PSAT Scores are Back! What do they Mean?

(The following blog posts uses data and images from The College Board’s Sample PSAT Score report.)

This is it, parents and students everywhere. The first batch of scores for the Redesigned PSAT/NMSQT is out, and now it’s time to figure out what it all means. If you haven’t already checked, your student’s score report should be available through his or her College Board account. We’ll walk you through the major pieces here, but if you’d prefer, you can always give us a call for a detailed review of the scores! Before we get into the nitty gritty, there are some significant changes to the Redesigned PSAT/NMSQT from its predecessor, so let’s list ‘em, shall we?


Now that we’ve covered the re-design, let’s talk scores. Each student will be given a slew of scores to look at. The first scores that you’ll see will be your total score and individual totals in the two major sections. This score, as discussed above, is out of a total 1520 points, comprised of the two major topic areas: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math (M).

The first page of your report will list your total score in the middle and your individual section scores to the left and right, as shown below:


Now, you might be asking yourself why these scores are not out of 800, as they are on the SAT. Great question! The College Board assumes that, at the point when you take the PSAT, you may not yet have covered all of the needed material for the full SAT. As such, they place the highest available earned score at 760. That is, if you were to take the SAT today, you would achieve the exact same score with the exact same number of questions. However, given the opportunity to answer more questions on the real exam, you may be able to do even better! That’s all there is to it. A 500 on the PSAT is a 500 on the SAT.

These scores are helpful but not as helpful as that little score in the back box—your percentile. This is your opportunity to see where you fall nationally. The 50th percentile would put you right at average for all national test-takers. As you can see above, our sample test taker has a little trouble with EBRW and falls below average in his or her math. So, to examine this further, the College Board then splits your initial scores into a series of sub-scores, as shown below:


Test Scores – 8 to 38 range
The left side of your report shows you your individual section scores—Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. This student received an 18/38 in Reading, 20/38 in Writing and Language and a 24/38 in Math.

The helpful little slider images show you where your student falls in meeting his or her college readiness benchmarks. This can be a great opportunity to identify areas of weakness or struggle to incorporate into any well-rounded exam preparation.

Cross Test Scores – 8-28 range
New to the Redesigned PSAT/SAT, Cross-Test scores now measure different skill sets across the entire exam. You’ll receive two of these scores—one in Analysis of History/Social Studies and the other in Science.

Subscores – 1-15 range
Your subscores break down the individual skills tested across the exam. These helpful slider images show you exactly where your skill level falls among the national average and can be a great way to identify the areas where you stand to make the most improvement.

The third page and next piece is your National Merit Scholarship Selection Index. Whoo—that’s a mouthful. The National Merit organization offers an opportunity to win a scholarship to the top 4% of test takers based on their selection index. This three-digit score shown below is comprised of your three Test Scores from the previous page.

Last year, students who qualified for National Merit had a selection index that fell somewhere around 218-222 in New York, but that was out of a selection index of 240 (80 points per section for each Math, Reading, and Writing). We expect that the new selection index will fall somewhere around 210-212, although it’s not really possible to tell until the letters go out in September. Good luck! If you’re interested in more information about this program, please visit the National Merit website here:

Lastly—if your selection index has an asterisk next to it, as shown below, it means you do not meet the eligibility requirements for the National Merit Scholarship competition.


Next up: your skills breakdown. This handy chart lists your strengths and weakness in each testing area. These can be super helpful when designing your SAT preparation program.


Lastly, the College Board provides you with a full breakdown of your correct and incorrect answers along with the topic area and difficulty level of the individual questions. A check is a correct answer, a red letter is an incorrect answer, and a red circle with a line through it means the question was left blank. A copy of your test booklet should be provided to you through your school. Hang on to that test! It can be super helpful when you’re reviewing for your upcoming exam.

That’s it for now! If you want a deeper insight into your scores, feel free to give us a call at 646-889-1613 or shoot us an email at– we’d be happy to run through the analysis right along with you.


    [0] => post-template-default
    [1] => single
    [2] => single-post
    [3] => postid-3838
    [4] => single-format-standard
    [5] => theme-alist2020
    [6] => woocommerce-no-js
    [7] => tribe-no-js
    [8] => tribe-bar-is-disabled
    [9] => group-blog