Last month I had the honor of presenting information about the PSAT to three Clear Creek ISD high schools, Clear Creek HS, Clear Brook HS, and Clear Falls HS, during their PSAT nights. At each of the presentations I was asked to present information to students and their parents about their PSAT results, specifically the PSAT score report that is provided. For those of you who were not lucky enough to attend one of these presentations in person I thought I would recap the major points of the presentations.

PSAT scoreThe PSAT and NMSQT stand for Preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Most schools in the USA have their juniors take the PSAT because the National Merit Scholarship is for juniors although more schools are having their sophomores take the PSAT so that they are familiar with the test during their junior year.

Scoring well on the PSAT can qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship but students should know that they can do extremely well on the PSAT and still not earn a scholarship. For example, in Texas this year the NMS qualifying score was a 215 which would put the student in the top 1% of test takers. So a student who scored a 213, which is a great PSAT score, would not have qualified for the National Merit Scholarship.

Therefore, in my opinion, the main reason for a student to take the PSAT is so they have an effective tool to help them prepare for the SAT. Don’t get me wrong, the scholarship would be great but it’s important to remember that colleges and universities use the SAT and ACT not the PSAT for admission purposes.

Moving on now, there are four parts to the PSAT score report:

  • Your Scores
  • Your Skills
  • Your Answers
  • Next Steps

Your Scores

This section allows students to see how they performed on each of the three sections of the PSAT. The three sections of the PSAT are Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing Skills. One thing to note here is that of the three sections the Critical Reading section is most like what students will encounter on the SAT. There is some 3rd year math on the SAT that does not show up in the Mathematics section of the PSAT. Perhaps the biggest difference between the PSAT and the SAT is on the Writing Skills section, students will have to write an essay on the SAT but there is no essay on the PSAT.

PSAT scores are reported on a scale from 20 to 80. The easiest way to convert PSAT scores into SAT scores is to add a zero to the end. For example, if your PSAT Critical Reading score is a 50 you would add a zero to the end to make it a 500 on the SAT. Percentiles are also provided in the “your score” section for each part. Percentiles help students compare their performance on the PSAT to the performance of all other juniors or sophomores who tested. For example, if you scored in the 55th percentile, you scored higher than 55 percent of students who took the test. It also means that 45 percent of students had a score equal to or higher than yours. Please note that juniors are compared to all juniors who took the test while sophomores and younger students are compared to all sophomores who took the test.

Your Skills

This is a valuable part of a student’s PSAT score report because it provides a complete picture of how you performed on the different skills tested by the PSAT. Students should take a closer look to see where they did well and where they have room for improvement. Remember, the same skills are tested on the SAT so it’s important to review this section.

Your Answers

When students get their score report they also get their test booklet which makes this section extremely useful. In this section students are provide with the number of the question, the correct answer to each question, what answer choice they selected, and the difficulty of each question. A good idea is to go through each question that you got incorrect and figure out why you got it incorrect.

Next Steps

This is the last section of the PSAT score report. In this section students will find their access code to the College Board website.