High School

What you need to know about PSAT Scores

By Harsha Jattani, New England Test Prep

PSAT/NMSQT (referred to as PSAT onward) scores were released before the holidays. Your child can find his/her PSAT score by logging on to the College Board website. He/she may have also received a paper copy from his/her school. The College Board provides a lengthy PSAT analysis report. We recommend that you review the PSAT score report with your child. In this post, we highlight information that can be gathered from a PSAT score report.

Total PSAT score

PSAT scores range from 320 to 1520, which are computed by adding the scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections and the Math sections. The individual scores for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math sections range from 160 to 760. See an excerpt of an example PSAT score report below. It is worth noting that the PSAT score range differs from the SAT score range. Total SAT scores range from 400-1600. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score and the Math score on the SAT range from 200-800. The different ranges between the PSAT and SAT scores exist because questions that students must answer to receive 1600 on the SAT are simply not included on the PSAT. Thus, it is not possible to score a 1600 on the PSAT.

Total PSAT score and section scores. Source: College Board

Detailed PSAT Scores

The College Board also reports a variety of detailed PSAT scores. While these scores are not studied as critically by college admissions committees, they serve to illustrate students’ areas of strengths and weaknesses and can be leveraged to develop an efficient SAT study plan. The detailed scores are found under the ‘Skills Insight’ section of the online PSAT score report.

The first type of detailed PSAT score is Test Scores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Test scores for each category span from 8 to 38. See an example of the Test Scores section results below. The color coding on the number line shows how well a student mastered the test content.

PSAT test scores. Source: College Board

Another useful score on the PSAT report is the Subscore. There are seven reported Subscores, ranging from 1 to 15, as evidenced in the figure below. The College Board deems mastery of these topics important for college readiness.

PSAT Subscores. Source: CollegeBoard

The last detailed PSAT score is the cross-test score. Certain content (History/Social Studies and Science) may be covered in different forms on various sections of the PSAT. Mastery of this content is reported in the cross-test scores. Cross-test scores range from 8 to 38.

PSAT Test Questions

One of the most useful features of the PSAT score report is the ability to review the actual PSAT questions, student responses, and correct answers/explanations under the ‘Test Questions’ section of the online report.

You can see the format in which the information is presented in the sample screenshot for the Reading section. By clicking on the question number, you can view the test question along with the answer and explanation. You can also view similar detailed information for test questions in the Writing and Math sections.

PSAT Score Report, Reading. Source: CollegeBoard.

There is a wealth of information provided in the ‘Test Questions’ portion of the PSAT report.

Final words about the PSAT

Keep in mind – the PSAT has two functions:

  1. Serve as a practice SAT for high school juniors and sophomores.
  2. Identify potential candidates among high school juniors for the National Merit Scholarship program.

That means — Relax! PSAT scores are not shared with colleges, so a less than stellar PSAT score will not impact college admissions. Additionally, if a student fails to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, all hope for scholarships is not lost. There are several opportunities to seek scholarships. Click here to find scholarships through UniversityParent. Talk to your child’s guidance counselor and prospective colleges to learn about scholarship opportunities for which your child may qualify.

About the Author

Harsha Jattani, New England Test Prep, is an Ivy League graduate with over 10 years of teaching experience at the high school and collegiate levels. She has mentored many high school students through the college applications process, which includes SAT/ACT preparation and essay writing guidance. Harsha has also taught graduate level courses at Northeastern University. She has a strong interest in education and keeps up to date on new educational ideas and trends.

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