What Is a Good PSAT Score?

What Is a Good PSAT Score?
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By Danika Miller

Published on September 13, 2021

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The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a test designed to help high school sophomores and juniors prepare for the SAT. The PSAT can also gauge your aptitude for other national tests and inform which areas you'll need to focus your studying on.

But the PSAT isn't just for practice — the results are also used to identify National Merit Scholarship Program winners.

To qualify for a scholarship, your scores have to land you in the top 1% of all juniors nationwide — about 16,000 out of 1.5 million. The exact score needed to qualify changes each year depending on the scores of that particular pool of test-takers.

What Is the PSAT Score Range?

The PSAT is divided into two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale of 160-760, and your total is the sum of both sections. Your overall PSAT score range is 320-1520.

These scores are intended to predict your SAT score. For example, an 1100 on the PSAT means you'd probably get an 1100 on the SAT. But because the SAT is more challenging, it has a slightly different score range of 400-1600. In other words, a perfect 1520 on the PSAT doesn't mean you'll score a perfect 1600 on the SAT.

Your score report will also include a "test score" on a scale of 8-38 that breaks down each of the section scores into the skills you were tested on. These scores are intended for test-takers to understand their proficiency on each portion of the test. They're also used to calculate a Selection Index score, which the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) uses to choose semifinalists.

Lastly, your PSAT score report will provide cross-test scores and subscores that can help you understand your performance in more precise skills and topics, such as scientific analysis.

What Is a Good PSAT Score Based on Percentiles?

Your PSAT score report will provide a percentile that compares you to everyone else who took the PSAT that year. The percentile represents the percentage of students who scored equal to or lower than your score.

For example, if you're in the 80th percentile, you scored the same as or better than 80% of all test-takers. The higher the percentile, the more students you scored higher than. Scoring above the 50th percentile means you did better than a majority of test-takers. A "good" score, then, would probably be somewhere in the 75th percentile or higher.

PSAT score percentiles change slightly each year depending on the testing class. For 2020-21 test-takers, the 75th percentile translates to a 590 EBRW score, a 570 Math score, and an 1150 total score.

Percentile Total Score Math Score EBRW Score
99+ 1490-1520 760 750-760
99 1460-1480 750 730-740
95 1360-1370 690-700 690
90 1280 640 650-660
85 1230 610 630
80 1190 580-590 610
75 (good) 1150 570 590
50 (median) 1000-1010 490 510

Source: College Board

What Is a Good PSAT Score Based on Academic Benchmarks?

The College Board includes benchmarks in your PSAT score report to help you understand where your scores rank in comparison with those of other test-takers. The benchmarks also help students gauge their college readiness and projected SAT performance.

According to the College Board, "The SAT benchmark scores represent a 75% likelihood of a student achieving at least a C grade in a first-semester, credit-bearing college course in a related subject."

Benchmarks are color-coded green, yellow, and red to illustrate your performance. Green is for scores that meet or exceed the benchmark, yellow indicates scores that were close to meeting the benchmark and are likely to improve within one year, and red signifies scores that'll need significant growth to meet the benchmarks.

Aiming for the green benchmarks means earning at least a 510 on Math and a 460 on EBRW.

Math EBRW Total
510-760 460-760 970-1520
480-500 430-450 910-950
160-470 160-420 320-890

Source: College Board

What Is a Good PSAT Score for National Merit?

Each year, NMSC recommends the top 1% of junior semifinalists for a scholarship, meaning you'll typically have to score in the 99th percentile. Of those students, fewer than 8,000 will receive a scholarship.

NMSC uses the Selection Index score to choose scholarship semifinalists. To calculate your Selection Index, add together your Math, Reading, and Writing test scores (not your scaled scores) — these use a scale of 8-38. Then, multiply the sum by two. The Selection Index has a total score range of 48-228.

Each state has a slightly different qualifying score for semifinalists, ranging from 209 to 222. This means you'll need, at minimum, a 35 test score on each of the three sections to be eligible for National Merit consideration.

Do Colleges Care About Your PSAT Score?

For the most part, colleges are not aware of your PSAT results. Your PSAT scores aren't sent to colleges and aren't part of admission decisions. The PSAT is mostly for students to measure their preparedness for the SAT and college-level courses.

If your PSAT scores qualify you as a National Merit semifinalist (top 1% of test-takers) or a commended student (top 3-4%), that recognition should be included in your college application and can make you a more competitive applicant. Otherwise, colleges will focus instead on your SAT or ACT performance.


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