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What's a Good PSAT Score for 2019?

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Sep 13, 2019, 2:00:00 PM

PSAT Info and Strategies

 

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Taking the 2019 PSAT? Then you’ll want to have a decent grasp of what a good PSAT score for 2019 is. There are three main ways you can define good 2019 PSAT scores: (1) using percentiles, (2) using National Merit score cutoffs, and (3) based on the SAT scores you’ll need for colleges.

In this guide, we start by going over how PSAT scoring works and the most important information you'll see on your PSAT score report, from scores and subscores to percentiles. Then, we dive into our three definitions of what good 2019 PSAT scores are.

But first, when exactly is the 2019 PSAT taking place?

 

Briefly: When Is the 2019 PSAT?

Here is the PSAT schedule for 2019, as confirmed by the College Board:

  • Primary Test Date: Wednesday, October 16, 2019
  • Saturday Test Date: October 19, 2019
  • Alternate Test Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Most high schools go with the primary test date.

Scores will become available to students beginning in mid-December 2019. When you'll be able to see your scores online will depend on the state from which you're trying to access your scores.

The PSAT costs $17 per student, but some schools cover all or part of this fee. To learn more about signing up for the upcoming PSAT, check out our complete guide to PSAT registration.

 

What Will You See on Your PSAT Score Report?

Before we go over what counts as a good PSAT score for 2019, let’s take a moment to review how PSAT scoring works and what you’ll be seeing on your PSAT score report.

There are eight main types of data you’ll get on your score report:

  • Scaled total score
  • Scaled section scores
  • Section test scores
  • Raw scores
  • Subscores
  • Cross-test scores
  • Selection Index score
  • Percentiles

Here’s a sample PSAT score report provided by the College Board in case you’d like to see how this data will look for you.

 

Scaled Total Score

On your score report, one of the first (and most important) pieces of data you’ll see is your overall scaled PSAT score.

The test is scored on a scale of 320-1520 in 10-point increments. This means that 1520 is the max score you can get (this max differs from the SAT, for which the highest possible score is 1600).

Your total PSAT score out of 1520 is the sum of your scaled section scores for Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Half of your total score is from the Math section, and the other half is from EBRW (which itself is a combination of the Reading and Writing and Language sections).

 

Scaled Section Scores

Along with your total score, you’ll get two scaled section scores (one each for Math and EBRW). Each section is scored on a scale of 160-760 in 10-point increments. Your scores on these sections are then added together to give you a total scaled score out of 1520 (see above).

 

Section Test Scores

These are the section scores you get for each individual section of the PSAT, so you’ll get one for Math, one for Reading, and one for Writing and Language (hereafter Writing).

Each section test score, as it's called, uses a scale of 8-38 in 1-point increments. These scores are later converted into scaled section scores (those scores on a scale of 160-760⁠—see above) by the College Board through a special equating process.

 

Raw Scores

You’ll get a raw PSAT score for each section (Math, Reading, and Writing). This score is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly. As a result, the ranges for these scores will vary depending on the section.

The max scores you can get are 48 for Math, 47 for Reading, and 44 for Writing (again, these are the same as the total number of questions for each section).

 

body_raw_eggsWhat raw scores look like on the inside.

 

Subscores

Subscores are given out by the College Board to provide you with more insight into how you did with specific skills and question types on the three PSAT sections. Some subscores might appear across multiple sections. Each subscore uses a scale of 1-15 in 1-point increments.

There are seven types of subscores:

  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions
  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence

 

Cross-Test Scores

Cross-test scores are another type of subscore you’ll get on your score report. These scores apply to the Math, Reading, and Writing sections and indicate how well you performed on particular history- and science-based questions.

Each cross-test score has a scale of 8-38, the same as that used for the section test scores.

The two cross-test score categories are as follows:

  • Analysis in History/Social Studies
  • Analysis in Science

 

Selection Index Score

The Selection Index is unique to the PSAT and is not part of the SAT as the other scores are. This is the score used by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) to determine who qualifies for the National Merit scholarship competition.

The Selection Index has a range of 48-228 and is equal to the sum of all three section test scores (not scaled scores!) multiplied by 2.

 

Percentiles

PSAT percentiles show you how you did on the test compared to other test takers. The percentage listed on your score report tells you what percentage of test takers you scored better than on the exam. The higher your percentile, the better you performed relative to other test takers.

For example, if you scored in the 78th percentile, this would mean that you did better than 78% of other students who took the PSAT.

 

body_important_purple_noteIn case it wasn't clear, this next section is important.

 

Which PSAT Scores Are Most Important?

By far the most important data on your PSAT score report is your scaled total score and scaled section scores. These are the scores that give you a clear sense of how you’re likely to score on the SAT in the future.

As a reminder, the PSAT score range is 320-1520 overall and 160-760 for Math and EBRW. As Math and EBRW each make up 50% of your total scaled PSAT score, it is vital that you do well on both sections to get a high score and to raise your shot at qualifying for National Merit (should this be your goal).

Speaking of National Merit, the score used for this competition isn’t actually your total score but your Selection Index, which, as mentioned briefly above, is the sum of your Math and EBRW test scores multiplied by 2.

Each state has its own Selection Index score cutoff to determine which test takers qualify as Commended Students and which qualify as Semifinalists. Cutoffs vary slightly each testing year.

The top 1% of test takers in each state go on to become Semifinalists, with the potential of becoming Finalists and eventually winning the scholarship. Know that only juniors who take the PSAT are eligible for National Merit (sorry, sophomores!).

As for all the other data on your PSAT score report⁠—namely your section test scores, raw scores, and subscores⁠—we suggest using this to get a more detailed idea of exactly how you performed on specific sections and types of questions.

Your raw scores, for example, tell you how many and which PSAT questions you missed, allowing you to determine whether there might be a pattern to the types of questions you got wrong. Perhaps you missed most of the Passport to Advanced Math questions on Math or struggled with several Command of Evidence questions on Reading.

Now that we’ve covered everything there is to know about PSAT scores, let's look back at our main question: what exactly is a good PSAT score for 2019?

 

What’s a Good PSAT Score for 2019? 3 Possible Answers

There are many ways you can define a "good" PSAT score because, ultimately, what one student might consider great for their own goals might be a bit low for another student's goals. Basically, the definition of a "good" PSAT score will vary depending on the test taker.

That said, there are a few, more objective ways we can try to define a good PSAT score:

  • Using national PSAT percentiles
  • Whether the score qualifies you for National Merit
  • Whether the score is close to the SAT score you’ll eventually need for your chosen colleges

We go over each of these definitions in detail below.

 

body_track_running_racePercentiles essentially mean you're running a race at the same time against thousands of opponents.

 

What’s a Good 2019 PSAT Score Based on Percentiles?

Percentiles tell you what percentage of test takers you scored higher than, both on the test as a whole and on a particular section.

Generally, PSAT scores above the 50th percentile can be considered good or average, as this means you did better than the majority of test takers. Scores in percentiles higher than this, such as the 80th or 90th percentile, are even better, while scores in percentiles lower than this can be considered below average.

To become a National Merit Semifinalist, you’ll need to score in the 99th percentile, which is the highest percentile possible. (Just to be clear, a 99th percentile score does not necessarily mean you got a perfect PSAT score of 1520⁠—though it can.)

You can view the full list of current PSAT percentiles here to see where you rank.

The table below offers an overview of what PSAT percentiles mean in terms of how well you did on the exam relative to other test takers:

PSAT Percentile

Math Score

EBRW Score

TOTAL Score

99th (Best)

750 and above

730 and above

1460 and above

90th (Excellent)

640

650-660

1280

75th (Very Good)

570

590*

1150

50th (Good/Average)

490-500

510*

1000-1010

25th (Below Average)

430*

430

860-870

10th (Poor)

380

370

760

1st (Poorest)

300 and below

300 and below

640 and below

Source: The College Board PSAT/NMSQT Understanding Scores 2018

*Estimate using percentile data

As you can see, you’ll need to score at least 1000-1010 overall to get what would generally be considered a good PSAT score for 2019. This puts you squarely in the 50th percentile.

But a score in the 75th, 90th, or even 99th percentile would make you far more impressive and put you on the path to getting an equally high SAT score.

Regarding section scores and percentiles, you might have noticed that the PSAT scores you need to reach certain percentiles on the two sections differ slightly.

Math is the more competitive section, as it requires you to get a higher score in order to get into those ultra-high percentiles. As the table indicates, you'd need a near-perfect or perfect Math score to get in the 99th percentile, whereas you’d only need 730+ to get in the same percentile on EBRW.

Interestingly, this trend shifts the lower you go in scores. So for EBRW, you’d need a slightly higher score to get into the 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles than you’d need for the same percentiles on Math.

This is the gist of what a good 2019 PSAT score is based on national percentiles. But what if you’re aiming for National Merit? What score is good in this case?

 

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What’s a Good 2019 PSAT Score Based on National Merit?

The National Merit Scholarship Program, which is managed by the NMSC, gives special recognition and scholarship money to juniors who earn high scores on the PSAT.

Students who score in the top 3-4% are named Commended Students, and those who score in the top 1% are named Semifinalists and can apply to become Finalists and eventually win scholarship money.

As mentioned above, the NMSC uses the Selection Index to determine which students qualify for National Merit recognition. Each state will then determine their own Selection Index score cutoff for eligibility; this cutoff varies slightly every year.

Before we look at these cutoff scores, let’s quickly review how to find your Selection Index.

 

How to Calculate Your Selection Index Score

The Selection Index is the sum of your three PSAT section test scores multiplied by 2.

Recall that these are your PSAT section test scores (the ones that use a scale of 8-38) and not your scaled section scores (which have a range of 160-760). You will get test scores for each section of the PSAT: Math, Reading, and Writing.

As an example, say you got a 35 on Math, a 36 on Reading, and a 37 on Writing. Here's how you’d calculate your Selection Index:

PSAT Section

Test Score

Sum x 2

Selection Index

Math

35


(35 + 36 + 37) x 2 =


216

Reading

36

Writing and Language

37

 

Now, whether a Selection Index of 216 will qualify you for National Merit will depend on what your state’s cutoff is. Keep reading for the full list of current state cutoff scores.

 

body_united_states_colorful_mapIf only our states actually were these pretty, vibrant colors.

 

Qualifying PSAT Scores for National Merit by State

The following table shows the Selection Index score you’ll need to qualify for National Merit in every US state. Although the NMSC does not give out a full list of PSAT National Merit cutoffs, they do tell you what your own state’s cutoff is. As a result, this chart of cutoffs was put together using crowdsourced data from students all around the country.

It’s possible that the score cutoffs for 2019 will change slightly, but for now you can use the 2018 cutoffs (for the class of 2020) to get a sense of what to aim for. You can also confirm your own state’s cutoff by calling the NMSC at (847) 866-5100.

Here is the full list of Selection Index score cutoffs for National Merit:

State

Selection Index Cutoff

State

Selection Index Cutoff

Alabama

216

Montana

214

Alaska

213

Nebraska

216

Arizona

219

Nevada

218

Arkansas

214

New Hampshire

218

California

222

New Jersey

223

Colorado

220

New Mexico

213

Connecticut

221

New York

221

Delaware

220

North Carolina

219

District of Columbia

223

North Dakota

212

Florida

219

Ohio

218

Georgia

220

Oklahoma

214

Hawaii

219

Oregon

220

Idaho

215

Pennsylvania

220

Illinois

221

Rhode Island

218

Indiana

218

South Carolina

215

Iowa

215

South Dakota

214

Kansas

218

Tennessee

219

Kentucky

217

Texas

221

Louisiana

215

Utah

215

Maine

215

Vermont

216

Maryland

222

Virginia

222

Massachusetts

223

Washington

221

Michigan

219

West Virginia

212

Minnesota

219

Wisconsin

216

Mississippi

214

Wyoming

212

Missouri

217

AVERAGE

218

 

On average, test takers in 2019 will most likely need a Selection Index of at least 218 to qualify for National Merit Semifinalist status.

The states with the highest score cutoffs of 223 are as follows:

  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey

Because the highest possible Selection Index is 228 (that’s a perfect 38 on each section), you’ll need a score of 37-38 on Math, Reading, and Writing to qualify for National Merit in these three states.

If you’re getting ready to take the PSAT and want to qualify for National Merit, it’s best to aim for a Selection Index score at least 2 to 5 points higher than your state’s predicted cutoff score, since the scores needed can change slightly each year depending on how test takers do.

But how can you use the Selection Index to figure out what PSAT section scores you should aim for on the test in order to qualify for National Merit?

 

Setting a PSAT Goal Score for National Merit

You know how to find your Selection Index based on your total PSAT score, but what about finding the actual section scores you’ll need to qualify for National Merit?

To do this, all you need to do is work backward. Remember that to find your Selection Index, you simply had to add up your section test scores and then multiply the sum by 2.

Well, working backward just means you’ll do the opposite: take the Selection Index score cutoff for your state, divide it by 2, and then divide again by 3. This will give you a rough estimate for the PSAT test scores you’ll need for each section.

For example, say you live in Michigan, where the Selection Index score cutoff is currently 219. Just to be on the safe side, you will want to aim a little higher than thislet’s say 222.

Our first step, then, is to divide 222 by 2:

222 / 2 = 111

To get our target test scores for the Math, Reading, and Writing sections, we'll just need to divide this number by 3:

111 / 3 = 37

This means that your target scores for Math, Reading, and Writing could be around 37 each.

But not all test takers are equally good at math and verbal questions, so you might want to go for a slightly higher or lower score on one of the test sections. For example, if you’re great at math but not so good at reading comprehension, you could aim for a 38 on Math and a slightly lower 36 on Reading.

What’s most important is that you get section test scores that add up to 111 (or whatever half your target Selection Index score is)it doesn’t matter how you get there! Try to set realistic goals for yourself based on your own strengths and weaknesses.

These are all the steps to take to figure out what a good PSAT score is for 2019 based on National Merit cutoffs. Now, let’s take a look at the last way you can define a good PSAT score: how good it is based on the SAT scores needed for your colleges.

 

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What’s a Good 2019 PSAT Score Based on Your Colleges?

The final method you can use to define a good 2019 PSAT score is to look at the SAT scores you’ll eventually need to get accepted to the colleges you’re interested in attending.

As you probably know, the PSAT is a practice SAT, so the score you get on this test is meant to be a predictor of what you’ll later get on the SAT (should you not do any additional studying in-between the two testsbut, of course, we advise studying a lot!).

You can use your PSAT score as a baseline score to get a sense of where you’re currently scoring on the SAT and to figure out which skills you might need to work on in the meantime so you'll wind up hitting your SAT goal score. (Our expert guide on what a good SAT score is will teach you how to set your own target score based on the colleges you want to apply to.)

You can then use your PSAT results to help you design a study plan for the SAT.

For instance, if you got a 1220 on the PSAT but will need a 1350 for the SAT, you’re going to have to improve your score by at least 130 points.

Below are the (estimated) number of hours you’ll need to commit to studying for the SAT based on how many total points you're trying to improve by:

  • 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 200-330 point improvement: 150 hours+

Remember that the max PSAT score is only 1520, whereas the max SAT score is 1600; however, a 1520 on the PSAT does not directly correspond to a 1600 on the SAT. This is because the PSAT is slightly easier than the SAT.

If you’re already hitting very close to your goal SAT scores on the PSAT, then you won’t need to do too much additional prepping between the two tests.

However, if your PSAT score is hundreds of points lower than your SAT goal score, you’ll definitely want to come up with a foolproof study plan and utilize the time you have between the tests to really focus on improving your weaknesses.

 

Good 2019 PSAT Scores: Key Takeaways

The 2019 PSAT will take place in October, and students will get their PSAT score reports starting in mid-December. Your score report will present lots of data, such as your scaled scores, Selection Index (used for National Merit), raw scores, subscores, and national percentiles.

In the end, what a good 2019 PSAT score is for you will depend on what’s most relevant to your goals, whether that be hitting a certain percentile, qualifying for National Merit Semifinalist status, or getting a score similar to the SAT score you’ll need for your chosen colleges.

No matter what your PSAT goals are, remember that your performance on it can help inform your SAT prepand hopefully nab you an even higher SAT score!

 

What’s Next?

To learn more about the PSAT and what it entails, check out our introductory guide.

You now know what a good PSAT score is—but what about a good SAT scoreOur guides go over everything you need to know about what SAT scores you will need to get into the Ivy League and dozens of other popular colleges.

Planning to take the ACT instead? Then it'll be helpful to know exactly what the PreACT is (hint: it's like the PSAT but for the ACT!) and how to best prep for this practice ACT exam.

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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