Once the PSAT proctor has called time, the hardest part is done. But there are still a couple of things left before you’ve crossed that final PSAT finish line.
You still have to wait for the results and take your next best steps toward college and a successful future beyond.
Below you’ll find details for:
- How to check PSAT scores
- What those PSAT scores mean, including:
- What is a good PSAT score
- How are the PSATs scored
- What to do with PSAT scores for National Merit Scholarships
- Next steps after the PSAT, depending on your PSAT scores
When And How To Check PSAT Scores
PSAT results are usually released around the beginning of December and your school will get a copy about a week before they’re ready for you.
College Board will send you an email notification that the scores are available.
Then you can check your PSAT scores online.
What PSAT Scores Mean
Your total score can be anywhere from 320 to 1520, unlike the SAT which ranges from 400 to 1600.
For a comprehensive guide on analyzing your results, click on this free, downloadable breakdown of your PSAT/NMSQ score report:
Also, a word of encouragement and caution: Many people’s initial instincts usually drive them to look at that number and wonder “did I fail? Was I good enough?”
Please remember that your score is not a reflection of your intelligence, worth, or work ethic.
And colleges NEVER see the score.
It’s only a tool.
It’s a tool to let you know where you’re at academically compared to the rest of the country and a reflection of your particular testing day.
Yes, your score can tell you about your National Merit Scholarship standing. But that only applies to a small fraction of the student population. (If you’re selected as a National Merit semifinalist, you’ll need to do follow-up work. Keep reading for more information in the “Next Steps After The PSAT” section.)
For most students and their families, the primary function of a PSAT score is to tell you what to work on for your upcoming SATs.Of course, if you’re a sophomore or younger, your PSAT score will also tell you what to work on for taking the PSAT again as a junior when your scores can count as your National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
What Is A Good PSAT Score?
While this is a totally fair question, it’s also a bit of a complicated one.
The truest answer is that the best score is one that aligns with your academic goals at this point.
If you’re looking to be competitive for a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll want to be aware that only the top 1% of test-taking juniors (think the 1460-1520 range) qualify as semi-finalists competing for the prizes and roughly .5% actually get the moolah.
But if you’re looking to get feedback on where you need to improve, really any score that you feel good about is good!
Pay attention to individual subject scores to see how you did on the math or writing and reading sections.
College Board even gives you insight into detailed questions as part of your report so you can see what specifically you got wrong and how hard the individual questions were.
For an even deeper dive into this topic, see this article about what a good SAT score looks like.
Then head back here for more help on understanding how the College Board arrives at your score.
How The PSATs Are Scored
The PSATs are calculated similarly to how the SATs are scored.
The number of questions you’ve answered correctly is your raw score.
College Board then inputs that raw score into a conversion chart they’ve developed (like the partial one pictured below), and comes up with your scaled score.
The purpose of this conversion chart is to adjust for different testing days. They try to create a test that is roughly the same every time, but it’s impossible to avoid sometimes having questions of a different difficulty level. This ensures that no one has an advantage based on which day they take the PSAT.
If your report says you got 89th percentile, that means you scored higher than 89% of a typical high school student, according to the College Board.
PSAT Reading and Writing Score
According to College Board, the section score for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing is calculated by adding the Reading Test score to the Writing and Language Test score and multiplying that figure by 10.
PSAT Math Score
According to the College Board, the section score for Math is calculated by multiplying the Math Test score by 20.
Next Steps After The PSAT
The most important thing you can do with your PSAT scores is to let them help you personalize a study plan for future college entrance standardized exams.
Usually, how you do on the PSAT is a good indicator of how you will do on the SAT (though there are some differences between the PSAT vs the SAT).
So if you did well, go you! Keep doing what you’re doing.
If you’re a semifinalist you’ll need to fill out an application and submit an SAT or ACT score as a follow-up next year.
If you have areas you’d like to do better, start studying the specific SAT subject sections that could benefit from improvement.
If you didn’t feel great about the PSAT, you could explore the differences between the ACT and SAT to see if that might be a better fit for you because colleges are often happy for you to submit whichever one you prefer.
Whichever you choose, don’t skimp on test prep.
Remember, your prospective colleges don’t see your PSAT scores but they do see your SAT or ACT scores and there is a ton of scholarship money on the line.
For help studying or making a college application plan that will gain you acceptance letters and scholarship awards, even when the process gets more and more complicated every year, our sister company March Consulting is here to help make the college admissions process make sense for you and your family.
More questions? Reach out to the PSAT experts here.