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college | opinions & advice | positioning yourself for admission to college
Your PSAT Score Report
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If you took the PSAT in October, you'll receive the results, or score report, in December.
Your results will not have an impact on college admissions or scholarships (unless your score is high enough to qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship).
The PSAT is practice for the SAT, which will be very important for college admissions and scholarships. You should use your PSAT score report to identify your weaknesses, so you know what to work on as you prepare for the SAT.
Interpreting Your PSAT Score
The PSAT has three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing Skills. You can earn between 20–80 points on each. The national average for high school juniors is approximately 50 points on each section.
Below your actual score on each section, you'll see a range of possible scores. For example, if you got a 38 on the Critical Reading section, your range of scores might be between 35 and 46. These ranges show what you should expect to get on the SAT if you don't study or practice.
To figure out your SAT score, just add an extra zero. Each SAT section is worth 800 points rather than 80. So a score of 38 on the PSAT Critical Reading Section would be like a score of 380 on the same part of the SAT.
The score report also includes an answers key for each section of the PSAT. The key lists the correct answer, your answer, and the question's level of difficulty (easy, medium or hard). On the Math section, the key will also tell you whether the question was about algebra, geometry, data analysis, or numbers and operations. You will receive your test booklet back with your score report, so you can figure out exactly which questions you missed and why.
Finally, the score report includes a percentile that allows you to see how you did in relation to other students in your grade across the country. If your percentile is 60%, that means you scored higher than 60% of students in your grade.
National Merit Scholarships
Each year, a (very) limited number of juniors qualify for National Merit Scholarships based on their PSAT scores. In the far right column of the score report, you'll see your "Selection Index," or cumulative score. The qualifying score changes from year to year, but it's typically somewhere in the 210–215 range.
If you do qualify, you'll be notified by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in September of your senior year. Talk to your counselor if you have questions about the process.
If there is an asterisk next to your Selection Index, it means you are not currently eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This could be because you're not a full–time high school student, or are not planning to enter college the following year (sophomores are not eligible). For more information on eligibility requirements, click here.
Preparing for the SAT
Even if you're not a National Merit Scholar, you can use your PSAT results to your advantage. At the bottom of your report, you'll see a list of skills to work on, based on your performance on the test.
But don't stop there–as you go over your answers, think about which questions you missed and why. Look for patterns. If you missed a lot of easy questions, you should slow down when you take the test. If you got most of the easy and medium questions correct but missed most of the hard, you should work on more advanced concepts. If you missed a lot of questions in the same content area, you'll know to review that area before you take the SAT.
Students who prepare thoroughly can improve their score substantially, but it takes a lot of effort. You can't expect to study for just an hour or two. It takes weeks and even months of serious effort.
We recommend using a test prep book or course. Your teachers can also help you practice, especially your math and English teachers. And you should continue to read and expand your vocabulary, since you never know which words will show up on the SAT.
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