The magnetic hysteresis associated with the magnetization reversal of the free layer in a spin valve is analysed. A model is proposed which assumes a single-domain behavior of the free layer, and a fixed magnetization of the pinned layer. The model is then developed in the framework of the Stoner¿Wohlfarth coherent rotation model, where geometrical solutions are obtained by the astroid method. According to the strength of the interlayer exchange coupling, the applied field direction and the anisotropy arrangement of the magnetic layers, a general classification of the hysteresis loops is proposed. Quantitative comparisons with experiments on spin valves (e.g. NiFe/Cu/NiFe/FeMn) are shown.