 1413 99.3 A+
2110 1407 99.3 A+
2100 1400 99.2 A+
2090 1393 99.2 A+
2080 1387 99.1 A+
2070 1380 99.0 A+
2060 1373 99.0 A+
2050 1367 98.9 A+
2040 1360 98.8 A+
2030 1353 98.8 A+
2020 1347 98.7 A+
2010 1340 98.6 A+
2000 1333 98.5 A+
1990 1327 98.4 A+
1980 1320 98.3 A+
1970 1313 98.2 A+
1960 1307 98.2 A+
1950 1300 98.1 A+
1940 1293 97.9 A+
1930 1287 97.8 A+
1920 1280 97.7 A+
1910 1273 97.6 A+
1900 1267 97.5 A+
1890 1260 97.4 A+
1880 1253 97.2 A+
1870 1247 97.1 A+
1860 1240 97.0 A
1850 1233 96.8 A
1840 1227 96.7 A
1830 1220 96.5 A
1820 1213 96.4 A
1810 1207 96.2 A
1800 1200 96.0 A
1790 1193 95.9 A
1780 1187 95.7 A
1770 1180 95.5 A
1760 1173 95.3 A
1750 1167 95.1 A
1740 1160 94.9 A
1730 1153 94.7 A
1720 1147 94.5 A
1710 1140 94.3 A
1700 1133 94.1 A
1690 1127 93.9 A
1680 1120 93.7 A
1670 1113 93.4 A
1660 1107 93.2 A
1650 1100 93.0 A-
1640 1093 92.7 A-
1630 1087 92.5 A-
1620 1080 92.2 A-
1610 1073 91.9 A-
1600 1067 91.7 A-
1590 1060 91.4 A-
1580 1053 91.1 A-
1570 1047 90.8 A-
1560 1040 90.5 A-
1550 1033 90.2 A-
1540 1027 89.9 B+
1530 1020 89.6 B+
1520 1013 89.3 B+
1510 1007 89.0 B+
1500 1000 88.7 B+
1490 993 88.4 B+
1480 987 88.1 B+
1470 980 87.8 B+
1460 973 87.5 B+
1450 967 87.2 B+
1440 960 86.9 B
1430 953 86.6 B
1420 947 86.2 B
1410 940 85.9 B
1400 933 85.6 B
1390 927 85.3 B
1380 920 84.9 B
1370 913 84.6 B
1360 907 84.3 B
1350 900 83.9 B
1340 893 83.6 B
1330 887 83.2 B
1320 880 82.9 B-
1310 873 82.5 B-
1300 867 82.1 B-
1290 860 81.7 B-
1280 853 81.3 B-
1270 847 80.9 B-
1260 840 80.4 B-
1250 833 80.0 C+
1240 827 79.5 C+
1230 820 79.0 C+
1220 813 78.5 C+
1210 807 78.0 C+
1200 800 77.5 C+
1190 793 77.0 C
1180 787 76.5 C
1170 780 76.0 C
1160 773 75.5 C
1150 767 75.0 C
1140 760 74.5 C
1130 753 74.0 C
1120 747 73.5 C
1110 740 73.0 C-
1100 733 72.4 C-
1090 727 71.9 C-
1080 720 71.3 C-
1070 713 70.6 C-
1060 707 69.8 D+
1050 700 69.0 D+
1040 693 68.1 D+
1030 687 67.3 D+
1020 680 66.4 D
1010 673 65.5 D
1000 667 64.6 D
990 660 63.6 D
980 653 62.5 D
970 647 61.2 D
960 640 59.3 F
950 633 57.2 F
940 627 55.2 F
930 620 53.1 F
920 613 51.2 F
910 607 49.2 F
900 600 47.3 F
890 593 45.4 F
880 587 43.5 F
870 580 41.7 F
860 573 39.9 F
850 567 38.1 F
840 560 36.3 F
830 553 34.6 F
820 547 32.8 F
810 540 31.1 F
800 533 29.5 F
790 527 27.9 F
780 520 26.4 F
770 513 24.8 F
760 507 23.4 F
750 500 21.9 F
740 493 20.4 F
730 487 18.9 F
720 480 17.5 F
710 473 16.1 F
700 467 14.7 F
690 460 13.4 F
680 453 12.1 F
670 447 10.9 F
660 440 9.7 F
650 433 8.6 F
640 427 7.7 F
630 420 6.6 F
620 413 5.7 F
610 407 5.0 F
600 400 3.2 F

 

How can you read this table?  Suppose you received a 1500 on the old SAT (or a 1000 on the current SAT). You'd want to find this row:

Old SAT Score New SAT Score Numerical Class Grade Letter Class Grade
1500 1000 88.7 B+

 

Under Numerical Class Grade, 88.7 means that this SAT score is like getting a class score of 88.7% (or round to 89%) at the end of the year.  Imagine getting a 88.7 in history, English, or math. Under Letter Class Grade, the B+ means this SAT score is similar to getting the class letter grade B+.

 

 

What Does the Conversion Table From SAT Score to Class Grades Really Show You?

To put it simply, the conversion table takes your SAT score and tells you how well you're doing in terms of class grades. You're used to class grades because you've seen them since you began school, but this might be the first time you've looked at SAT scores. In the table above, we've taken something you might be unfamiliar with and put it in terms of something you know and understand.

To be more precise, the above table matches SAT scores to class grades based on percentiles. The SAT percentile is calculated from a recent group of old SAT scores. The class grades percentile is based on a comprehensive academic survey of common grades given out in college (which closely match US high school grades culturally).  In other words, to go from a old SAT score of 1500 to 88.7%, we looked at the SAT percentile of 1500 (it happens to be right about 50%), and then we used a comprehensive academic survey which showed that the 50th percentile class grade across many colleges was an 88.7%, or a B+.

Imagine getting a B+ in one of your classes. Would you be happy with that grade? Would you consider yourself to know the material well? You can then apply those feelings to your SAT score and use them to plan your next steps, such as if you'd like to retake the exam.

 

Interesting Notes from the Conversion Table

First, you should note that the distribution of SAT scores and grades are quite different. There is a lot of resolution at the top end of the SAT scale -- an 1870 and a 2400 are 530 points apart, yet they all map to A+. Read that again; it's not a mistake: a 2400 and a 1870 are both A+. 

Classes oftentimes do not do a good job of distinguishing great students from the truly spectacular. In a class of 20, you might have two people get an A+, which seems like a small number, until you realize that in that same class of 20, if it represented all students in the USA, you would only have two people as well who get 1870 or above. The SAT is useful to colleges, especially very selective ones, because it distinguishes the 90th percent from the 99th percent.  

Also, class grades and SAT scores are equally good at resolving middle-of-the-pack students.  When you go from an SAT score of 1020 to a 1660 -- just a range of 640 -- you're going from a straight D to an A. For students who are near the median of their class or a bit below, SAT scores and class grades both have decent resolution.  

Finally, you may notice that both SAT scores and class grades have non-zero starting points, which makes sense when you apply it to what you know about the kinds of grades that are given out. When was the last time you heard of someone getting a 30 out of 100 as their final grade for a class? Less than 4% of class grades are failing grades. Likewise, when was the last time you heard someone get less than a 900 on the old version of the SAT? Even though the SAT goes all the way down to 600, fewer than 2% of people get less than a 900. Just like it's a good idea to think of class grades as starting from a D and not a 0, it's better to think of SATs as starting from 900 and not 600.

 

Can SAT Scores Really Be Mapped to Class Grades?

They certainly can! However, I should warn you, such mappings are an inexact science.  Some issues you should be aware of include:

SATs and classes test very different things. The SAT is a mostly-multiple-choice test given over the course of a few hours on a Saturday morning (usually). Classes consist of hundreds of hours of schoolwork. The SAT is a solitary activity. Classes include working with teachers and classmates.  The two measure different things. Getting a B+ in class does NOT mean you'll get a 1000 for sure on the SAT, and vice versa.  

Class grades are not rigorous. Is an A- a good grade?  If your teacher gives half the class a straight A, then A- is a bad grade. Conversely, if your teacher gives out only one A a year, you might have the top score. An A in art studies means something very different than getting an A in computer science. Thus, you can't look at the conversion too rigidly.

With that caveat out of the way, you're on the right track if you think of the table above as "lining up" different types of races. For example, you can't compare a 100-meter dash with the marathon, but you can say 10 seconds is an "Olympic level" 100-meter dash time, and 2:10m is an "Olympic level" marathon time.

 

What’s Next?

Wondering what SAT score you should be aiming for? Learn how to develop your target score based on the colleges you're interested in.

Not happy with where your SAT score places you? We're here to help! We have tons of guides specifically designed to raise your SAT score. To get you started, check out these 21 tips to improving your SAT score.

Want to prepare for the SAT? Taking practice tests is one of the best ways to see how you're doing and raise your score. Check out our collection of free and official practice SATs for you to use. 

 

Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

 

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Dr. Fred Zhang
About the Author

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.



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