As high school students prepare for their college journey, one important milestone is the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) exam. The PSAT is a standardized test administered by the College Board and serves as a precursor to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is a widely used test for college admissions in the United States. Scoring well on the PSAT can have several benefits, including eligibility for scholarships, recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and preparation for the SAT. In this blog, we will explore the significance of a good PSAT score, what constitutes a good PSAT score, and how to interpret PSAT scores.
Why is a Good PSAT Score Important?
The PSAT is an essential test for high school students as it offers several advantages:
- Scholarship Opportunities: A good PSAT score can open doors to various scholarship opportunities. High-scoring students may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to top-performing students based on their PSAT scores. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer scholarships to students who achieve exceptional PSAT scores, which can help offset the cost of tuition and make higher education more affordable.
- College Admission Preparation: The PSAT is similar in format and content to the SAT, which is a crucial test for college admissions. Scoring well on the PSAT can help students gain familiarity with the test format, question types, and time management strategies, providing them with valuable experience for the SAT. It also allows students to identify their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to focus on areas that need improvement before taking the SAT.
- National Merit Scholarship Recognition: High-scoring students on the PSAT may receive recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program, a prestigious academic competition that awards scholarships to students who demonstrate exceptional academic ability. This recognition can enhance a student's college applications and may also provide additional opportunities for internships, research, and networking.
- Benchmark for Academic Progress: The PSAT can serve as a benchmark for students to assess their academic progress. It provides valuable feedback on their strengths and weaknesses in different subject areas, which can help students and their educators identify areas that may need additional attention. This feedback can guide students in developing effective study strategies and improving their performance in subsequent exams.
What Constitutes a Good PSAT Score?
The PSAT is scored on a scale of 320 to 1520, with two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Each section is scored from 160 to 760. The scores for these two sections are then added together to get the total score, which ranges from 320 to 1520. In addition to the total score, students also receive subscores for Reading, Writing, Language, and Math, as well as a score for the PSAT Selection Index, which is used for National Merit Scholarship eligibility.
A good PSAT score can be subjective, as it depends on the individual's goals and aspirations. However, a general guideline for a good PSAT score is one that is above the national average. According to the College Board, the average PSAT score for 11th graders in 2020 was around 1040, with a score of 520 in each section. Therefore, a score above 1040 can be considered a good PSAT score, indicating that a student is performing better than the national average.
It's important to note that the PSAT is typically taken by students in their junior year of high school, but some students may choose to take it in their sophomore year as well. Taking the PSAT early can provide students with an opportunity to gain experience with the test format and content, which can help them perform better when they take it again in their junior year, which is the year that is considered for National Merit Scholarship eligibility.
In addition to the national average, students should also consider the average scores of students admitted to the colleges or universities they are interested in. Many colleges and universities publish the average SAT scores of their admitted students, which can serve as a benchmark for students aiming for admission to those institutions. A good PSAT score would typically be higher than the average scores of admitted students at their target colleges or universities, indicating that they are competitive candidates for admission.
Furthermore, students should also consider their own personal goals and aspirations when determining what constitutes a good PSAT score. If a student is aiming for highly competitive colleges or universities, they may need to aim for a higher PSAT score to increase their chances of admission and scholarship opportunities. On the other hand, if a student's college choices are less competitive, a slightly lower PSAT score may still be considered good enough for their desired institutions.
It's important to remember that the PSAT is just one factor in the college admissions process, and many colleges and universities consider a range of factors, including GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendation letters, in addition to test scores. Therefore, while a good PSAT score is beneficial, it's not the sole determinant of a student's college admissions success.
How to Interpret PSAT Scores?
Understanding how to interpret PSAT scores can provide valuable insights into a student's performance and help them identify areas for improvement. Here's a breakdown of the different scores and subscores that students receive on the PSAT:
The total score is the sum of the scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math sections and ranges from 320 to 1520. This score is often used as a benchmark to assess a student's overall performance on the PSAT.
The PSAT has two main sections - EBRW and Math - and each section is scored on a scale of 160 to 760. These scores provide an indication of a student's performance in each specific subject area and can help identify areas of strength and weakness.
Within the EBRW section, students also receive subscores for Reading and Writing and Language, which range from 8 to 38. These subscores provide further insights into a student's performance in specific areas within the EBRW section.
PSAT Selection Index
The PSAT Selection Index is used for National Merit Scholarship eligibility and is calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math section scores. The Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228, and students with high Selection Index scores may be eligible for National Merit Scholarships.
Interpreting PSAT scores involves comparing a student's scores to the national average, the average scores of admitted students at their target colleges or universities, and their own personal goals. If a student's scores are above the national average and in line with the average scores of admitted students at their target colleges or universities, it can be considered a good PSAT score. Conversely, if a student's scores are below these benchmarks, they may need to consider additional preparation and study strategies to improve their scores.
Tips for Achieving a Good PSAT Score
Preparing for the PSAT requires consistent effort and effective study strategies. Here are some tips that can help students achieve a good PSAT score:
- Understand the Test Format: Familiarize yourself with the format of the PSAT, including the types of questions, the time limits, and the scoring system. Review sample questions and practice tests to get a sense of the test structure and content.
- Review Content Areas: The PSAT assesses students' knowledge in reading, writing, language, and math. Review the content areas that will be tested and identify any areas that may require additional attention. Use reputable study materials, such as official College Board practice tests, review books, and online resources, to brush up on key concepts and skills.
- Practice Time Management: The PSAT is a timed test, so it's important to practice managing your time effectively during the test. Practice pacing yourself during practice tests to ensure that you are able to complete all sections within the allocated time.
- Focus on Weak Areas: After taking practice tests or reviewing content areas, identify any weak areas and focus on improving them. This may involve additional practice, seeking help from a teacher or tutor, or using online resources for further review.
- Improve Reading Skills: Reading comprehension is a crucial skill tested on the PSAT. Practice reading and analyzing different types of passages, such as fiction, non-fiction, and scientific texts, and work on strategies for understanding main ideas, supporting details, and author's tone.
- Enhance Writing and Language Skills: The PSAT assesses students' ability to revise and edit written passages. Practice identifying and correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Familiarize yourself with common writing conventions and style guidelines.
- Build Math Skills: The PSAT tests math skills in algebra, geometry, and data analysis. Review key math concepts, formulas, and problem-solving strategies. Practice solving different types of math problems, including multiple-choice and grid-in questions.
- Take Advantage of PSAT Prep Resources: There are many resources available to help students prepare for the PSAT, including official College Board practice tests, online tutorials, review books, and tutoring services. Take advantage of these resources to supplement your study efforts and gain additional practice.
- Practice Test Strategies: Familiarize yourself with test-taking strategies, such as eliminating answer choices, making educated guesses, and managing your time effectively. Practice applying these strategies during practice tests to improve your test-taking skills.
- Stay Calm and Confident: Test days can be stressful, but it's important to stay calm and confident. Get a good night's sleep before the test, eat a nutritious breakfast, and arrive at the test center with all the necessary materials. Remember to read each question carefully, manage your time effectively, and trust in your preparation.
A good PSAT score is subjective and depends on various factors, including the national average, the average scores of admitted students at target colleges or universities, and personal goals. It's important for students to understand how to interpret their PSAT scores and use them as a tool to identify areas for improvement.
By following effective study strategies, practicing time management, focusing on weak areas, and utilizing available resources, students can increase their chances of achieving a good PSAT score. Remember to stay calm and confident on test day, and keep in mind that the PSAT is just one part of the college admissions process. With consistent effort and preparation, students can set themselves up for success on the PSAT and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PSAT Scores
What is a good PSAT score?
A good PSAT score is subjective and depends on various factors, including the national average, the average scores of admitted students at target colleges or universities, and personal goals. Generally, a good PSAT score is considered to be above the national average, which is typically around 920-950 for the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) and 1050-1100 for the PSAT 10.
How are PSAT scores calculated?
PSAT scores are calculated based on the number of correct answers in each section. There are two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale of 160-760, and the scores are then combined to create a total PSAT score ranging from 320 to 1520.
What is the percentile ranking on PSAT score reports?
The percentile ranking on PSAT score reports indicates the percentage of students who scored lower than you. For example, if your percentile rank is 75, it means that you scored higher than 75% of students who took the PSAT. Percentile ranks can give you an idea of how your score compares to other test-takers nationally.
Can I use my PSAT score for college admissions?
While PSAT scores themselves are not typically used for college admissions, they can serve as a valuable tool for college preparation. High scores on the PSAT may qualify students for recognition and potential scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Program. PSAT scores can also help students identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in their academic skills, which can inform their preparation for the SAT or ACT, which are used for college admissions.
How can I interpret my PSAT scores?
PSAT scores provide insights into your academic strengths and weaknesses. Reviewing your score report can help you identify areas that may require additional study and preparation. Use the score report to understand how you performed in each section, compare your scores to the national average and percentile ranks, and determine areas for improvement.
Each section is scored on a scale of 160-760, and your total is the sum of both sections. Your overall PSAT score range is 320-1520. These scores are intended to predict your SAT score. For example, an 1100 on the PSAT means you'd probably get an 1100 on the SAT.What happens if you don't answer all PSAT questions? ›
You have a 25% chance of answering the question correctly. Even though you have a 75% chance of picking the wrong answer, it won't cost you any points. On the PSAT, you will get zero points on a question if you do not answer it. It would help if you always guessed, even when you do not know what to do.Is 910 a good PSAT score? ›
For most students, a good PSAT score is above the 75th percentile, or a 1060.Is C usually the correct answer? ›
Myth 2: C is the best guess letter and is right more often than any other letter. C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.What is the most common answer on a multiple choice test? ›
On tests with four choices (say, A, B, C, and D), B was slightly more likely to be correct (28%). Remember, the expected likelihood of each option being correct is 25%. And on tests with five choices (say, A, B, C, D, and E), E was the most commonly correct answer (23%).What PSAT score do I need for National Merit? ›
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes exceptional college-bound students. But to become a National Merit Scholar, you'll need to outscore over 99% of PSAT test-takers.Do colleges look at PSAT scores? ›
The PSAT won't count towards your college admissions applications, but it is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship . Some of the highest scoring students may win scholarship money, so while you shouldn't stress out about the PSAT, you certainly shouldn't ignore it either.What is the minimum PSAT score for National Merit Scholarship? ›
To be competitive for National Merit Semifinalist status, students need to score about 1400 on the PSAT in less competitive states like Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota . . . or about 1470 on the PSAT in more competitive states like Connecticut or New Jersey.Is it OK if I dont do good on the PSAT? ›
Your acceptance or rejection into college is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT , so the short answer is “no,” colleges don't care at all about the PSAT. An abysmal score on the PSAT will not have any direct effect on your chances of getting into a college.Is it better to leave an answer blank or guess on the PSAT? ›
Since there is no penalty for selecting the wrong answer on the PSAT, never leave an answer blank. Here are a few rules to optimize your guessing strategy. First, unless you have run out of time, try to use the process of elimination to get rid of at least one answer choice.
Can you fail the PSAT? No. Students may be overjoyed by scoring in the top 10%, even if they are not great students in school. Or they may be disappointed if their PSAT score doesn't match their abilities or GPA, but there is no failing (or even passing) the test.What is a good PSAT score for scholarships? ›
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In order to be on track for those scores on the SAT, students would have to earn a near-perfect score on the PSAT, which is a little shorter and easier than the SAT. That means a good PSAT score for students aiming at “Ivy Plus” schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Duke would be at least 1450.What is a good PSAT score for Ivy League? ›
In other words, if your main priority is getting into the Ivy League, you should aim for a composite PSAT score anywhere between 1280 and 1520. If you're looking at less selective institutions, then the 80th percentile is a good benchmark.Should you guess C or B? ›
Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.Should I guess B or C on the SAT? ›
Feel free to pick (C) if you'd like, but know that any LOTD you choose is likely to get you some points in the long run if you use it consistently. If you guess on 20 questions over the course of the test, about 5 of those should match your LOTD. Yay, free points!What is the most common letter answer on the SAT? ›
Every answer choice on the SAT will have a statistically even distribution of 1 in 4 for each answer choice letter, A, B, C, or D. In other words? There is no most common answer on the SAT. Ultimately, guessing C (or any letter!) will give you the correct answer only a statistical 25% of the time.Is it better to leave questions blank on the SAT? ›
Students will be awarded points for each correct answer with no points taken away for any incorrect ones. This is why never leaving an answer blank on your test is so important. You can only gain by taking a stab at the question. If you leave it blank, you will most certainly get it wrong.What is the first thing you should always do when answering multiple-choice questions? ›
Answer the question in your own words before reading the choices. Then look for a choice that best matches your answer. Make sure to read all of the answer choices, even if you think you know the correct answer. Sometimes there is an answer that seems correct, but there is a better answer.Which answers should you eliminate first? ›
Eliminate answer options which you're 100 percent sure are incorrect before selecting the answer you believe is correct. Even when you believe you know the right answer, first eliminating those answers you know are incorrect will ensure your answer choice is the correct choice.
Many colleges consider SAT or ACT scores or other credentials in awarding merit aid. Many also target scholarships to National Merit winners, finalists or even semifinalists. National Merit commendation is a less common magnet for scholarships, but it is not unheard of.What PSAT score is National Merit Class of 2023? ›
To state the obvious, some of the 50 U.S. states are obviously far more competitive than others—and colleges will keep this in mind during the admission process. The main qualification for National Merit is a high PSAT score (out of 1520).What is the commended cutoff for PSAT 2023? ›
The National Merit Semifinalist and Commended cutoffs for the class of 2023 are provided below. Despite the Commended cutoff remaining at 207, only 10 states saw unchanged Semifinalist cutoffs. At the extremes, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon all saw 4-point declines in their cutoffs, while Maine had a 4-point increase.Are scholarships based on PSAT scores? ›
The PSAT gives you an opportunity to understand the standardized test experience. Your scores will not be sent to colleges and do not impact your high school grades. You should still take this test seriously: PSAT scores determine your eligibility for National Merit Scholarships.What happens if you do well on the PSAT? ›
A High PSAT Score Can Lead to a National Merit Scholarship
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. uses PSAT scores to determine which test-takers will become semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
The test provides a taste of what it's like to take the SAT, and it can help students strategize as they think about their college applications. And when students take the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year, they can qualify for scholarships, including the highly selective National Merit Scholarship Program.What percentile do you need for National Merit Scholar? ›
Once you score in the 99th percentile on the PSAT for your state, you'll be named a National Merit semifinalist.
College Board does not send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges. These scores are not intended to be part of college admission decisions. They should not be included on student transcripts that will be reproduced and sent to colleges unless the student (if 18 or older) or their parent/guardian has granted permission.What is the average PSAT score for 11th graders? ›
The PSAT scores scale makes it so that most test takers score around 920 (the halfway point between 320 and 1520). And the data backs this up: the average PSAT scores are 920 for 10th graders and 1010 for 11th graders.Does the PSAT affect your GPA? ›
Your PSAT scores won't get you into college or affect your GPA. But if you're a junior, high scores on the PSAT can earn you scholarship dollars, including a National Merit Scholarship.
Most of the questions are multiple choice, though some math questions ask you to write in the answer rather than select it.Is every question worth the same on the PSAT? ›
PSAT Scores - How PSAT Scoring Works
PSAT scores are calculated in much the same way as the new SAT scores: Students earn 1 point for each question answered correctly. Students neither lose nor gain points for questions answered incorrectly. Students neither lose nor gain points for questions that are skipped.
In addition to a National Merit Scholarship, students with qualifying PSAT scores can receive merit scholarships offered by businesses and colleges. The corporate scholarships typically support the children of members or employees. These scholarships may also fund students based on their location or career plans.What is a mediocre PSAT score? ›
The average score on the PSAT is about 960 (nationally representative sample) or 1010 (user group). To score in the top ten percent of test-takers, students need to score at least 1280 on the PSAT.What is the lowest GPA Harvard has accepted? ›
You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.How much does PSAT score improve? ›
This means that if you got a 150 on the PSAT, you can expect to get 150 x 10 + 139 = 1639 on the SAT. Remember to multiply your PSAT score by 10 to get the SAT equivalent, then add 139. What does this mean? It reflects that scores for students go up generally because they're learning more in school.What is an impressive PSAT score? ›
The PSAT score is based on two scores: a Reading and Writing section and a Math section. Each section is scored between 160-760, adding up to an overall score between 320-1520. A score in the 75th percentile is considered the benchmark — usually an 1150 overall.What percentile is best for PSAT? ›
- “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile: 1460-1520.
- “Great” – 90th percentile: 1280.
- “Solid” – 75th percentile: 1150.
- “Average” – 50th percentile: 1010.
- Take it seriously. ...
- Be familiar with the structure of the test. ...
- Be familiar with the questions on the test.
- Practice like it's the real thing.
- Read boring material.
- Be familiar with common algebra, geometry, statistics, and precalculus principles.
Guess or Leave Blank on the SAT
Because there is now no guessing penalty, it's always in your best interest to guess. Remember, a blank answer is always “wrong," but a guessed answer always has a chance to be correct.
Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.Which SAT is usually the hardest? ›
In online forums, students also tend to identify Test #3 as the hardest of the official practice tests, so there truly seems to be a clear consensus. It's important to remember though that a hard practice test can actually be a great resource!What is the most likely answer letter on the SAT? ›
Sometimes it seems like “C”—or its equivalent, “H”—is the most common answer choice, but this is merely a myth. In fact, the answer choice orders on the ACT and SAT are generated by a computer and are entirely random.Is it OK to fail PSAT? ›
Your acceptance or rejection into college is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT , so the short answer is “no,” colleges don't care at all about the PSAT. An abysmal score on the PSAT will not have any direct effect on your chances of getting into a college.Do colleges look at PSAT? ›
The PSAT won't count towards your college admissions applications, but it is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship . Some of the highest scoring students may win scholarship money, so while you shouldn't stress out about the PSAT, you certainly shouldn't ignore it either.Is it better to answer all questions on PSAT? ›
Older versions of the PSAT had a wrong-answer penalty so that students who guessed on questions would not have an advantage over students who left questions blank. This penalty has been removed; make sure you never leave a PSAT question blank!What is a normal PSAT score? ›
The average PSAT/NMSQT score is about 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 puts you in the top 10% of test takers. The PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT are very similar tests, so your score on the PSAT/NMSQT can give you an idea of how you'll do when you take the SAT.What does it mean if there is an asterisk next to the PSAT selection index score? ›
Students should check their PSAT/NMSQT Score Reports to see whether an asterisk appears next to their Selection Index scores. If an asterisk is present, then the student does not meet entry requirements for the National Merit Scholarship Program.Do unanswered questions count against you on the SAT? ›
Total scores for each SAT Subject Test have a range of 200–800. To calculate your raw score, we add a point for each correct answer and then subtract a partial point for each incorrect answer. Points aren't subtracted for unanswered questions.
The PSAT math sections cover up to high school geometry. No PSAT math section will include any math questions from Algebra II; however, Algebra II is covered in the SAT.
Differences Between the Tests
There are two differences between PSAT 10 and PSAT NMSQT: The first is difficulty. The PSAT 10 is designed for sophomores, and PSAT NMSQT is designed for juniors, so the PSAT NMSQT is slightly harder.