Understanding Your SAT and ACT Results

Decipher how well you did on the exam

Interpreting SAT and ACT results can be as difficult as taking the tests themselves. But you don’t have to be a statistician to make sense of your score; understanding how it was calculated will help you put the numbers into perspective.


SAT results are available online within a month after the test date, and scores are mailed out about a week after that. Your score for the Reasoning Test will include separate scores for the critical reading, math, and writing sections. Each section is reported on a 200–800 scale, for a total possible score of 2400. In addition, you will receive a separate sub-score of 1–6 for the essay.

According to the College Board, in 2009 the average college-bound senior scored a 501 on the critical reading section and 515 on math.

SAT Subject Tests are also reported on a 200–800 scale. Average scores vary from test to test, but they tend to be higher than for the Reasoning Test because the participants normally are students who excel in that particular subject.


ACT scores are mailed out four to seven weeks after each exam, and they’re available online two to three weeks after the test date. Unlike the SAT, your score is based solely on the number of questions you answer correctly; no points are deducted for incorrect or blank answers, so it pays to guess.
Each test score (English, math, reading, and science) ranges 1–36. Your composite score is the average of these four figures, rounded to the nearest whole number. ACT reports that the average composite score for the class of 2009 was 21.1.

Your Percentile

Both your ACT and SAT score reports include your ranking for each subject area. For instance, a score of 25 on the ACT science test puts you in the 85th percentile, meaning that 85 percent of other test-takers scored at or below a 25.


This article was written by Dalia Wheatt

Dalia Wheatt is from Cleveland, Ohio. She has worked as an editor, freelance writer, and Spanish teacher.


  1. Beery

    I’m currently a junior in High School. I’m from the UK, but currently studying abroad in a High School with an American-based curriculum. In order for me to get into a medical school back home in England, I must recieve an “85 percent on my High School Diploma”, which I can only translate as my SAT score. Thus, I need to know what SAT score is equivalent to an 85%. I have browsed continuously online but failed to find a suitable answer. It would be much appreciated if someone could help me out.

  2. Becky

    I believe that the 85% is referring to your GPA in the sense that you should have a B average, or around a 3.5 GPA. That makes much more sense than the SAT scores. I hope this helps

  3. Stella

    My granddaughter scored a 710 on her armt test in 6th grade. Could you provide some insight into this I don’t quite understand it. Also with this came a letter from Duke University to enroll in a talent search, they also want a fee of $72.00 is this worthwhile. Thanks Stella

  4. Bob

    My son has a processing problem and will not do well on theses exams. We don’t believe college is a good use of his time. How should we interpret an ACT score of 18? What resorce could you refer me to for assessing his strengths?

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