An essential guide to the very unhelpful PSAT score reports and what to do next
College Board just released its first round of scores for the first national shift to Digital PSAT, with the Digital SAT set to go nationwide on March 9th of next year, and the ACT is testing out their own digital platform for the December 9th test. The SAT/ACT testing and admissions world is more chaotic and muddied than ever. With the upcoming changes in 2024, it can be overwhelming to decide what's best for future college admissions success.
We've answered the essential questions everyone is asking about the recent PSAT score reports so you can be empowered to choose what to do next!
How does the adaptive test work:
Students take one section of Reading/English and one section of math, and then, based on their performance in each, they are given an easier or more complex version in the second section. Higher scorers will be given a chance to score even higher with a more challenging second section, and lower scorers will be given an easier version that allows them to get more questions correct overall (but with an upper limit on the total score they can get). The adaptive decisions are made separately for each subject.
How to make the best guest about whether you were given the easy or hard version:
College Board refuses to be exact about this information, and they do not tell students which versions they received in their score reports. Here is what we know so far…
Subject scores of about 650 or above, you likely were given the harder test
Low subject scores were likely from the easier test, about 400 per subject or below
Everything in the middle could go either way
Why can't I see which questions I got right or wrong on the PSAT?:
- On an adaptive test, a basic count of right or wrong answers doesn't quite add up. That means students won't clearly know how many questions they nailed or missed. Students will not know exactly how their score was determined. A published scale makes little sense when everyone has taken a different exam.
- Students won't get to see their specific problems because the College Board plans to reuse some of them down the line. Instead of providing access to three real tests a year through the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS), they'll be rolling out more sample tests from time to time.
- The College Board used Item Response Theory ((IRT) to scale the SAT. Questions in the exam can have different weights under IRT. That means tests are no longer counted by right or wrong answers to determine a score. With IRT, the College Board tailors each exam to individual students, creating an optimized view of problem difficulty and weightings for accurate score categorization. While IRT is a more complicated model, students only need to focus on getting as many questions within the allotted time.
If you found these elements easy/helpful, you might want to consider the SAT:
Smaller reading sections
Using a familiar device
Flagging questions and reviewing all answers at the end
The second section was harder, but still manageable
Scored above a 650 on math
If you found these elements difficult on the PSAT, you might want to consider the ACT:
Not adaptable enough for my accessibility needs
The test didn't feel too hard, but you still didn't get a very high score
Focusing on the computer/test environment
Can't write notes on the passage
New passage for each question/hard to answer the questions without context
Too much multivariable algebra (or too much math in general)
Weird reading questions/poetry
Lack of clarity/feedback in the score report
What can your PSAT score tell you about how you might do on the full tests?
PSAT scores map pretty closely onto SAT scores, but here is what their approximate equivalents would be on the ACT:
(SAT is out of 1600, and ACT is out of 36)
PSAT 1500 = ACT 34
PSAT 1400 = ACT 31
PSAT 1300 = ACT 28
PSAT 1200 = ACT 25
PSAT 1100 = ACT 22
PSAT 1000 = ACT 19
PSAT 900 = ACT 16
PSAT 800 = ACT 14
PSAT 700 = ACT 12
PSAT 600 = ACT 9
As these tests continue to adapt, we will adapt with them, so we are rebuilding our entire PSAT/SAT program into a fully digital platform (release aimed for June 2024, just in time for summer test prep!). In the meantime, our ACT 5.0 will be available on January 1, 2024, for a self-guided and customizable test prep experience that allows students to go at their own pace and receive extra help on specific topics or problem areas as needed. That way, you can compare your PSAT and ACT (practice test) results to make informed decisions about which test to pursue going forward.
In the meantime, if you are still unsure about what to do next - how National Merit works, how to prepare college lists or application timelines, or whether or not to submit scores to "test-optional" schools? - set an (in-person or virtual) consultation appointment with one of our expert college counselors at March Consulting today!