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Before lenders make the decision to lend you money, they must know that you're willing and able to pay back that loan. To assess your ability to repay, they assess your debt-to-income ratio. In order to calculate your willingness to pay back the loan, they consult your credit score.
Fair Isaac and Company developed the first FICO score to help lenders assess creditworthiness. We've written a lot more about FICO here.
Credit scores only consider the information in your credit reports. They don't consider income or personal characteristics. Fair Isaac invented FICO specifically to exclude demographic factors. Credit scoring was invented as a way to take into account only what was relevant to a borrower's willingness to pay back the lender.
Your current debt level, past late payments, length of your credit history, and other factors are considered. Your score reflects the good and the bad in your credit report. Late payments will lower your credit score, but establishing or reestablishing a good track record of making payments on time will improve your score.
To get a credit score, borrowers must have an active credit account with six months of payment history. This history ensures that there is sufficient information in your credit to generate a score. Some borrowers don't have a long enough credit history to get a credit score. They may need to spend a little time building up credit history before they apply for a loan.