good psat scores

Your Complete Guide to Good PSAT Scores

Hey, how’s it going?  I’m gonna use the vast wealth of psychic knowledge I have at my disposal and say: You’ve just taken the PSAT.  Whoa!  How’d I do that?

*rubs temples with eyes closed* Aaand I’m going to make another prediction…you’re either waiting on your scores, or you just got them back, and you’re…well, you’re confused.

Am I right?

I mean, the results aren’t exactly spelled out for you.  So you got a 20 in reading, and a 60 in math?  To say nothing of the “percentage” you scored in.  What’s good?  What’s great?  What gets you free money?  What gets you a pat on the shoulder?

And most articles about it aren’t much more helpful.  You end up sifting through a ton of numbers that seem meaningless, without seeing the differences visually.

But here–finally!–we aim to make all your questions crystal-clear–so your PSAT results are actually useful to you, instead of being a source of stress.

Just look into my crystal ball…

How Should You Read Your PSAT Scores?

Here are the important things to know!

1. There are three sections being scored on the PSAT (just like the SAT).

These sections are Critical Reading, Math, and Writing Skills.

2. On each section, you can score as low as 20, or as high as 80.

In other words, even if you answer every single question incorrectly, you’ll still end up with a 20.  (Also, did you notice that 80 looks a lot like 800?  Keep that in mind–that’ll come into play later.)

What are Good PSAT Scores?

Since the range of PSAT scores is 20-80, it makes sense that the average score would be somewhere around 50.  So if you score around 50-60, you’re doing pretty well.

Here’s a quick visualization of what you might see on your score report:

good psat scores

Wondering what the score range and the percentile are?  No problem.

Score range: Just some scores that are similar to yours.  You can ignore this section.  Why would you need to know that 47 is pretty close to 50?  Don’t get too hung up on the score range.

Percentile: This tells you how you compare to every other junior taking the test in the United States.  If you scored higher than 55% of juniors, well–just imagine every single junior in the United States in a room.  Then make a little more than half of them wear green shirts.  You scored higher than every person wearing a green shirt.

But if 55% is good, then that brings us to the next question…

What are Great PSAT Scores?

Great PSAT scores are pretty similar to great SAT scores–mysterious and difficult to define.  (At least according to the internet.)

Especially because the exact range for a “great score” changes every year.  And why?  Because great SAT scores are only “great” in comparison to everyone else.

What if nobody scores an 80?  Then 75 might become the new “perfect.”

So, what does this mean for you?

Basically, the closer you are to 80 in each section, the better you are.  80 is perfect.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re above average–and especially if you’re between 70 and 80–you’re doing pretty great.

What Else Can These Scores Be Used For?

 Well, for one, there’s the National Merit Scholarship.

Every year, a small number (roughly 50,000) of high-scoring high school students qualify for recognition–and some (about 8,000) go on to snag this huge scholarship.

With your PSAT score as a first step, you could earn $2500, or even more, depending on your luck and skill level.

Interested in learning more about the National Merit Scholarship? Click here.

And then there’s estimating how you’ll do on the actual SAT.

Remember when I noted that 80 looks an awful lot like 800?

Well, there’s a super-easy way to take your PSAT scores and figure out how you’ll do on the SAT.

Are you ready?

Just add a zero to the end of each section’s score.

Hang on, here’s a picture.

Now that you know how you’ll probably do, what else can you use your PSAT score sheet for?

See which areas you need to work on, so you have a built-in study plan for the SAT.

Your PSAT score report should have an entire answer key that tells you which answers you got wrong, what the correct answer was, and how difficult the question was.

The questions and answers, all worked through, are even available on  Talk about a great resource!

good psat scores college board

It also has a section that shows you how many questions you got correct in each “Skill Category”–so you know which skills you need to sharpen up.

college board psat score report


Your PSAT score sheet might seem confusing, but we’re here to help!  In no time, you’ll be able to figure out what you scored, and how it’ll help you in the future.  Good luck!

All score report images from CollegeBoard’s Sample PSAT/NMSQT Score Report.

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Dressler Parsons

Dressler Parsons spent most of her childhood in an adobe house her father built in rural Arizona. Right now, she's taking so many business and art classes at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, and plans to graduate in Fall 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Intermedia. And, handily enough, her SAT scores and grades qualified her for ASU's Presidential Scholarship (worth $24,000), as well as the AIMS tuition waiver. She is passionate about showing people their potential for a bright, beautiful future. In her free time, she cooks edible things and knits inedible ones.
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