by Emily Gunter

This week, students will start receiving their PSAT/NMSQT® test scores for the October 2020 test. While the PSAT test is similar to the SAT® test in many ways, you will notice that the PSAT test follows a different grading scale. For example, the PSAT score range has a maximum score of 1520, while SAT scores go up to 1600.

You are probably wondering what your score really means, how you can use it to predict your SAT test score, and whether you scored high enough to become a National Merit® Semifinalist. In this post, we’ll answer all of these questions and provide insight on how to interpret your PSAT score report.

Navigate to the sections found within this article:

How to Understand Your PSAT Score Report

There are a lot of numbers on your PSAT score report, and none of them look like grades you see in class. Below is a breakdown of what each piece of your score report really means and how those numbers are calculated.

psat score range

Your Total Score (320 to 1520)

The total score, found on page 2 of your score report, is the most noticeable number on the report. This score ranges from 320 to 1520. We calculated this score by summing up your two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (we call it Verbal) and Math.

Beneath the total score you’ll see where your score falls in the overall percentile. This number gauges how you performed in comparison to the other students in your grade who took the test.

Your Section Scores (160 to 760)

Below your total score, you will see two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math. Each section score ranges from 160 and 760.

Beneath each of the section scores, you will notice a percentile for each section. These numbers, 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 are 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 in specific areas.

Your Individual Test Scores (8 to 38)

As we further break down your score report, you’ll notice additional numbers found under the heading “Your Test Scores.” You’ll see scores for three subjects: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.

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 17 out of 44 questions correct on the writing test, your “Writing and Language Test Score” will be a 20 for this year’s October test. The scale is determined by College Board®.

The raw test scores are used to determine your section scores:

  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (Verbal) section score = (Reading Test Score + Writing and Language Test Score) x 10
  • Math section score = Math Test Score x 20

Your Selection Index Score (48 to 228)

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. It should be a number between 48 and 228.

Question-Level Feedback

On page 3 of your score report, you’ll notice a complete overview of how you performed on each question of the test and which answers you missed. While you won’t be able to see the question content on your score report, you can access score keys for the October 2020 PSAT test on the College Board website.

We recommend using the question-level feedback analysis to determine areas in which you should improve before taking your next test.

Your Subscores

Access your subscores in your online score report and find out how you did in the specific areas below. This information is especially useful when determining the types of problems you’ll need to practice before your next test.

  • 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

PSAT Score Ranges Based on Performance

11th Grade Score Ranges

Elite PSAT Scores – 1370-1520

11th grade students who scored a 1370 or higher on the PSAT test fall within 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 scored between 1200 and 1360 on the PSAT test fall within 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 grader students who scored between 1080 and 1190 on the PSAT test will fall within 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 grader students who scored between 960 and 1070 on the PSAT test will fall within 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 scored between 320 and 950 on the PSAT test will fall within 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 a 1360 or higher on the PSAT test will fall within 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 scored between 1170 and 1350 on the PSAT test fall within 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 scored between 1060 and 1160 on the PSAT test will fall within 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 scored between 920 and 1050 on the PSAT test will fall within 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 scored between 320 and 910 on the PSAT test will fall within the lower 50% of all test takers.

  • Total Score: 320-910
  • Math Section Score: below 460
  • Verbal Section Score: below 460

Source: College Board

What Score Do I Need to Become a National Merit Semifinalist?

More than 1.5 million 11th graders take the PSAT test each year to try and qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, but only about 50,000 will qualify for recognition. This means you have to be in the top 0.5% of all scorers in your state to become a National Merit Semifinalist.

For the Class of 2020 in Texas, you had to reach a Selection Index score of at least 221. 11th graders who took the PSAT test in October 2020 will find out in September 2021 whether they made it.

Learn more information about how to become a National Merit Semifinalist.

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

Does My PSAT Score Predict How I’ll Do on the SAT Test?

Because the PSAT and SAT tests are very similar, many students choose to take the PSAT test as practice for the SAT test. However, when reviewing your score report you’ll notice a few differences between the two tests.

Your PSAT score should predict how you would perform on the SAT test. So if you scored a 1500 on the PSAT test, it is predicted that you would receive a 1500 on the SAT test if taken without additional preparation. However, keep in mind that the PSAT test is graded on a different scale than the SAT test.

Taking the PSAT test is good practice because it is taken in a similar environment to the SAT test and covers a lot of the same material. We always recommend that students take both tests in the 11th grade in order to maximize their scholarship and college admission opportunities.

How Do I Improve My Test Scores?

For nearly 30 years, KD College Prep has helped students achieve their college goals through personalized test prep programs, one-on-one tutoring, and college admissions guidance.

Our college prep experts are available to help you go over your PSAT score report, identify areas that need improvement, and come up with a plan to help you reach your test score goals. Please contact us to get started.

Emily Gunter is a marketing and communications specialist at KD College Prep.