Thousands of high school students across the US take the PSAT each year, and after a few weeks, they are able to view their scores on the online portal. The portal will show a total score between 320 and 1520 and the score report provides additional details and information about their performance. Even with the score report, though, it can be hard to understand what the score actually means since it’s evaluated nothing like a traditional high school exam. Because of this, it can even be hard to grasp whether or not they did well. Read on to understand what the PSAT score means and how to tell if it’s a “good” score or not.

PSAT Scoring Overview

The PSAT total score ranges from 320 and 1520. It is the sum of two section scores: a Reading and Writing (EBRW) section and a Math section. For each section, the score range is between 160 and 760. The score report will also provide additional scores, like the individual test scores, selection index score (if you are a junior taking the PSAT/NMSQT), and sub-scores. These provide more detailed information on how you did on specific parts of the test and how proficient you are on skills like scientific analysis. If you want to learn more about these scores, check out this article on the Ultimate Guide on PSAT Score Ranges. While important to understand, though, they are overall not as important as your total and section scores.

Judging a Good or Bad PSAT Score Based on Percentiles

One of the best ways to determine if you got a good PSAT score or not is to look at your percentile ranking. Your ranking will be provided on your score report and ranges from 1-99%. Percentiles can be tricky to understand at first, but they basically measure how well you did compared to your peers who took the same test. For example, if you scored in the 75th percentile of the test, you did equal or better than 75% of overall test takers. This means that scoring in the 50th percentile means that you got the median score—half of the students taking the test got a lower score than you, and half got a higher score. Therefore, a good score surely falls above 50th percentile since you hope to stand in the upper half of scores.

It is important to note that percentile doesn’t tell you directly how many questions you got right or wrong. If you scored in the 80th percentile, it doesn’t mean that you got 80% of the questions right. This is a measure that places your score in context of other people. Your composite score (based on how many you got right or wrong) doesn’t actually mean much unless you consider your percentile. The PSAT is a predictor of your success on the SAT—meaning if you scored a 1300 on the PSAT, you are likely to also score a 1300 on the SAT—and your SAT score is almost always used by admissions committees to compare you with other students in the applicant pool. Therefore, you shouldn’t judge your score purely on how many questions you got right and wrong as it’s more important to have a good score relative to other students.

Good PSAT Scores For Different Grades

While a score in the 50th percentile is considered average, people usually consider a score in the 75th percentile to be “solid,” a score in the 90th percentile to be “great,” and a score in the 99th percentile to be “outstanding.”

Based on this information, we can see what are the ranges for a good score based on the score to percentile conversion information provided by the College Board. It is important to note, however, that this conversion is not the same across grades or even across different school years.

Different grades take different versions of the PSAT. Eighth graders and high school freshmen take the PSAT 8/9, sophomores take the PSAT 10, and juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT, which can qualify them for the National Merit Scholarship Program (read more here if you are interested in this national scholarship program that gives out thousands of dollars to students each year to help pay for college). The three tests are more or less the same in style of questions and format, but questions are adjusted in difficulty for each grade level, the length of sections vary, and the score range for the PSAT 8/9 is lower (240-1440). This means that score to percentile conversions will also differ between the three types of tests.

Finally, since percentiles are based on how well the total pool of test takers did, the score to percentile conversion will actually vary based on the year, usually by a couple of points. 

Below is an example score to percentile conversion table based on the 2020-2021 testing class taking the PSAT/NMSQT. For these test takers, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is a total score of 1150, with a math section score between 580-590, and a ERBW section score of 610.

PERCENTILETOTAL SCOREMATH SCOREERBW SCORE
99+1490-1520760750-760
991460-1480750730-740
951360-1370690-700690
901280640650-660
851230610630
801190580-590610
75 (good)1150570590
50 (median)1000-1010490510

Eighth Graders

For eighth graders, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is 930.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile: 1180-1440
  • “Great” – 90th percentile: 1010-1020
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile: 930
  • “Average” – 50th percentile: 820

Freshmen

For high school freshmen, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is between 990-1000.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile: 1250-1440
  • “Great” – 90th percentile: 1180
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile: 990-1000
  • “Average” – 50th percentile: 880

Sophomores

For high school sophomores, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is a 1060.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile: 1360-1520
  • “Great” – 90th percentile: 1180
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile: 1060
  • “Average” – 50th percentile: 920

Juniors

For high school juniors, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is a 1150.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile: 1460-1520
  • “Great” – 90th percentile: 1280
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile: 1150
  • “Average” – 50th percentile: 1010

What Are Good PSAT Scores For Each Section Of The Exam

The score report also provides your percentile for the two sections of the exam, Math and EBRW. Knowing if you are stronger or weaker in Math or Reading and Writing is important information to inform your future study plan if you hope to take the SAT in the future.

Read on for the score to percentile conversions for each PSAT section by grade level.

Eighth Graders

For eighth graders, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is 460 in Math and between 470-480 in EBRW.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile
    • EBRW: 610-720
    • Math: 580-720
  • “Great” – 90th percentile
    • EBRW: 520-530
    • Math: 500-510
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile
    • EBRW: 470-480
    • Math: 460
  • “Average” – 50th percentile
    • EBRW: 410-420
    • Math: 410

Freshmen

For high school freshmen, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is between 490-500 in Math and between 500-510 in EBRW.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile
    • EBRW: 640-720
    • Math: 640-720
  • “Great” – 90th percentile
    • EBRW: 560-570
    • Math: 550
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile
    • EBRW: 500-510
    • Math: 490-500
  • “Average” – 50th percentile
    • EBRW: 430-440
    • Math: 440-450

Sophomores

For high school sophomores, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is between 520-530 in Math and between 530-540 in EBRW.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile
    • EBRW: 690-760
    • Math: 700-760
  • “Great” – 90th percentile
    • EBRW: 600
    • Math: 590-600
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile
    • EBRW: 530-540
    • Math: 520-530
  • “Average” – 50th percentile
    • EBRW: 460-470
    • Math: 460-470

Juniors

For high school juniors, based on data from test takers during the 2020-2021 school year, a “good” score in the 75th percentile is between 520-530 in Math and 530-540 in EBRW.

  • “Outstanding” – 99th+ percentile
    • EBRW: 690-760
    • Math: 700-760
  • “Great” – 90th percentile
    • EBRW: 600
    • Math: 580-590
  • “Solid” – 75th percentile
    • EBRW: 530-540
    • Math: 520-530
  • “Average” – 50th percentile
    • EBRW: 460-470
    • Math: 460-470

How To Get The Target Score

Now that you understand percentiles and know the ranges for a “good” PSAT score, the natural question is, how can I get a “good” PSAT score? The answer is simple: study and prepare. But how do you study and prepare? This answer is not so simple, and we’ve outlined a couple of next steps you can take to best position yourself to get a PSAT score in the 75th percentile or higher.

Start Preparing In Advance

The PSAT is not a test that you can cram in only one night. It is a long test that covers a wide berth of topics, and the only way to ensure success is to start preparing in advance. Practicing in advance will allow you the most opportunities to get comfortable with the PSAT question style and format and practice specific drills and strategies. There is a sweet spot, though, in how far in advance you should start preparing—if you start preparing too early, you risk additional stress and potential burnout. As a rule of thumb, you should start preparing for the PSAT 3-6 months before the exam, depending on your schedule (how often you can study) and how big of a score improvement you’re looking for.

Determine Your Weak Points

If you took the PSAT in eighth grade, freshman year, or sophomore year of high school, you have the benefit of analyzing your score report to pinpoint your weak areas. Identifying these areas will be crucial to building your study plan and improving your score. For example, if your score report shows that you consistently get questions wrong in Algebra, you can focus in on those types of problems and learn specific tips and tricks to approach those types of questions better. It will help you make the most of your study time and propel you to make the biggest improvements you can make (ie. It’s easier to push up a section score from the 50th percentile to the 60th percentile than getting a section score from the 98th to 99th percentile).

Practice And Be Consistent

The only way to improve at anything is to practice, practice, practice. The is the most essential component to reaching that 75th percentile score. Once you’ve created a study plan and identified your weak areas, start doing drills and practicing strategies so that you can cement it in your mind. Eventually, the focused repetition will let these skills and concepts come automatically to you on test day.

The most helpful resources to use are past practice tests, which are published by College Board on their website. The questions and format will be exactly like you will expect on the actual test. Before taking the PSAT, it is important to take at least one practice test while imitating testing conditions. This means sitting down and taking the test in one go under the correct timed conditions.

Finally, once you make a study plan, stick to it! If you have time internally motivating yourself to stick to a study schedule, ask your parent or a friend to keep you accountable. Or, you can look towards tutoring for another person to guide you through studying and help you stick to a homework plan.

Getting PSAT Highest Score Is Possible With SoFloTutors

Are you applying to competitive schools looking for students who score in the 75th percentile and above on the SAT? Don’t know how to get that “good” score? SoFlo Tutors can help you out. All of our tutors attend top universities around the nation and scored in the 99th percentile on their SAT. They will work one-on-one on you to identify and improve your weak areas and increase your chances of getting your target score. Our tutors schedule to sessions to your availability and our costs start at $60/hour. Check out our tutoring services to book a session!

About the Author

Andie Pinga

Andie Pinga is an expert SoFlo tutor and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania double-majoring in Economics and Anthropology. She scored a 35 on her ACT, and when she’s not studying on campus or meeting with friends, Andie enjoys playing the acoustic and electric guitar.

You may also like

Comments are closed.