How many students get a high score on the SAT? How many students get a perfect score? Here we look at the number of students and the percentile of these top ranks. Then we find out whether you should retake the SAT if you get these scores.
Note: This guide was created when the SAT used its old 2400 scoring scale. Unfortunately, we don't have the same data for the current version of the SAT (out of 1600 points), but we do have a conversion chart below so you can convert your 1600-scale SAT score to a 2400-scale score and still make use of the information in this article.
SAT Score Conversion Chart
Below is the conversion chart you can use to convert your current SAT score to the old 2400-scale version of the SAT. For example, if you scored an 1150 on the current version of the SAT, that's equivalent to a 1590 on the old SAT. So 1590 is the score you'd use for reference as you read the rest of the article to get a sense of where you rank in regards to other SAT test takers.
|New SAT||Old SAT||New SAT||Old SAT||New SAT||Old SAT|
Which SAT Data Is the Most Important for You?
Before we talk about the exact numbers, it's important to know which data you should care about. Take a score like 2200. According to the College Board, who has comprehensive statistics on all takers of the official SAT, there are 2,574 students who got exactly a 2200 in 2014.
However, if you are comparing yourself to the College Board's official numbers, you should be careful about how they construct it. The College Board is only looking at 2014 college-bound seniors — so if you are pretty far removed from this group, it won't represent how you're performing. For example, if you are a sophomore, a 2200 will be much more impressive than the official table of numbers suggests because you've had two less years of school compared to high school seniors.
Percentiles vs Absolute Numbers
You should also consider whether you should care about absolute numbers or percentiles most. If you care about how you're doing compared to the average test taker, you might care more about percentiles — a 2200 is 98th percentile (or inverted top 2 percentile). This tells you you're within the top 2% of test takers.
Picture the median test taker in your mind: a US student who performs average in class and prepares just a few hours for the SAT. When does comparing against this person help you determine where you are? I suggest that the absolute number of people matters more. After all, Harvard takes in a class of 1200 per year, the top ten colleges probably take in around 20,000, and how you numerically fit into that picture matters more.
Back to absolute numbers — 2,574 students got a 2200. But that doesn't mean that if you got a 2200, you're within the top 2,574 students. You have to count all the people who got 2200 or above. In statistics, this is called the cumulative number. This is important because you're not just competing against people who got a 2200 exactly — you're pretty much neck-to-neck with those who got 2210, 2220 and so forth. That's why you want to look at people who got a score or above.
This number is most useful to figure out the sort of colleges you're competitive for. For example, if you're in the top 3000 or so, you're competitive for every college, since the top two to three colleges together accept that many per year. Likewise, wherever you place, you can count the slots colleges have above that.
The Raw Facts
Here is the table showing data for scores from 2200 to 2400, and below is more explanation of what each of the columns show.
|Score||Number of Students||Cumulative Number||Precise Top Percentile|
Your Score = The SAT 3-Section Score (out of 2400)
Number of Students = Number of students in 2014 who got exactly your score. This number is not cumulative and isn't the best measure of performance.
Cumulative Number = This is the total number of students in 2014 who got the same score as you or more. This is the group you're competing with.
Precise Percentile = Here we include the precise percentile this score puts you in. The College Board represents percentiles only roughly — they just tell you 99%+ in your score report. We use their exact numbers to re-run the calculation and tell you what exact top fraction you're in.
Bonus: Should You Retake the SAT?
I've written before that students can easily get 100 points more or less during different SATs without doing anything different, and colleges know that. A change of 100 points is not statistically significant. Does that mean colleges don't care about a 100 point difference — that colleges don't care between a SAT score of 2150 and a 2250, or between a 2250 and 2350? Not at all — because the idea of statistical significance is not the same as expected difference.
(This is where my master's degree in statistics can shine!) Statistical significance measures whether someone who got 2350 could get 2250 by likely chance — the answer is absolutely yes! But expected difference measures whether on average, someone who happens to get a 2350 is better than someone who got a 2250 — the answer is also yes.
It's not hard to understand intuitively — if you get a 2350 you probably just got a couple of questions wrong, all due to a careless mistake. When you get in the 2250 zone, you're getting up to half a dozen wrong, and that on average reflects a degree of care and mastery that's simply different from a 2350. Our advice then is that especially due to superscoring, even if you're getting 2200, it's worth retaking it up to just above a 2300.
Not happy with your SAT score? If you want to raise your score, check out our guide on low SAT scores for helpful tips.
For more strategies, take a look at our guides to getting a perfect SAT score on Reading, Math, Writing and overall.
What kinds of study materials do you need to study for the SAT? We break down what the best prep books are (and which books to avoid) in this expert guide.
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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.