what's a good psat score

What’s a good PSAT score in 2020-2021?

What’s a good PSAT score? PSAT scoring can be pretty complex. You will receive a score ranging from 8 to 38 on each of the three tests (Reading, Writing & Language, and Math) as well as a score ranging from 160 to 760 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math. Your overall PSAT score will range from 320 to 1520 and is calculated by adding your two area scores together.

[ QUIZ: How would you do on the PSAT? ]

In addition to your overall scores, you will receive subscores that provide a deeper analysis of your PSAT performance. The PSAT also gives you a percentile ranking, which allows you to compare your scores with those of other high school juniors who took the test. For example, a student with a percentile of 63 has earned a score better than 63 percent of that year’s test takers.

As you consider a PSAT score goal in the competitive scholarship qualification process, it’s wise to understand average scores and qualifying scores for various scholarship programs. Taking the PSAT gives you a chance to qualify for several scholarship programs, most notably the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT is also excellent practice for the SAT and can help you stand out to colleges. For starters, though, here are the basics you might need to know about your PSAT score.

Your Junior year PSAT score is what qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship. Some schools or districts will offer the PSAT to sophomores in October, or PSAT 10 in the Spring of their sophomore year. This is a good chance for extra practice, and to see how you might expect to perform when it counts Junior year.

[ RELATED: How to Become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist ]

 

How is the PSAT Scored?

  • You will receive a score ranging from 8 to 38 on each of the three tests (Reading, Writing & Language, and Math)
  • You will also receive a score ranging from 160 to 760 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and for Math
  • Your overall PSAT score will range from 320 to 1520 and is calculated by adding your two area scores together
  • You will also receive subscores ranging from 1 to 15 in the following areas: 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

psat-score-scale

PSAT Score Ranges

BEST SCORES

Top PSAT Scores

PSAT scores between 1210 and 1520 are excellent scores that will put you in the top 10% of all test takers.

  • OVERALL SCORE: 1210-1520
  • MATH: 620+
  • READING AND WRITING: 620+
BETTER SCORES

Competitive PSAT Scores

PSAT scores between 1070 and 1200 are competitive scores that will put you in the top 25% of all test takers. 

  • OVERALL SCORE: 1070-1200
  • MATH: 560-610
  • READING AND WRITING: 560-610

GOOD SCORES

Good PSAT Scores

PSAT scores between 950 and 1060 are above average scores that will put you in the top 50% of test takers. 

  • SCALED SCORE: 950-1060
  • MATH: 500-550
  • READING AND WRITING: 500-550
BELOW AVERAGE SCORES

Below Average PSAT Scores

PSAT scores below 950 are below average scores.

  • SCALED SCORE: 950 or below
  • MATH: below 500
  • READING AND WRITING: below 500

GOOD TO KNOW: What does your PSAT score mean for the SAT or ACT? ]

Why take the PSAT?

The PSAT/NMSQT stands for the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It has three main functions:

  • 1. The PSAT is prep for the SAT

    The PSAT is excellent practice for the SAT. Although shorter than the SAT, it contains the same types of math, reading, and writing questions. It does not, however, contain an essay component. The PSAT also measures your score against those of your classmates and peers across the country, just as the SAT does.

  • 2. The PSAT qualifies you for scholarships

    Taking the PSAT also gives you a chance to qualify for several scholarship programs, most notably the National Merit Scholarship Program. Aside from the possibility of receiving tuition for college, the National Merit Scholarship program gives you recognition that is an impressive addition to your college applications.

  • 3. The PSAT helps you stand out to colleges

    Many schools purchase lists of high-scoring students and encourage these students to apply. A great score on the PSAT could get you noticed by colleges and earn you small perks such as meals during visits and waived application fees.

The top 50,000 scorers on the PSAT are recognized by the National Merit Program and sent letters of commendation. More than 10,000 of these students share more than $47 million in National Merit Scholarship money. Only juniors who take the PSAT are eligible for National Merit Scholarships. The top 16,000 scorers become semifinalists, and approximately 15,000 semifinalists become finalists. Finally, almost 7,500 National Merit finalists receive National Merit Scholarships, with each award being up to $2,500 a year toward a college education. Many high scorers who don’t receive National Merit Scholarships are awarded merit scholarships from the schools to which they apply based on their high scores. Whether you qualify as a Commended Student, a Semifinalist, a Finalist, or a full-fledged National Merit Scholar, it’s definitely worth noting this achievement on your college applications.

What score do you need to become a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist?

This depends on the state you live in. Each state has a preset number of Semifinalists, and once scores come in for students that determines the cutoff score for that year in that state. For example, if you live in California and took the PSAT in October 2017, you would need to have a Selection Index score of 223 in order to qualify as a Semifinalist. If you lived in West Virginia, you would have to score a 212. The Selection Index score is calculated by doubling the sum of your Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. In addition to varying by state, this number can vary by year. Regardless of the exact cutoff for your state, all of the students who qualify earn high scores—less than the top 1% of high school students advance to become Semifinalists.

To calculate your Selection Index, you will need to add your 3 test scores together and double it. The College Board also includes this on your report if you’re eligible.

For more information on the National Merit Scholarships and Special Scholarships, visit www.nationalmerit.org.

Getting ready to take the PSAT? Check out our study plan.

[ NEXT: How should I study for the PSAT?  ]