College Board is mixing things up. With the new suite of assessments starting to roll out this fall, the new PSAT is one of the first tests to debut.
Apart from changes in content and structure, the new PSAT will use a different scoring system than the one used in previous years. This new scale will correspond with, though not match exactly, the scale for the new SAT.
This article will go over the new PSAT score range, along with explaining what your PSAT scores will mean for National Merit and your performance on the SAT. Let's check out the new scoring system.
What's the New PSAT Score Range?
Gone is the old PSAT score range of 60 to 240. The new PSAT will be scored on a scale from 320 to 1520.
Math will actually count for one half of this composite score, and the Reading and Writing (which will be called Writing and Language) sections will count for the other half together.You'll get subscores for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language between 8 and 38. Then Reading and Writing will be considered together, and Math will make up for the other half.
To get your Math scaled score, you simply multiply your section score by 20. A score of 30 on math, for instance, would convert to a scaled score of 600 (30 x 20 = 600).
To get your Reading and Writing score, which again are combined, you add each section score and multiply by 10. Let's say you get a 32 on Reading and a 35 on Writing. Your scaled score would come out to 670 (e.g., (32 + 35) * 10 = 670).
Here's another example, where the student scored a 28 on Reading, 32 on Writing, and 34 on Math.
(28 + 32) * 10 = 600
|600 + 680 = 1280
|Writing and Language
|34 * 20 = 680
For each section, you could get a minimum scaled score of 160 and a maximum of 760.
Your PSAT score report will further break down your performance by question type so you have a detailed sense of how you did. The verbal sections will show additional scoring between 1 and 15.
Another major change is that the new PSAT will have rights-only scoring. You won't get any point deductions for wrong answers. Instead, your raw score will be added up one point at a time for each correct answer.
Why Do PSAT Scores Matter?
Your PSAT scores are important for a few reasons. One, as a measure of your college readiness, they give you a sense of your academic strengths and weaknesses and the skills you need to focus on to get ready for college.
In a more immediate sense, they help predict how you'll do on the very important SAT. The new SAT will be scored between 800 and 1600. The PSAT scale is shifted slightly lower to account for the fact that it's a slightly easier test than the SAT.
While a 1520 on the PSAT doesn't necessarily equate to a 1600 on the SAT, it still suggests you'll get a very strong score. If you're scoring lower than you'd like, you can use your score report to figure out how to prep to improve on the SAT.
Apart from helping you predict and get ready for the SAT, your PSAT score is important for National Merit distinction and scholarships. Since National Merit looks at scorers in top percentiles, it's important to know your percentiles, along with your scores.
Your percentiles compare you to other students who took the PSAT, so you can know how competitive your scores are. You'll actually get a few different percentile measures on your score reports, which I'll explain below.
How Do PSAT Score Percentiles Work?
Your scores will be assigned a percentile, which compares them to the scores of other test-takers. If you score in the 75th percentile, for instance, then you scored the same as or higher than 75% of other test-takers. The other 25% scored higher than you.
You'll actually see three types of percentiles, the Nationally Representative Sample percentile, the User percentile, and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation percentile. The first compares all the other U.S. students in your grade, while the second compares a sample derived from a research study.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) percentile is the important one for National Merit. NMSC uses its own percentile to compare students by state who participated in the same PSAT administration. Read more about National Merit here.
Preparing for the PSAT
As you can see in the chart above, scoring in the top 1% requires a high score with very few wrong answers in each section. The highest scorers on the PSAT usually take months to a year or more before the test to study with official PSAT practice tests and questions. Older PSAT practice tests are also very helpful, as are practice tests for the new SAT, since the two tests will be very similar.
You can use these practice tests to figure out what subjects and question types you need to study most, as well as to time yourself and practice answering questions quickly and efficiently under time limits. One of the best ways to learn and improve is to write down any mistakes or questions you're unsure about. Then take the time to thoroughly review the answer explanations, and drill the same concepts with similar practice questions. That way you can break patterns and answer the same question types correctly the next time.
Some students also choose to take the PSAT earlier, like in 9th or 10th grade to gain valuable test-taking experience. Additionally, College Board now offers the PSAT 8/9 and the PSAT 10 for eighth graders, freshmen, and sophomores to gain experience with these tests.
Finally, once you do take the PSAT, make sure to check your scores right away. Then you can see if you made it into the top 1% and need to start on your National Merit application. Either way, you can learn what you need to study to further improve your scores on the SAT.
Are you a sophomore wondering if you should take the PSAT 10 or the PSAT NMSQT? Read all about the differences and how to decide here.
If you are taking the PSAT NMSQT as a sophomore, check out what makes a good score for sophomores here.
When are you planning to start studying for the SAT? This article helps you figure out your study schedule, as well as gives suggestions for how many hours you need to prep to see certain score improvements.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.