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Last Updated: January 23, 2022

Understanding PSAT Score

PSAT or the Preliminary SAT is a test taken by students from 8th, 9th, and 10th grades to identify the level of learning they have achieved in school. This opens doors for opportunities like the National Merit Scholarship and hence is often referred to as PSAT/NMSQT. The exam report suggests scores that reflect on your performance in school and if you will be college-ready in a few years.

Understanding what an Average PSAT score is, requires understanding the score report that they provide after the exam. The score report covers information ranging from your total score to the scores you have achieved in different content areas. This can further be broken down into deciphering how you have performed on questions of different difficulty levels. Percentiles, then, will help you compare your performance to that of the other test-takers.

Understanding the PSAT Report

The PSAT score report might look intimidating considering the number of figures that are present under various titles. But breaking down these scores can easily be managed after reading the comprehensive guide that we have written here for you to understand the report.

The report contains 8 pieces of information regarding the scores which require a little detailing to comprehend. Namely, it contains the total score, section scores, test scores, raw scores, sub-scores, cross-test scores, selection index scores, and percentiles.

Total Score- The total score is the first score that is written in the largest font size on the second page of your score report. The score is the sum of your section scores and depicts the number of correct answers you have marked in the test. The maximum mark that can be achieved in PSAT is 1520 unlike 1600 in SAT.

Section Scores- The section score will be written right below the total score in a smaller font and is the score you have availed for the two different sections in the test. The two different sections here are ERW (Evidence-based Reading and Writing) and Mathematics which are scored on a scale between 160 and 760.

Test Scores-This score goes one step further in dividing the scores and stands for the scores you have achieved in the individual sections of the test. You will be able to see what you have scored in Mathematics, Reading, Writing, and Language. Each section will have a maximum score of 38. This score is further converted into the scale required for the scaled Section Score by the College Board.

Raw Scores- The raw score is different from the section score in the sense that the raw score will also be separately provided for each section but is not scaled differently. Here, every answer that has been marked correctly will receive one mark each and thus will have different scores for each section. For Mathematics, the highest score achievable will be 48 whereas it will be 47 for Reading and 44 for Writing. This can also be checked by the student in the detailed score list provided in the report where each question number and your answer options are displayed.

Cross-test scores- The cross-test scores are calculated based on questions spread over the entire test that is rooted in History/ Social Sciences and Sciences. Cross-test scores are markers for these two areas that are not explicitly present in the test and is marked in a scale of 8 to 38 like the Section scores.

Sub-scores- Sub-scores have a score range of 1 to 15 and spans over multiple sections that deal with different question types. There are mainly 8 categories that are looked into for these scores.

Reading and Writing and Language
Selection Index Score-The Selection Index Score is present in the report towards the third page of the report and is not part of the SAT score. This unique PSAT score is used by the NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) to select students for the National Merit Scholarship. The score range for this section is from 48 to 228 and is the sum of all three unscaled test scores multiplied by 2. The students who are among the top 3% or 4% of the list are called commendable students whereas the top 1% of the students will be awarded the scholarship.

Percentile- Percentiles calculation is similar in both the PSAT and the SAT exams. It is concerned with your overall performance in relation to the other test-takers. A higher percentile implies that you have performed better than that particular percentage of test-takers during that particular test. For instance, if you have received a 75 percentile it implies that you have performed better than 75% of students who attempted the test in that session. On the other hand, receiving a 20% percentile implies that you have underperformed than 80% of the test-takers.

Scores You Should Look At

The scores that should be looked at without fail are mainly the scaled total score and section scores. These scores act as a precursor to the scores you may receive in the official SAT exam. But while considering these scores the scale differences of both these exams should be noted. That is, PSAT has an upper score limit of 1520 whereas SAT is calculated in 1600.

The other important scores that ought to be looked at are the percentile and the selection index score. The percentile lets you decide where you stand among the other test-takers. The score report will contain 2 different percentiles. One will be the Nationally Representative Sample percentile and the other will be a User percentile. The former one reflects on the percentile you would have received if all high school students in the nation had attempted the test and the latter shows your actual percentile with regard to the students who are in your grade who have actually taken the test. Therefore, one must focus on the User percentile than the Nationally Representative Sample.

Above Average and Below Average PSAT Scores

Considering that the maximum score that can be obtained is 1520, there are certain numbers that indicate an above average and a below-average score. An overall score above 1210 with perhaps more than 620 in Mathematics and another 620 in Reading and Writing would be considered the best score achievable. But any score above 1070 in 1520 would certainly create room for competition considering how this score can be achieved only by the top 25% of all the test-takers.

This does not imply that a score immediately below 1070 is “bad”. Overall scores above 950 with an above 500 in either Mathematics or English is a good PSAT score. While anything below 950 with scores below 500 in both sections is considered a below-average score.

What if my PSAT score is bad? What next?

Having a below-average score in PSAT does hinder your growth into higher education a little. PSAT scores do NOT decide your entire future. PSAT is conducted for students from 8th grade until 10th grade and can be taken throughout these 3 times. This gives you ample time to retake the test.

PSAT is conducted in schools in order to create an idea as to how SAT should be attempted in the future. This is why the pattern of the exam and the syllabus for both these exams have been kept similar apart from sections that are too advanced for 10th-grade students. If you have scored below average or not as much as you hoped for in your final attempt, you can always choose not to display your results to colleges/ universities.

It is understood that PSAT can win you scholarships and can provide you with a better chance for admission to your desired college/ university. But ultimately having a good SAT score can procure you the same in the long run. So just carry the experience of attempting the exam forward and achieve a better score in SAT to fulfill your dreams.

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