Understanding PSAT Scores

As students prepare to take the SAT during their sophomore or junior years, they might wonder how they can improve their scores for this critical exam. The PSAT, also known as the Preliminary SAT, is one tool you can use to gauge your academic abilities and your preparedness for the real SAT.

The PSAT is perfect for students who want to identify their weak points in order to focus their studies for the SAT. The PSAT isn’t crucial for all students, but if you are interested in certain academic programs—especially the National Merit Scholarship program—your scores will matter. 

In this post, we’ll get into specifics about your PSAT scores. This way you’ll fully understand what the PSAT score is and what your PSAT scores might mean for the upcoming SAT.


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How is the PSAT Scored, and What is the Score Range?

To understand how the College Board (the organization that administers the PSAT) calculates PSAT scores, you must first understand the test’s structure. The PSAT is divided into two sections: the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Each section gets an individual section score, which you can look at separately, and then those scores are added to create your total PSAT score. For each section, you can score between 160 and 760, meaning that total scores ranges from 320 to 1520. 

In addition to this test score, students also receive a score report. The score report further breaks down your test score to help you understand how well you’ve performed in three categories: Reading, Writing Language, and Math. Scores for each skill range from 8 to 38.

Finally, you’ll also receive subscores valued between 1 and 15. These scores will show your specific performance in various test areas, including Command of Evidence, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, and Problem Solving & Data Analysis.  

What Does Your PSAT Score Mean?

Many students wonder what their PSAT score means. Here, we’ll break down your test score and explain how this standardized test can help you as you prepare for the SAT

The PSAT and the SAT have different scoring systems. The PSAT goes up to 1520, while the SAT scores range up to 1600. Because the PSAT reflects the structure of and largely tests on the same content as the SAT, students who score around 1100-1200 on the PSAT can expect to get a similar score on the SAT.

But just because you scored high on the PSAT, doesn’t mean you should slack. This preparatory exam can help you know where you are academically, but you’ll still want to prepare for the SAT. Furthermore, a perfect PSAT doesn’t guarantee a perfect SAT score, because the SAT is a little more challenging than the PSAT. 

What Does A Good PSAT Score Look Like?

Your score alone won’t be a good indicator of where you stand. You should also look at the percentile you fall into. Your percentile will tell you how your score compares to other students who took the test this year. For instance, if your score is within the 80th percentile, this means that your score is equal to or higher than that of 80% of test takers. This is good! It means that only 20% of students scored higher than you. 

The higher your percentile, the better. A test score between about 920 and 1010 will get you into the 50th percentile. This is considered an okay, roughly average PSAT score

If you want an even more competitive score, a range of 1050 to 1150 is the benchmark for a good PSAT score.  The 99+ percentile—the best possible percentile score—usually requires a composite score of 1430+.

Overall, to be prepared for the SAT, you want your percentile score to fall within the 50th percentile or higher. However, getting closer to the 75th percentile will give you a major advantage. You can look at a breakdown of scores in more detail here on the College Board’s website.  

How Important Is Your PSAT Score?

We’ve been talking about what a good PSAT score looks like. Again, if your score is in the 75th percentile and above, you will have a good chance of scoring well on the SAT and you may automatically qualify for some scholarships. 

The most notable scholarship program associated with the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship, which requires applicants to score in the top 1%. Still, you want to spend time preparing for the PAST to give yourself the best chance to qualify for this valuable scholarship opportunity. 

Preparing for and taking the PSAT will help you better understand what you need to do in order to meet your academic goals. In fact, in addition to learning what their SAT performance may be, students who score well on the PSAT are more likely to do well in college and get passing grades as they start their first semester of higher education.  

Do Colleges Look At The PSAT?

The colleges and universities you apply to won’t see your PSAT score, but by learning your PSAT scores (and later your SAT scores), you can see whether you’re ready to take on the challenges of college-level courses.  So, keep this in mind as you look at your total score and assess your performance on each section of the test. Ask yourself what you need to work on to get the results you want.

We at HelloCollege aim to help you get the most out of your university preparations. For more information about paying for college, and choosing a major that will aid in helping pay back student loans contact us.

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
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About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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