What are percentiles?
People often confuse percentiles with percentages, and it's easy to get them confused! Percentages are parts of a whole (think 50/100 = 50%). Percentiles are comparisons of one item to those around it - for example, if you are in the 90th percentile, you are scoring higher than 90% of all test-takers.
How can I use percentiles to know if I did well on the ACT or SAT?
Your composite score and percentile score will both tell you a lot about where you stand in comparison to other testers. The charts below provide comparisons of composite scores, percentiles, and letter grades to give you a better perspective of what your score really means.
On the chart, find your composite score, then look to the other columns to find your percentile rank, and the equivalent letter grade to your score. Then ask yourself:
- Does the grade line up with how you feel about the test?
- Is the grade similar to the grades you get in English/Math/Science at school?
- If yes, then you've done a great job and should feel good about your test scores!
- If no, you should still feel good about your scores, because you just accomplished a great deal of work! But it's possible there are other factors standing in your way... Do tests make you nervous? Did you have enough time to complete each section? Was the length of the test unfamiliar and tiring? Have you taken a lot of standardized tests in the past?
There are ways to combat these problems, but keep in mind that not everyone is awesome at standardized tests, and this may affect your score positively or negatively, depending on your test-taking style and abilities.
How does test prep help me?
Standardized tests have that name for a reason...they are standards-based, and are uniform no matter where you take the test. This makes your academic abilities measurable and comparable to other students in the nation. But this does not mean that the test box fits everyone, nor does it mean that everyone should fit into that box. By working with a test prep tutor, you will learn strategies that are specific to each test, and you will become familiar with the styles of questions asked on each test, the pacing for each section, and you will build your test-taking stamina.
For SAT prep specifically, our past students have seen an average of about 50-100 points, but each student's growth depends on their starting score and how much time, effort, and natural abilities they bring to the test. For a student who is starting at a higher score, our first goal would be to get a 1400+ on the SAT, and then push for the highest possible score.
For ACT prep, our past students have seen 2-7 points of growth, but again, starting scores, dedicated time and effort, and natural abilities all play a part in how much traction a student sees in raising their final composite score.
It's hard to predict how students will do on the actual test because the majority of score improvement is dependent on a student's present academic foundation, natural capabilities, motivation, and availability/time. After that it is our responsibility to provide excellent test prep tutoring, curriculum, lessons, and materials. The responsibility to improve test scores lies 70% with the student and 30% with the tutor.