Understanding Your PSAT Score

If you’re a junior in high school, it’s likely you took the PSAT this past fall. Scores for those tests will be arriving soon, and here’s what you need to know about them:

When Will You Get Your Score

Unlike the SAT and other standardized tests you may take, scores for the PSAT are delivered first to your school and then your school passes the information along to you. Typically, schools can expect to receive score reports by the first week in December, although when you’ll see those numbers may vary by several weeks depending on your school. By mid-January you should definitely have your score in hand, but if you need it sooner it’s worth talking to your guidance counselor and seeing if they would be willing to release it to you ahead of time.  

What Your Score Means

Your score report will contain several different numbers. The first is a raw score: it tells you exactly how many questions you got correct. This number is used to generate what’s known as a scaled score.

Starting in 2015, the PSAT has been revamped to match the format for the SAT scheduled to debut in 2016. Like the new SAT, your scaled score will now include a combined Reading and Writing score and a Math score, each worth 160 – 760 points. The scaled scores are meant to give an indication of you might do on the actual SAT if you were to take it today. (You’ll notice that the highest possible score is 1520, 80 points lower than the coveted 1600 on the new SAT. This is to account for the fact that the PSAT is a slightly easier test than the actual SAT).

Finally, you will also receive a percentile. This number helps you understand how your performance on the test compares to others who took the test. For example, say you got 29 questions correct on the math section and a scaled score of 580. Your percentile would then probably be around 86, meaning that if 100 students took the test, you did better than approximately 86.  

What To Do Next

The PSAT is a useful tool to help you prepare for taking the SAT test next year and you can use your results to shape your test preparation strategy. To begin, look up what scores are required for the colleges you want to apply to. You may also want to find out what the average scores are for students who are accepted.  Compare this information with your PSAT score to determine how much you will need to improve when you take the SAT “for real” next year. When planning your test preparation, don’t only focus on the composite score: look at the score for each subsection to identify areas of weakness and strength. For example, if you did well on the math section, but struggled with the passage-based reading section then you know that area needs more of your time.  

The PSAT is a relatively inexpensive, low-stakes, way to get a jump on preparing for next year’s standardized tests. Take advantage of this information by sharing your score report with one of Curvebreakers’ experienced tutors. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the scores and will help you develop a customized plan to improve your performance on the normal SAT next year.