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.
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.