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Before I begin to explain what your teen’s PSAT scores mean, let’s make sure you have the scores. If a College Board account has not been created here is the link. If one has been – your teen may have taken an AP exam – here’s the login link. Once you have an account, you can also retrieve a 10th PSAT score as well as register for any SAT’s, AP’s or Subject exams.

The new PSAT is being scored very differently from previous PSATs: The score report will not just reveal a single reading, math and writing score but a multitude of subscores. The overall score is different in that the PSAT score was always a two digit number. Add a zero and you have a comparative SAT score. Not so now. Read below as I drill down to make the soon to be received scores more understandable.

What is the most frequent question that parents of high school sophomores and juniors ask about now?

When will my teen’s PSAT scores come out! Heads up: They are mailed in early December, and schools decide how and when to distribute, typically prior to winter break.

So now that you have your teen’s PSAT score report in hand, what do all of these scores mean!?

Each of the assessments in the PSAT Suite reports a Total Score which is the sum of the two section scores – Evidence-Based Reading and Math. The score ranges per section from 160 – 760.

Each section is made of of three Test Scores: Reading, Writing/Language and Math: The scores ranges from 8-38.

NOTE: The Section Score is created by adding the Reading and Writing/Language Test Scores and multiplying that number by 10. The Math Test Score is multiplied by 20. The Total Score comes from adding those two results.

The Cross Test Scores are based on questions relevant to Analysis in History/Social Science and in Science. They come from questions spanning the entire test. They measure how students think analytically relevant to texts and problems from these subject areas. The Cross Scores also range from 8-38.

The Subscores are breakdowns of skills relevant to all three areas – Reading, Writing/Language and Math. They are intended to provide more specifics about student achievement. The Subscores range from 1-15 points.

Reading Test and the Writing and Language subscores

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context

The Writing and Language Test additional subscores

  • Expression of ideas
  • Standard English Conventions

The Math subscores

  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math

The Percentile is the number given at under each of the two Section Scores and Total Score. A percentile of 70% means your teen performed better on that section than 70% of her peers.

How will I know if my teen qualifies for the National Merit scholarship Program? When you teen takes the PSAT/NMSQT, he is automatically screened for the National Merit Scholarship Program.  Scholarships are awarded solely based on merit. There are also millions of dollars from the College Board’s new scholarship partners provided to qualifying low income and minority students. Commended scholars and finalists are announced senior year.

Your teen’s PSAT score report will also provide the NMSC score or selection index.

The NMSC selection index is computed as follows:

  1. Look at your teen’s three test scores which range from 8-38, (Reading, Writing/Language and Math.)
  2. Add all three numbers and and multiply that sum by 2.
  3. The selection range will be from 48-228.

FYI: Last year the selection index cut-off in Maryland was 221, Virginia 219 and in DC 224.

Here’s what all of those scores truly mean as well as how you can use them to make sure your teen’s skills are on track:

Score Ranges

The exam can never measure exactly what a student know as well as factor in the many variables that can affect scores  as no two scores are the same. That’s why it’s necessary to think of each score not as a finite number but as a score range that extends both a few points above and below the score earned. The range reveals how much a score can change with repeating testing, if the skill level remains unchanged.

Mean Ranges

The score report will also reveal the mean or average scores earned by a typical US test-taker in your teen’s grade. If your teen’s score is not significantly lower than the average, your teen is on track to developing the necessary reading, writing, language and math scores mandatory for college success.

College Readiness Benchmarks

Every section score on the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 will have a benchmark score. These scores represent college readiness in that particular area. So if your teen scores at or above the benchmark, your student is on track to be ready for college. Obviously, scoring below the benchmark, indicates that more work needs to be done on that area for college readiness.


A percentile score – between 0-100 – shows how your teen ranks compared to other students in the same grade. This number indicates the percentage of students whose scores fall at or below your teen’s score. For example, an 11th grade student whose Reading percentile in 60, scored higher or equal to 60% of 11th graders.

The Nationally Representative Sample Percentile shows how your teen’s score compares to the scores of ALL US students in a particular grade – even those who do not usually take the test.

The User Percentile –Nation shows how your teen compares to the scores of some US students in a particular grade. This reflects the percentiles of those students who take the exam.

So how did your teen fare? What types of reading will help my teen improve his Cross Scores and Subscores – hence overall score?  A good place to start is my recommended reading list.

What’s considered a ‘good’ SAT score?

Simply put:

>1200 is excellent (top 25%)

1000 is average or good (50% typically score higher or lower)

<840 means more limited college choice (bottom 25%)


 **There are 2 more spots available for March 5 SAT prep! CALL NOW for more information 301.299.4380**

Perhaps you’re not sure if your student should even take the SAT. Maybe the ACT is the better test. How to know? Click here to have instant access to our quick and easy assessment to find out. 


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