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PSAT Scores: Interpreting Your Score Report


The College Board released PSAT scores in December. Often families have questions about the information provided in the report. Now, with the holidays behind us, let’s take a more in-depth look at the PSAT score report with this helpful guide.

First, it’s important to note that the College Board provides a “full” PSAT score report online and a link to download a separate “summary” score report in PDF format. In this post, we’ll be walking you through the online version of the score report.

PSAT Scores show what you would have scored on the SAT on that same day.

Your Total Score and Section Scores

The top of the PSAT Score Report shows the student’s Total Score and Section Scores, as well as percentile ranks. The Total Score is the sum of the Section Scores (i.e., evidence-based reading and writing + math).

The Total Score and Section Scores are typically the most important SAT scores when applying to college. Remember, the PSAT is not used for college admissions, but PSAT scores are good indicators of a student’s potential on the SAT and provide insights on focus areas for SAT test preparation.

psat score report

PSAT Section Scores are on a 160-760 scale, whereas the SAT’s Section Scores are on a 200-800 scale. The scale ranges differ because some SAT content is more advanced than what is seen on the PSAT. Put simply, the PSAT does not have 800-level content, so it does not offer an 800 score. Scaled scores are on the same “continuous” scale as the SAT, meaning that, if a student achieves a Math score of 500 on the PSAT, he or she would have likely achieved the same score on an SAT taken on that same day.


Your Nationally Representative Percentile

Percentiles give a sense of relative standing among students. The “Nationally Representative” percentile is based on data for all U.S. students in a particular grade, including students who did not take the PSAT. The “User Percentile” is their ranking relative to only students who took the PSAT in the last three years. Note that this percentile ranking is often lower than the “Nationally Representative” ranking.



The College and Career Readiness Benchmark

The benchmark shows whether a student will, with average levels of improvement, achieve a “College Readiness” score on the SAT. As stated by the College Board, for high school juniors an Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Score of 480 and a Math Score of 530 are benchmarks of college and career readiness (for sophomores it’s 430 and 480, respectively). This rough predictor should not be used as a definitive measure of student potential.

The PSAT is not used in college admissions decisions.

Test Scores, Cross-Test Scores, and Subscores

Reading — Writing and Language — Math

Test Scores are used to calculate the Section Scores you see at the top of the report. Multiplying the sum of the Reading, and Writing and Language Test Scores by 10 gives the Section Score for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Multiplying the Math Test Score by 20 gives the Math Section Score.

psat individual section scores

Clicking on the related “Questions” box below the individual scores will take you to a report showing which questions you got right and wrong along with an indication of their level of difficulty and whether the question is used when calculating the Cross-Test Scores and Subscores. Missed questions indicate areas where students need more study or practice. For example, incorrect answers to low-difficulty questions are often signs of carelessness or gaps in foundational skills. The “Skills Insights” link near the top takes you to a page that offers suggestions for improving skills through additional practice.

Cross-Test Scores: Analysis in Science — Analysis in History/ Social Studies

Cross-Test Scores are based on 19 history-related questions and 19 science-related questions throughout the PSAT. There is no dedicated history or science section on the PSAT or SAT. Cross-Test Scores are used primarily as assessment tools for schools (in states where the SAT is used as the education assessment tool for high schools). For the SAT, these scores are generally not used in college admissions decisions.

Subscores: Analysis in Science — Analysis in History/ Social Studies

As the PSAT is primarily used as practice for the SAT, the PSAT Subscores are indicators of students’ skills in specific academic categories. Subscores show strengths and weaknesses, which should guide how students prioritize their skill-building for SAT preparation. As with cross-test scores, for the SAT, the subscores are generally not used in college admissions decisions.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) uses PSAT/NMSQT scores of high school juniors to select candidates for Merit Scholarship awards during their senior year. This scholarship is awarded to about 1% of all students taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Candidacy is based on students’ NMSC Selection Index scores, which are calculated from PSAT Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. Selection Index scores range from 48-228. The scores required to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program vary from state to state and are published on the National Merit Scholarship Corporation website.

The NMSC Selection Index for the Class of 2019 in the northeastern U.S. was:

  • 221 in Connecticut
  • 215 in Maine
  • 222 in Massachusetts
  • 217 in New Hampshire
  • 223 in New Jersey
  • 221 in New York
  • 216 in Rhode Island
  • 217 in Vermont

In September 2018, the NMSC notified students who made these cutoffs and invited them to apply for the Merit Scholarships. [see our blog post for more on NMSQT]

Your PSAT Scores: Next Steps

The score report includes tips for how the student can improve scores. This feedback is useful, but broad. We believe that SAT test preparation requires more personal consideration such as careful analysis of individual test questions, feedback about the student’s testing experience, and a skilled tutor who works one-on-one with students, according to their learning styles, teaching test taking strategies and helping build the skills needed to reach their full potential on the SAT.

The Standardized Testing Road Ahead

PSAT scores provide a valuable glimpse at the road ahead. As always, we are happy to help students take this knowledge to the next level with a tutoring program that builds on the strengths they have and develops the skills they need.

If you have any questions, we are here to help. Please leave a comment below or contact us directly by phone or email.

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