PSAT Scores

If you take the Preliminary SAT (or PSAT) in October, you should expect to receive your PSAT scores sometime in December. Unlike the SAT, your PSAT scores will not have an impact on the college admissions process or your ability to obtain scholarships – unless you qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.

Even though your PSAT scores will not be considered during the college admissions process, it is important that you take the PSAT test seriously. This test should be used as practice for the SAT, which will play a role in the college admission process.

When you receive your PSAT scores in the mail or from your high school guidance counselor, you should review you score report closely in order to identify your weaknesses.

How Should I Interpret My PSAT Scores?

Content and Scoring

Your PSAT scores will be broken down into the following 3 sections: Math, Critical Reading and Writing. You can earn between 20 to 80 points on each section. The national PSAT scores average for high school juniors is around 50. More specifically, the national average score for each section is as follows: Critical Reading – 47; Mathematics – 48; and Writing – 46.  For sophomores, the average test scores were a little lower.

Converting PSAT Scores to SAT Scores

Underneath your PSAT scores on each section, you’ll notice a range of possible scores. For example, if you scored a 48 on the Critical Reading section, your range of scores might be between 45 and 56. If you want to convert your PSAT scores to SAT scores, just add a zero at the end of each of your scores. Using the same example, if you scored a 48 on the Critical Reading section, your estimated SAT score would be 480. However, keep in mind that these are just estimates. The questions on the SAT test are generally a little bit more difficult.

The Answer Key

Along with your PSAT Scores, you will also receive a score report that contains all of the answers for each section of the PSAT test. On the answer key, you should expect to see the correct answer, your answer, and the difficulty level of the question – easy, medium, or hard. On the Math section, the answer key will also indicate the type of math that was being tested – algebra, geometry, data analysis, or numbers and operations. You’ll also receive your test booklet back with your PSAT scores. This will help you figure out exactly which questions you got wrong and why.

Comparing Students by Grade Level

Your score report will also allow you to compare your PSAT scores to other students in your grade level (i.e. sophomores or juniors) across the nation. The score report should include a percentile. For example, if your percentile is 70%, this means that your PSAT scores were higher than 70% of the students in your grade level.

What Happens With My PSAT Scores

Again, your PSAT scores will not be sent to colleges; however they will help you determine the areas that you need to improve on for the SAT test. Your high school counselor will likely schedule a meeting with you to discuss your PSAT scores and help you put together a study plan for the SAT. Some high schools also use the PSAT test results to help determine which students will be placed in AP (advanced placement) classes.

Can I Take The PSAT More Than Once?

Absolutely! In fact, a lot of students (sophomores in particular) choose to take this exam more than once. For example, if you are a sophomore and you receive your PSAT scores in December, you’ll have plenty of time to review your PSAT scores before you take the test again during your junior year. However, keep in mind that only PSAT scores earned during your junior year will qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship.

Use Your PSAT Scores As A Study Tool For The SAT

At the bottom of your PSAT scores, you’ll notice a list of skills that you need to work on improving, based on your performance on the PSAT test. As you review each answer that you got wrong, take the time to really think about why you got the question wrong and why. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • Do I notice any patterns?
  • Did I miss a lot of easy questions because I moved through the test too quickly?
  • Did I only miss the harder questions?
  • Did I miss a lot of questions in the same content area?

Improving your PSAT scores will take a lot of effort. Don’t expect to only study for an hour or two and see a dramatic increase in your PSAT scores. In order to see a substantial improvement in your scores, you should student consistently (1-2 hours per night) for several weeks.

In addition to reviewing your score report, you can also take an SAT prep course. These courses can provide you with great SAT study tips to help you do your best on exam day. You can also review your PSAT scores with your teachers – particularly your Math and English teachers. They can help you practice those weak areas. And last, but not least, continue reading in order to expand your vocabulary. You never know what words are going to show up on your SAT test.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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