One concept that a lot of families miss out on is the difference between percentages and percentile. This is huge as students begin to apply for college and prep for the SAT. I wanted to write this post to illustrate the differences and why your family should be focused on percentile instead of percentage. Once you understand and grasp this concept, I hope you will understand why scoring at least a 600 is so important for you to get into the school of your choice.
So, what is the difference between percentage and percentile?
Percentage, at its core, is simply a measurement of the number of answers you got correct divided by the total number of questions on the test/quiz/etc. As an example, if a test had 100 total questions and you answered 75 correctly out of the 100, then the score would be 75%. For the most part this is the way we are graded in school.
Percentile is measured relative to EVERYONE who took the test. This is a tough adjustment for many people to comprehend. While we cannot for certain say that if you get 40 out of 58 questions correct you will be in the 80th percentile, we can utilize past data to give a good range of percentile based on the number of correct answers. As students finalize what schools they want to apply to, it’s natural to look at your scores relative to others.
I wanted to give a visual representation of percentiles. I’m sure most of you have seen a bell curve before, but let’s break it down a little more. Moving left to right…
1)The first vertical mark at 25th percentile. If a score is here then 25% of the scores are lower than that mark.
2) As you move towards the right and to the middle line, that is the 50th percentile mark. Again, this means that compared to EVERYONE’s score, 50% scored lower than this mark.
3) Last but not least, the next line moving to the right is the 75th percentile. This is the “magic” mark that we are going to focus on regarding acceptance into school. Not to beat a dead horse, but this means that 75% of scores are lower than this mark.
If you look at this blog put out by PrepScholar regarding SAT scores for 2017, you can see that students in the 25-75th percentile score between 470-610. That means that 25% of students applying to college in 2017 scored lower than 470, and 25% of students scored over a 610. The 50th percentile sits at 530. Increasing your score by as little as 80 points can, in effect, make you “more desirable” than another 25% of students applying to school! Remember, schools are basically “gambling” in their admittance process. So the better “odds” they have that you are going to be a successful student, the better your chances are to get accepted. Think of it this way…
Pretty simple huh? I know if someone gave me the choice, I’d be in group 2 100% of the time!
As a part of our diagnostic approach, we offer admissions counseling where we focus on the student’s colleges of choice, then focus on the specific percentiles and scores that will give the greatest probability of acceptance.