PSAT scores have been released just in time to add some confusion to chaotic midterms and holidays. Getting your test scores back can be exciting or excruciating.

Knowing how to interpret what your test scores are telling you is an important part of improving. Fortunately, understanding your PSAT scores isn’t too hard.

Just take it one section at a time.

    Navigating Your PSAT Score Report

There are a lot of numbers here, and none of them look like grades you’re used to seeing in class.

Here is a breakdown of what each piece of your score report really means.

    Your Total Score

The total score is the most noticeable number on the report. This score is a number between 320 and 1520. It’s just the sum of your two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing® (we’ll call it Verbal) and Math.

PSAT scores predict how you will perform if you take the SAT ® test without any additional preparation. The scores also compare your performance to that of other students in your grade.

An average score for an 11th grader is about 1010 this year, meaning that if you scored 1010 you’d rank in the 50th percentile. That means you scored the same as or higher than about 50% of the test takers in your grade. It also means you should expect to score somewhere between 970-1050 on the SAT ® test although many factors can impact your performance.

    Your Section Scores

A section score is a number between 160 and 760. You get one section score for Math and another section score for Verbal.

These scores, like the total score, are given as a comparison of how you performed to everyone else in your grade who tested.

According to the College Board®, PSAT benchmarks for an 11th grader are scores of 460 in Verbal and 510 in Math. Benchmarks approximate earning a C in an introductory college course in that subject.

Your section scores will be shown on a bar chart with green, yellow, and red sections. Green means you hit the benchmark for your grade, yellow means you were close, and red means you may have weaknesses compared to the average score.

    Your PSAT Selection Index Score

The number that many 11th graders look for is the Selection Index Score for the National Merit ® Scholarship Program.

This number was calculated by taking your verbal section score, doubling it, adding it to your math section score, and dividing it by ten. (Verbal + Verbal + Math)/10. Whew! It’s a number between 48 and 228.

More than a million 11th graders take the test to try to qualify for the program, and only about 50,000 will qualify for recognition. So the closer your Selection Index is to the maximum score, the higher your likelihood of being selected.

You have to be one of the top scorers in your state to become a National Merit ® Semifinalist; for the Class of 2019 in Texas, you had to score a 221. 11th graders who took the PSAT test in October 2018 will find out in September 2019 whether they made it.

Note: If you’re in 10th grade or below, you can’t qualify for the National Merit ® program yet.

    Your Individual Test Scores

On the PSAT score report, the word “test” means these subjects:

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Math

So you’ll have three test scores–one for each of the three subjects.

The scores will be a number between 8 and 38. These numbers are based on how many answers you got correct (which is called your “raw score”).

For example, if you got 35 out of 44 questions correct on the writing test, your “Writing and Language Test Score” will be a 32 for this year’s October 10th test form. The scale is determined by the College Board ®.

The individual test scores determine your section scores.

Your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing® (Verbal) section score = (Reading Test Score + Writing and Language Test Score) x 10

Your Math section score = Math Test Score x 20

If that isn’t enough, more information is found in the subscores section.

    Your Subscores

Access your subscores in your online score report and find out how you did in these specific areas:

  • Reading: Command of Evidence and Words in Context
  • Writing: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions
  • Math: Algebra, Problem Solving and Data, and Advanced Math

    Next Steps

Are you where you want to be?

If so, congratulations! You are well on your way to the testing finish line.

If not, your PSAT test score is not the end of the world. Colleges will not see these scores, and they will not impact your college applications unless you are recognized by the National Merit ® Scholarship Corporation.

Treat the PSAT test as a dress rehearsal for your other test dates and work hard to improve your scores.

Many students find that seeing these scores can motivate them to do their best!