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What Do PSAT Scores Mean?

a group of students look at a computer waiting to see their PSAT scores

If you're a high school student who recently took the PSAT, you might be curious what your PSAT score means. Even though scores come with a full report, the information provided can sometimes still use some explaining.

Here, we break down the significance of each number and what you should do now. You can also check out our video for a more detailed overview provided by admissions expert, Wenie Lado.

 

Understanding your PSAT score report

You can sign into your College Board account to see your score report. When you do, you'll notice sections highlighting your PSAT Total Score, Section Scores, Test Scores, and places to click in and see Score Details, Test Questions, and more. 

Here is what each of those areas represents:

PSAT Total Score

Your scaled Total Score is probably the most important of all the numbers you get in your PSAT score report. So look for that at the top of your score report. The highest Total Score you can get is 1520, which is the sum of the scores for the two test sections.

Next to your Total Score, you'll see where that score places you in terms of percentile within a nationally represented group of your peers. If you score in the 80th percentile, for instance, you scored higher than 80% of all students who took the test. This number will give you a good idea of where you fall within average PSAT scores. 

This Total Score is an equated score, meaning the various test difficulty levels have been adjusted. So if you happen to get a slightly more difficult test, overall scores from other days will hold the same weight, which is good.

Finally, it's important to note that the Total Score differs from the SAT's Total Score, which is 1600. So don't get the two confused. The highest Total Score you can get on the PSAT is 1520.

PSAT Section Scores 

You'll also find your Section Scores on your score report listed below your Total Score. The PSAT is divided into two sections- Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each is scored on a scale of 160-760. By adding up your score on the two sections, you'll get your PSAT Total Score, as explained above. 

Each section is broken up visually on your PSAT score report, so you can see how you did on the section and where you are in terms of your ranking or percentile. This gives you a good idea about the average scores for the PSAT. You'll even see a green check box to tell you if you've hit the benchmark and are on track to be ready for college. Alternatively, students who aren't quite on track see a yellow icon indicating as much.

Individual PSAT test scores

Next, you'll find your scores for the three individual tests. These scores range from 8 to 38; you can think of them as insight into your test-taking strengths and areas to improve.

PSAT selection index score (for the National Merit Scholarship Program)

Interested in the National Merit Scholarship Program? They use the Selection Index to choose their yearly semifinalists. You can find your Selection Index core by looking lower on your PSAT score report. That number is calculated by adding your two Section Scores and multiplying that number by 2. The national cutoff score for eligibility is adjusted by state and changes yearly. But for the 2022 year, it was 207.

If you're curious to learn more, you can access this guide to the National Merit Scholarship. We also like this up-to-date article that covers how cutoff scores are determined

What's a good PSAT score?

If you're wondering what equates to a "good score," the answer is subjective. And there's almost always room for improvement. But a score between 1210 and 1520 means you scored within the top 10%. Or, you can look at it like this: if your score is within the range of the cutoff score for the National Merit Scholarship Program, you have a great PSAT score. 

Of course, if your score isn't where you want it to be, there's still time to study and test prep, so you'll end up with an SAT score or ACT score you are proud of.  

What's the highest PSAT score?

The highest score that any student can receive on a PSAT is a 1520.

What is the average PSAT score? 

According to the College Board, the average PSAT score is about 920.

Our expert, Wenie, explained:


"Institutions won't need to see your PSAT score. If they are going to ask for a standardized test, it's either going to be the SAT or the ACT that they'll want to know about. So students usually ask me, 'What's the average PSAT score?' Well, according to the College Board, last year, the average was 920, which is very different than the top score of 1520."

After getting your PSAT score report

Once you've gotten your score report and understand what it's telling you, it's helpful to outline ways to use the data. But remember, your PSAT score is just one tool to help you plan for college. 

Wenie tells her students:

"It's important for you to recognize that your PSAT score is just a guiding principle to help you as you start to navigate this college journey. There are thousands of colleges out there that are going to ask for students to share standardized testing scores. And then there are tons of institutions out there that give you the option to send in your standardized test."

One way to use your PSAT score is to identify areas you can work to strengthen.

For instance, if you feel your score in the math section was lower than you wanted it to be, then make a plan to improve in that area. Can you get a tutor or take a prep class before taking your SAT? Alternatively, maybe you did exceptionally well and now know you should explore AP classes.

Either way, don't let the valuable insight you get from the PSAT go to waste. But don't feel stressed if your score isn't where you'd want it. You have the time and the information you need to make a solid follow-up plan. 

Using a college acceptance calculator to know where you stand

Junior year is a good time to look at colleges and their acceptance rates. Knowing your percentile on the PSAT gives you a general idea of how you'll perform on the SAT - if you were to take it today. Combine that insight with the Appily database, and you'll be able to build your college list with reach, safety, and match schools

Appily's college acceptance calculator lets you know your chances of getting into college. We take into account your academic information — GPA and test scores — to give you an estimate of how likely you are to be admitted. It's fast, free, and easy. Just click the button below to get started.

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