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Is SAT 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator of how much schools care about the SAT (or ACT)?

Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
I was looking at the average SAT scores for schools, and I noticed some interesting things. For one, the University of Michigan has the same SAT scores as Princeton (1380-1540), even though Princeton is much more competitive. Also, Yale's 75th percentile is 1600, the only school with a quarter of students achieving perfect scores. Harvard's 25 percentile (1470) is a full 80 points higher than Stanford's (1390). So, as a baseline for how much schools value standardized testing, is the 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator, or are they even good indicators at all?
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Replies to: Is SAT 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator of how much schools care about the SAT (or ACT)?

  • genedorbustgenedorbust 71 replies5 threads Junior Member
    edited March 2019
    Maybe to some extent, but given the caliber of the applicant pool I don't think it matters much.

    I think Stanford's the only outlier with reasonable interpretation -- Stanford's show they care way less about stats, and I think Harvard had a 1600 SAT 75th percentile in most years too. I will only say that given people with perfect SAT scores seem to be rejected at a 80%~ rate, you're really better off having a perfect score than average.
    edited March 2019
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2662 replies34 threads Senior Member
    You can always go into the school's Common Data Set and find an answer, rather than a guess. (Or at least the answer they offer.)
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  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @genedorbust Alright thanks! So you're implying that having an above-average SAT score while applying to Stanford may not actually be that helpful, as opposed to other schools?
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  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @HarrietMWelsch All of those schools list it as "very important" but I have a feeling there's some wiggle-room with that classification.
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  • genedorbustgenedorbust 71 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I'm implying having a perfect SAT score may be somewhat helpful given that the rejection % of perfect scores would no doubt be lower than the rejection % of other scores, that said there are also a lot of correlating factors unconsidered.

    Then, I'm stating that Stanford generally cares noticeably less about test scores than all its peer schools. Which could mean they also care less about a perfect SAT score than its peer schools.
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  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @genedorbust Ok thanks, I understand. Yeah that makes a lot of sense
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2662 replies34 threads Senior Member
    @Jedelm23, for any school that's holistic, there's always some wiggle room. Scores at those schools are just a gate to pass through, and perfect ones seldom matter more than near-perfect ones.
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1945 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    Where are you getting your stats? Do NOT use prepscholar or the like, which adds 75th percentile section scores to make a 75th percentile composite, as that's an inaccurate method. Many students have one section score higher than the other and the true composite range would be narrower than that. Moreover, no school currently (2021 or 2022, as far as I've seen) has 800 as the 75th percentile for both sections. The only reliable data is posted by the school on its website (the class profile or the Common Data Set) or at NCES (Common Data Set, but latest is class of 2021) https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

    Yale does not report a composite middle 50, so only use the section scores.

    Note that some schools report admitted student stats in their class profile while others report enrolled. (Admitted stats are higher than enrolled.) The Common Data Sets only report scores for enrolled. When you are comparing score ranges of different schools, make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

    (There is an additional wrinkle, that class of 2021 SATs included Old SAT scores concorded to New and mixed in, not only combining these different test types but adding in what turned out to be problematic, the concordance itself. That may have bumped up score ranges by a small amount. Class of 2022 stats include virtually all New SAT scores, a safer bet where accuracy is concerned. Not all schools have yet posted their 2018-2019 Common Data Set with class of 2022 data, but that would be what I'd use to compare if available, or class of 2022 data in the class profile if it represents enrolled student data rather than admitted.)
    edited March 2019
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  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    edited March 2019
    @evergreen5
    https://www.veritasprep.com/act-sat-prep/average-sat-scores-top-30-us-universities/
    I got them from here, which might be inaccurate, I'm not sure. But thanks for the tips! I'll be sure to look at the common data sets; Yale's 1600 looked a little bit suspicious in retrospect.
    edited March 2019
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1945 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    ^Thanks for the link. Veritas says they got the scores from the 2018 US News ranking. The 2018 ranking was published in Sept 2017, which - I believe - used scores from the prior year's entering class (fall 2016), all of whom would have taken the Old SAT. Essentially, ancient history. (Veritas should be embarrassed, frankly.)
    edited March 2019
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  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @evergreen5 Ah yes that would make sense. I checked and they were way off. Princeton and Michigan have wildly different stats and yale is not one quarter perfect scorers.
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  • merc81merc81 11694 replies199 threads Senior Member
    Respondents thus far have not considered the specific nature of this interesting question. That is, can the details of a score range indicate anything about the value a school places on standardized scoring. This will not, beyond the raw data provided, be evident from Common Data Sets.
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  • merc81merc81 11694 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
  • Jedelm23Jedelm23 99 replies14 threads Junior Member
    @merc81 Thanks so much! I think I'll take a look and report back on anything interesting I find. My gut feeling is that the 25th percentile relates more to how schools value SAT scores and the 75th is most likely relating to how students view the prestige/academic atmosphere of those schools, if that makes sense.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4974 replies86 threads Senior Member
    Remember also that a significant proportion of students below the 25%ile were hooked in some way, such as recruited athletes, legacies, URMs
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  • Data10Data10 3307 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    I was looking at the average SAT scores for schools, and I noticed some interesting things. For one, the University of Michigan has the same SAT scores as Princeton (1380-1540), even though Princeton is much more competitive.
    The latest CDS shows very different numbers:
    Michigan 25th -- 660/670; Princeton 25th -- 710/720
    Michigan 75th -- 730/780, Princeton 75th -- 780/790
    Harvard's 25 percentile (1470) is a full 80 points higher than Stanford's (1390).
    The latest CDS also lists different numbers for Stanford:
    Harvard 25th -- 730/730, Stanford 25th -- 700/720
    Also, Yale's 75th percentile is 1600, the only school with a quarter of students achieving perfect scores
    The CDS does not list a 800 on verbal for yale, but more importatantly, if 25% of students received a 800 on math and 25% of students received an 800 on verbal, it does not mean 25% of students received a 1600. Most of those students probably received 800 on one section, but not the other. ~40% of matriculating students did not report the SAT at all. I expect many of this not reporting group scored less than 1600 as well.
    So, as a baseline for how much schools value standardized testing, is the 25th or 75th percentile a better indicator, or are they even good indicators at all?
    For colleges like HYPSM, SAT score percentiles is not a particularly good indicator of how much score is valued because the colleges primarily admit on non-score criteria that has some degree of correlation with score. MIT's website explains this more eloquently than I can in the quote below

    "Now, I and others are on the record as saying that we admit people, not test scores, and that in any case there is really not a difference in our process between someone who scores, say, a 740 on the SAT math, and someone who scores an 800 on the SAT math. So why, as the commentor asks, is there such a difference in the admit rate? Aha! Clearly we DO prefer higher SAT scores!

    Well no, we don’t. What we prefer are things which may coincide with higher SAT scores. For example, a student who receives a gold medal at the IMO is probably more likely to score an 800 on the math SAT than a 740. But if we take an IMO medalist (with an 800) over random applicant X (with a 740), does that mean we preferred an 800 to a 740? No. It means we preferred the IMO medalist, who also happened to get an 800!"


    If a HYPSM type college did not consider scores at all in their application process, they'd still have a very high score range due a high scoring applicant pool and selecting for characteristics that are correlated with score (high GPA, high course rigor, stellar LORs, impressive out of classroom achievements, etc.). However, there would be a larger number of anomalies at the low end, so I'd expect the 25th percentile to have more notable decreases. We see this effect in test optional colleges. For example, a comparison of score ranges for Bowdoin (test optional) to other top ranked LACs is below. I used ACT instead of SAT for simplicity. Note that Bowdoin has all matriculating students take either SAT or ACT and reports all students, even though it is not considered in application process for non-submitters. The gap is larger in 25th percentile than 75th, when tests are not considered for a large portion of applicants.

    Bowdoin -- 30-34
    Amherst -- 31-34
    Swarthmore -- 31-34

    A similar effect occurs when a large portion of applicants are given strong preference, such as strong hooks. Hooks have more impact on the 25th percentile score than the 75th percentile score, so a lower 25th also can have implications on hook preferences.

    If you want to guess at how much score impacts admissions by score ranges, you might look for colleges that having higher/lower score ranges than suggested by their selectivity and/or give scholarships for high stats or NMS. Vanderbilt is a good example. An ACT comparison is below. Vanderbilt has a higher score range than HYPS (and all the LACs listed above), even though most would consider Vanderbilt less selective than HYPS. Both the 25th and 75th percentile scores seem higher than expected. You can confirm by reviewing Naviance and similar scattergrams. Scattergram decisions for Vanderbilt seem to better follow scores than HYPS, particularly for the 75th percentile.

    Vanderbilt -- 33-35
    Harvard -- 32-35
    Yale -- 32-35
    Princeton -- 31-35
    Stanford -- 32-35

    edited March 2019
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  • damon30damon30 1147 replies5 threads Senior Member
    This question captured my interest. From BigFuture, e.g. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-university-search/cornell-university

    SAT middle 50s
    Brown 1410-1570
    Columbia 1450-1580
    Cornell 1390-1550
    Dartmouth 1430-1560
    Duke 1490-1560
    Harvard 1460-1580
    MIT 1490-1570
    Princeton 1430-1570
    UPenn 1420-1560
    Stanford 1420-1570
    Yale 1420-1590

    Test scores importance
    Brown - Very Important
    Columbia - Very Important
    Cornell - Very Important
    Dartmouth - Very Important
    Duke - Very Important
    Harvard - Considered
    MIT - Important
    Princeton - Very Important
    UPenn - Very Important
    Stanford - Very Important
    Yale - Very Important

    Only MIT had "Character/Personal Qualities" ranked higher than test scores importance. (Harvard had everything "Considered".) All top schools had the SAT Math 75 percentile at either 790 or 800. Cornell had the lowest overall 25 (1390) and 75 percentiles (1550) . Duke and MIT tied for highest 25 percentiles (1490) and Yale had the highest 75 percentile (1590).
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4974 replies86 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    ^^^I would not use CollegeBoard as the source for this info. I don't know where they get their data from, or what year they represent, but they do not match the CDSs (which is the best source data) for the last couple years (at least for Brown and Cornell).

    Further, when I look at the Cornell and Brown SAT scores on CollegeBoard at the link in #17, they seem to be making the same mistake that so many do---adding the EBRW 25-75 scores to the Math 25-75 scores to get composite 25-75 scores, which is not accurate as datadad points out in post #16. Seems like CollegeBoard should know better.
    edited March 2019
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35365 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Those figures are not the way to determine. The higher numbers represent the nature of the competition and how they can cherry pick, in the end. I(Assuming the kid passes muster in the entire review.)

    t's no indication that scores are more or less important- to a college or among colleges. And we all should know that the 25th percentile can be all sorts of kids wanted for other assets, like their athletic prowess, legacy, some amazing kid whose scores are lopsided, and on and on.

    Stanford used to show score ranges and percent admitted. At one point, Brown and Dart did. PLENTY of "above average" scorers got rejected- the vast majority. These schools are holistic, you don't get to submit scores, then sleep walk through the rest of the app.

    Btw, the CDS section on Most Important, etc, is not policed. Colleges can answer anyway they feel. And No One Category trumps the others, regardless of whether it's called Very Important or not.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 4974 replies86 threads Senior Member
    Btw, the CDS section on Most Important, etc, is not policed. Colleges can answer anyway they feel. And No One Category trumps the others, regardless of whether it's called Very Important or not.

    Exactly. Those answers can also vary by program/dept/school within a college/uni, and just to stay with the Cornell example, enough people have heard in admissions presentations that they do in fact track interest and it can help applicants (but the CDS says not considered).
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