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Historical SAT Percentiles: New SAT 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 2, 2020 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

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If you took the new SAT in between 2016 and 2020, you might be wondering what percentile your score is in. Is a 700 on Math in 2016 the same as a 700 in Math in 2020? How much do percentile scores change from year to year?

In this article, I'll explain what new SAT percentile scores are and how they've changed over time. I'll also provide percentiles for SAT combined and section scores for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

 

What Are SAT Percentile Scores?

Your SAT percentile score tells you how well you did compared to other students who took the SAT. If you scored in the 97th percentile, then you scored higher than 97% of the people who took the test. If you scored in the 50th percentile, you did better than 50% of the people who took the test.

Every year, the College Board determines that year's SAT percentile scores based on how college-bound high school seniors that year scored on the SAT. The higher the percentile your SAT score is in, the better you scored compared to other high school seniors.

 

Special Note: Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles vs. SAT User Percentiles

On your score report, you'll see information about two different kinds of percentiles: Nationally Representative Sample Percentiles and SAT User Percentiles. For this article, when we talk about percentiles we'll be exclusively referring to SAT User Percentiles, which are based on only actual SAT scores of students in the classes of 2016-2020 who took the new SAT. Read this article to find out more about the differences between the two percentile types on your SAT score report.

 

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Do Percentile Scores Change?

In the past, SAT scores stayed pretty much at the same percentile, year over year. For instance, on the old SAT, a score of 1880 was in the 87th percentile for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

That SAT percentile scores haven't changed much over time is intentional—the whole idea behind the SAT scoring system is that colleges can know that a student who got a 1880 SAT score in 2010 performed about the same as a student who got a 1880 SAT score in 2006 or 2015. If an 1880 was in the 80th percentile in 2010 and the 95th percentile in 2015, the scores would be meaningless for comparison purposes on their own.

Because the SAT in its current format has only been administered for a few years, however, new SAT scores aren't quite as tied to specific percentiles. As an example, a 1230 new SAT score was in the 77th percentile in 2016, 80th percentile in 2017, and 79th percentile in 2018, and 78th percentile in 2019 and 2020.

The biggest differences changes in percentiles on the new SAT happened for students who scored between 860 and 1200, with the same score differing by as many as eight percentile points between 2016 and 2020 (for instance, a 950 was in the 25th percentile in 2016 and 33rd percentile in 2020).

As the new SAT is administered to more students over more years, these differences will no doubt shrink, making it easier to compare the same scores. For now, though, if you're scoring in the 860-1200 range, you can expect the percentile of your score to shift by up to eight percentile points compared to past years.

 

How Should You Use This Info and Why Does It Matter?

Because the same SAT scores have had such varying percentiles in the last couple of years, your percentile score is the easiest way to figure out how well you did on the SAT. If you scored higher than 50 percent of test-takers, then you're above average; if you scored higher than 75 percent of test-takers, then you did very well indeed.

When you apply to college, however, you're not being compared to all students who took the SAT, but to all students who took the SAT and are applying to that school. To help students figure out how they stack up against past successful applicants, colleges usually publicly post 25th and 75th percentile scores of admitted students. If you want to be a competitive candidate for a school, your target SAT score should be around or above a school's 75th percentile score.

On a section level, percentiles can help you put your scores in context. It might seem like you're doing about equally well on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math if you get a 690 on ERW and a 640 on Math. However, a 690 ERW score is in the 93rd percentile, while a 640 Math score is in the 82nd percentile. Raising each section score by 100 points would raise your Math percentile ranking by 13 points and your ERW percentile ranking by only 6 points. If you're thinking about retaking the SAT and trying to figure out where you should focus your studying efforts, your percentile scores can help identify how you can improve the most.

Finally, percentile scores also tell us that a small increase in your composite score can have a large impact on your percentile score, particularly if you're scoring around or even a little below the middle of the pack. For instance, in 2020 an SAT score of 1050 was at the 50th percentile, but a score of 1210 was at the 76th. Increasing your score by just 160 points can take your score from average to the top quarter of all SAT scores.

 

Composite Score Percentiles, 2016-2020

SAT Composite Score  2020 Percentile
2019 Percentile 2018 Percentile 2017 Percentile 2016 Percentile
1600 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1590 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1580 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1570 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1560 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1550 99 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
1540 99 99 99 99+ 99
1530 99 99 99 99+ 99
1520 99 99 99 99 99
1510 98 99 99 99 99
1500 98 98 99 99 98
1490 98 98 98 99 98
1480 97 98 98 99 98
1470 97 97 98 98 98
1460 97 97 97 98 97
1450 96 96 97 98 97
1440 96 96 96 97 96
1430 95 96 96 97 96
1420 95 95 95 96 95
1410 94 95 95 96 95
1400 94 94 94 95 94
1390 93 93 94 95 94
1380 92 93 93 94 93
1370 92 92 92 94 92
1360 91 91 92 93 91
1350 90 91 91 92 91
1340 89 90 90 91 90
1330 89 89 89 90 89
1320 88 88 88 90 88
1310 87 87 88 89 87
1300 86 86 87 88 86
1290 85 85 86 87 85
1280 84 84 84 86 83
1270 83 83 83 85 82
1260 82 82 82 83 81
1250 81 81 81 82 80
1240 80 80 80 81 78
1230 78 78 79 80 77
1220 77 77 77 78 76
1210 76 76 76 77 74
1200 74 74 74 76 72
1190 73 73 73 74 71
1180 72 72 72 73 69
1170 70 70 70 71 67
1160 69 68 68 69 65
1150 67 67 67 68 64
1140 66 65 65 66 62
1130 64 64 63 64 60
1120 62 62 62 63 58
1110 61 60 60 61 57
1100 59 58 58 59 55
1090 57 57 56 57 52
1080 55 55 54 55 50
1070 54 53 52 53 48
1060 52 51 51 51 46
1050 50 49 49 49 44
1040 48 47 47 47 42
1030 46 46 45 45 40
1020 45 44 43 43 38
1010 43 42 41 41 36
1000 41 40 39 40 34
990 39 38 37 38 32
980 38 36 36 36 30
970 36 35 34 34 29
960 34 33 32 32 27
950 33 31 31 31 25
940 31 30 29 29 24
930 29 28 27 27 22
920 28 27 26 26 20
910 26 25 24 24 19
900 25 23 23 22 18
890 23 22 21 21 16
880 22 20 20 19 15
870 20 19 18 18 14
860 19 18 17 17 13
850 18 16 15 15 12
840 16 15 14 14 11
830 15 14 13 13 10
820 14 13 12 12 9
810 12 11 11 11 8
800 11 10 10 9 7
790 10 9 9 8 7
780 9 8 8 8 6
770 8 7 7 7 5
760 7 6 6 6 4
750 6 5 5 5 4
740 5 5 4 4 3
730 5 4 4 4 3
720 4 3 3 3 2
710 3 3 3 3 2
700 3 2 2 2 2
690 2 2 2 2 2
680 2 1 1 1 1
670 1 1 1 1 1
660 1 1 1 1 1
650 1 1 1 1 1
640 1 1 1 1 1-
630 1 1- 1- 1- 1-
620 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
610 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
600 and below 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-

Sources: SAT Understanding Scores 2016, SAT Understanding Scores 2017, SAT Understanding Scores 2018, SAT Understanding Scores 2019, SAT Understanding Scores 2020

 

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Section Score Percentiles

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Score 2020 Percentile
2019 Percentile 2018 Percentile 2017 Percentile 2016 Percentile
800 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
790 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
780 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
770 99 99 99+ 99+ 99
760 99 99 99 99 99
750 98 99 99 99 99
740 98 98 98 98 98
730 97 97 97 98 97
720 96 96 97 97 96
710 95 95 96 96 95
700 94 94 94 95 94
690 93 93 93 94 92
680 91 91 92 92 91
670 90 90 90 91 89
660 88 88 88 89 86
650 86 86 86 87 84
640 83 83 84 85 81
630 81 81 81 82 78
620 78 78 78 79 75
610 76 75 75 77 72
600 73 73 72 73 69
590 70 69 69 70 66
580 67 66 66 67 63
570 64 63 63 64 60
560 60 60 59 60 56
550 57 56 56 57 52
540 54 53 52 53 49
530 50 50 49 49 45
520 47 46 45 46 42
510 44 43 42 42 38
500 40 39 38 39 35
490 37 36 35 35 31
480 34 32 31 32 28
470 30 29 28 28 25
460 27 26 25 25 22
450 24 23 22 22 20
440 21 20 19 19 17
430 18 17 16 16 15
420 15 14 14 14 13
410 13 12 11 12 11
400 11 10 9 10 9
390 9 8 8 8 7
380 7 6 6 6 6
370 5 5 4 5 5
360 4 3 3 4 3
350 3 2 2 3 3
340 2 2 2 2 2
330 1 1 1 1 1
320 1 1 1 1 1
310 1 1 1 1 1
300 1- 1- 1- 1 1-
290 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
280 and below 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-

Sources: SAT Understanding Scores 2016, SAT Understanding Scores 2017, SAT Understanding Scores 2018, SAT Understanding Scores 2019, SAT Understanding Scores 2020

 

Math

Score 2020 Percentile
2019 Percentile 2018 Percentile 2017 Percentile 2016 Percentile
800 99 99+ 99+ 99+ 99+
790 99 99 99 99 99
780 98 98 98 99 98
770 97 97 98 99 98
760 96 97 97 98 98
750 96 95 96 97 97
740 95 95 96 97 96
730 94 94 95 96 95
720 93 94 94 95 95
710 92 93 93 94 94
700 91 92 92 94 92
690 90 91 91 92 91
680 89 89 89 91 89
670 87 87 88 89 88
660 86 86 86 88 87
650 84 84 85 86 86
640 82 83 83 84 83
630 81 81 81 82 81
620 79 79 79 81 79
610 77 77 77 78 76
600 75 75 75 76 73
590 72 72 72 73 70
580 69 69 69 70 67
570 66 66 66 67 64
560 64 64 64 65 60
550 61 61 61 61 57
540 58 57 57 58 53
530 54 53 53 54 49
520 50 49 49 49 45
510 46 45 44 45 40
500 42 41 40 40 34
490 39 38 37 37 30
480 36 35 34 34 27
470 33 32 31 32 24
460 30 29 28 29 21
450 27 26 25 25 18
440 24 23 22 22 16
430 22 20 20 20 14
420 19 18 17 17 12
410 17 15 15 14 10
400 15 13 13 12 8
390 12 11 11 10 7
380 10 9 9 8 5
370 8 7 7 7 4
360 7 6 6 5 3
350 5 4 4 4 3
340 4 3 3 3 2
330 3 2 2 2 1
320 2 2 1 1 1
310 1 1 1 1 1
300 1 1 1 1 1
290 1 1 1 1- 1-
280 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
270 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
260 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-
250 and below 1- 1- 1- 1- 1-

Sources: SAT Understanding Scores 2016, SAT Understanding Scores 2017, SAT Understanding Scores 2018, SAT Understanding Scores 2019, SAT Understanding Scores 2020

 

What's Next?

How do you compare to other students in your state? Find out with our regularly updated list of average SAT scores by state.

Where does your SAT essay score fit into all this? Learn more about SAT essay scoring and what the average SAT essay score is here.

Would you be able to score in a higher percentile on the ACT? We help you figure out if the ACT or SAT is a better test for you with this foolproof method.

 

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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Laura Staffaroni
About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.



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