psatDid you receive your teen’s PSAT scores? As noted in last week’s post, if you don’t have it now you should have it before winter break. In last week’s post, I explained the various score breakdowns: sections scores, cross test scores and subscores as well as percentiles and an explanation of the National Merit Qualifying score. 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 knows much less factor in the 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.

Clearly, these scores reveal a great deal of information about your teen as they are not merely three numbers to help pin down college choice. Knowing if your student is on track in terms of the mandatory skills sets and concepts necessary for college success are extremely useful in planning your teens upcoming high school course selections as well as any additional skill building programs.

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.

I also invite you to come in for your complimentary Test Prep Strategy Session where I will be able to personally go over your students scores, recommend the better exam, project an SAT or ACT score, and provide further recommendations as to how to make that SAT or ACT score goal happen.

Find out more and register for Paul Rivas’ Study Skills Boot Camp

Coming next week . . . 60 Second ACT vs. (new) SAT Assessment

Acknowledgement for this article: Collegeboard College Readiness

PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which were not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.

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