Making Sense of the PSAT

Sophomores and Juniors took the PSAT in October and should be getting test results this week. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the test, so I thought it might be helpful to break down how the test works, what your scores mean and next steps. Personally, I find all of this very confusing, so if you have any questions, please reach out to me.

The PSAT is scored on the same rubric as the SAT, but it’s not the same scoring scale. The PSAT is a bit easier than the SAT and is also shorter; it’s scored out of 1520 points instead of 1600. Your score consists of Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math – each scored out of a possible 760 points.
Your raw score (the number of questions you get right in a section)-are converted before you get your final score (confused yet?). Understanding Your PSAT Score will show you how the raw scores are scaled on the 2019 test.

Your Score Reports also contain percentiles, which show your rank against a comparative sample. A percentile is the percent of students who scored lower than a given score. The PSAT uses two percentiles, only one of which is on the report parents and students receive. The other one is only accessible online.
Nationally Representative Sample: This is a measure derived from a “standard research study of U.S. students in the 10th or 11th grade and are weighted to represent all U.S. students in those grades, regardless of whether they typically take the PSAT/NMSQT or the PSAT 10.” (other typical high school students)
PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT User Sample: This percentile is located on your student’s online score sample, and it compares their performance to other students who took the test within the last three years. Generally speaking, the User Sample percentile is a bit lower than the Nationally Representative Sample percentile.

The College Board measures each score against their college readiness benchmarks. You’ll see either a green checkmark or a yellow exclamation, which will tell you if you are on track to handle college-level work. It doesn’t mean you are ready for college now if you are a tenth grader, it just means you are on track to be college ready when the time comes.

Each test report comes with a National Merit index number. It’s calculated from test scores. The National Merit Scholarship is open to all 11th graders who are U.S. citizens. Each state has a different cut off for the PSAT score qualifications for National Merit. If your student is selected they will be notified in September. Here’s an idea of what the cutoffs are by state. This score can help with scholarship money and other aid. Reach out if you have more questions about this.

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