An Ultimate Guide on PSAT Score Ranges
About eight weeks after taking the PSAT, your scores are released on the online portal. You will quickly realize that they look significantly different than grades you receive in school. It can be hard to tell if your score is good, bad, or average if you don’t know the special scale that the PSAT is graded on. The lowest total PSAT score is 320, while the maximum total score is 1520. Your score will fall between these two numbers. It’s important to note that this scale differs from the SAT total score range, which goes from 400 to 1600. Once you’ve accessed your PSAT score, read on to understand what these numbers mean and find out what insights your score report provides.
What A PSAT Score Report Looks Like
The score report might be a bit overwhelming to read at first, but breaking down what the numbers mean will allow you to comprehensively understand how you did on the test. The score report includes a lot of information, but it is divided into 5 main sections: Total Score, Section Scores, Individual Test Scores, Selection Index Scores, and Subscores. They each have different ranges, as shown in the table below.
|Individual Test Scores
|Selection Index Scores
How Are PSAT Scores Calculated
Each type of score is calculated differently and has its own interpretation. It might seem like overkill to have so many different types of scores, but they all fit together to tell a cohesive story on how you did on the PSAT.
Total Score (320 to 1520)
Your Total Score is the most important to take note of and is the most visible on the score report. This score will range from 320 to 1520. When people ask you how you did on the PSAT, you will most likely tell them your total score. It is calculated by summing together your two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math.
Underneath your Total Score, your report will provide “Your Nationally Representative Sample Percentile.” We will dive deeper into what percentiles mean in a later section of this article, but in short, your percentile will tell you how well your score stacks up to other students in your grade who also took the test.
Section Scores (160 to 760)
You will receive two Section Scores: one for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and one for Math. These scores will range from 160 to 760. Similar to the Total Score, your percentile is also listed below for each of the scores. Underneath the percentile will also be a bar chart that is divided into green, yellow, and red sections. Where your score lies on the chart will tell you where you are in relation to the College and Career Readiness Benchmark. The PSAT benchmarks are 460 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 510 for Math. These scores are approximately like earning a C in the corresponding introductory college course.
If your score lies in the red section of the bar, you are below the benchmark and may need to work more on that specific subject. If you are in the yellow section, it means that you are near to the benchmark, and if you are in the green section, it means that you’ve met or exceeded the benchmark.
Individual Test Scores (8 to 38)
On the bottom half of the score report, you’ll see individual test scores for three sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Each of these scores will range from 8 to 38. This is called your “raw score,” and is based on how many answers you got correct on each section.
The scale used to measure your raw score changes from test to test and is determined by the College Board. For example, if you got 21 out of 47 questions correct in the Reading section, your Reading test score (raw score) is 23 for the PSAT taken in October 2021.
The raw score is then used to calculate your section scores using the following formulas:
- Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score = (Reading Test Score + Writing and Language Test Score) * 10
- Math section score = Math Test Score * 20
Selection Index Score (48 to 228)
Your selection Index Score is important if you are interested in the National Merit Scholarship Program, a national academic competition providing scholarships to attend college. The program is administered by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), who use the Selection Index Score to determine students who qualify for the program. About 50,000 students who score high enough on the PSAT can be recognized by the program and around 7,500 students are chosen as scholarship winners annually.
The Selection Index Score will range from 48-228, and is calculated using the following formula:
- Selection Index Score = [ (2 * Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section Score) + Math Section Score] / 10
The third page of your score report will provide comprehensive information on your performance on each question of the test. This is the finest-grain feedback you will receive from the test as it will tell you which specific questions you got right or wrong. While you can’t see the content of the actual question on the report, you can refer to the score key released on the College Board website for each PSAT test.
Your subscores are split into 7 sections: Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. The first two sections are associated with Reading, the next two are associated with Writing, and the last three are associated with Math. These scores range from 1 to 15 and provide feedback on your performance in each specific skill area and is useful to keep in mind when preparing for your next test.
Why Take The Test?
There are multiple benefits to taking the PSAT, most significantly of which is that it prepares you to one day take the SAT. Many colleges recommend submitting SAT score with your application and factors it in when determining your admissions decision. Taking the PSAT can start your SAT preparation early by familiarizing you to the layout of the test and the types of test questions it will ask. It can also be a “dress rehearsal” for your SAT test day, as you will know what it feels like to take the test in one sitting, under timed conditions, and under the watchful eye of a proctor. It is a very low-stakes opportunity to get a feel of what it’ll be like to take the SAT since your PSAT scores will not be sent to any colleges. Additionally, your PSAT score report can guide your studying strategy for the next test you take, since it identifies specific skills and subjects that you can improve on.
Another benefit to taking the PSAT is that, depending on your score, colleges may try to recruit you early. It can be less stressful to know what options are available for you and to get a head-start on the admissions process.
Finally, taking the PSAT offers you the chance to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program where you can potentially win scholarships to finance your college tuition. Scorers in the top 0.5% of test takers in their state will become a National Merit Semifinalist. Note that students in 10th grade or below can’t qualify for the program.
What Are PSAT Score Percentiles
Percentiles is a helpful measure to understand how you did in relation to other students who also took the same test. Your percentile score will range from 1 to 99, and indicates the percentage of students who got a lower score than you.
For example, if you scored in the 86th percentile, it means you did better than 86% of students taking the same test. Scoring in the 50th percentile means that you scored exactly in the median of test scores. Percentile is calculated by placing your score in context of the distribution of everyone else’s score. It is important to look at percentile to see where you stand among your peers, as college admissions will eventually be looking at percentile rankings to compare students in their applicant pools.
The table below is an example of how your scores can translate to percentile rankings.
PSAT Scores Range Explained
Now that you understand how to read your score report and how each score was calculated, it’s crucial to know what your score means! Is it a good or bad score? This depends on your grade level. Read on to see where your score stands.
11th Grade Score Ranges
Elite PSAT Scores: 1370-1520
11th grade students who score in this range are in the top 1% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1370-1520
- Math Section Score: 720+
- Verbal Section Score: 680+
Excellent PSAT Scores: 1200-1360
11th grade students who score in this range are in the top 10% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1200-1360
- Math Section Score: 600-710
- Verbal Section Score: 610-670
Above Average PSAT Scores: 1080-1190
11th grade students who score in this range are in the top 25% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1080-1190
- Math Section Score: 550-590
- Verbal Section Score: 550-600
Average PSAT Scores: 960-1070
11th grade students who score in this range are in the top 50% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 960-1070
- Math Section Score: 490-540
- Verbal Section Score: 480-540
Below Average PSAT Scores: 320-950
11th grade students who score in this range are in the lower 50% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 320-950
- Math Section Score: below 480
- Verbal Section Score: below 470
10th Grade Score Ranges
Elite PSAT Scores: 1360-1520
10th grade students who score in this range are in the top 1% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1360-1520
- Math Section Score: 700+
- Verbal Section Score: 690+
Excellent PSAT Scores: 1170-1350
10th grade students who score in this range are in the top 10% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1170-1350
- Math Section Score: 590-690
- Verbal Section Score: 600-680
Above Average PSAT Scores: 1060-1160
10th grade students who score in this range are in the top 25% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 1060-1160
- Math Section Score: 530-580
- Verbal Section Score: 540-590
Average PSAT Scores: 920-1050
10th grade students who score in this range are in the top 50% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 920-1050
- Math Section Score: 470-520
- Verbal Section Score: 470-530
Below Average PSAT Scores: 320-910
10th grade students who score in this range are in the lower 50% of all test takers.
- Total Score: 320-910
- Math Section Score: below 460
- Verbal Section Score: below 460
How To Improve Your PSAT Scores
If you are looking to bump up your PSAT score to the next score range, striving to reach a specific score goal, or hoping to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, there are many steps you can take to improve your score.
The first step you should take is to analyze your score report and pinpoint areas of improvement. These can be skills where you are below the benchmark or even types of questions that you noticed that you repeatedly got wrong. Your study plan can then focus on these areas. There are many online, free resources you can use to study for the PSAT that offer full practice tests, drills on specific questions, and tips and tricks for each subject. If you are looking for a more structured study plan, however, you can also look for tutors or PSAT-specific test camps. While their services aren’t free, many students find that it is most compatible with their learning and study style. In all, practice makes perfect and taking practice tests and reviewing questions is the best way to improve your score.
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About the Author
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.