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David Recine

Are my PSAT Scores Good?

Once you’ve taken the PSAT, you may wonder– is my PSAT score any good? There are ways to measure the value of your PSAT score.

Are my PSAT scores good enough for the National Merit Scholarship?

The PSAT is designed– first and foremost– for the National Merit Scholarship competition. The exact score you need for a chance at the scholarship can be a little unclear.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has a selection process that’s based on score percentiles rather than a particular “good” PSAT score. First, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation selects the 50,000 students who have the highest PSAT scores among all applicants nationwide. (There are around 1.5 million applicants each year.) Then, the NMSC chooses 16,000 semifinalists. And these semifinalists are selected from individual states, based on state-level PSAT averages. Finalists and winners are selected from these state-level pools.

So obviously, it’s hard to tell what exact PSAT score is “good” within the Merit Scholarship contest. Fortunately, there are some ways to estimate the cutoff range for a good score, using prior and current PSAT score data.

Compass Prep provides a good chart of National Merit Scholarship semifinalist cutof estimations, with figures for each individual state. Based on this data, good PSAT scores for the classes of 2016 and 2017 range somewhere between 200 and 220 in most states.

Are my PSAT scores good enough for university admissions?

As you probably already know, universities don’t actually accept the PSAT– they’ll want to see the SAT instead. However, the PSAT is designed to work as a kind of pretest for the SAT.

How well you do on the PSAT is a strong indicator of how you might perform on the SAT. But be forewarned– there is not a 100% correspondence between PSAT and SAT scores, nor is there any official chart of PSAT/SAT equivalencies.

Still, there are some decent ways to guess whether your PSAT score is good in relation to a university’s SAT requirements. The PSAT is graded on a  scale of 320 to 1520, while the SAT is scored on a 400-1600 point scale. The College Board has deliberately made these scales similar but not identical. PSAT scores start and end lower specifically because the PSAT is just a little bit easier than the SAT.

With the PSAT scoring scale set 80 points lower, the score you get on the PSAT will be– in theory–about the same as the score you’d get on the SAT. A 1300 on the PSAT is meant to be the same as a 1300 on the SAT, for instance. At the higher end of the scale, exact equivalency is less clear. If you get a perfect 1320 on the PSAT, you might be able to get a perfect 1400 on the SAT. Since the PSAT doesn’t go above 1320, a prefect PSAT score indicates an ability to get 1320 or higher on the SAT.

To see if your PSAT score is a good as it relates to possible SAT scoring, check the SAT score requirements at schools you plan on applying to. If your PSAT score is the same as the required SAT score– or higher than  it– your score on the PSAT could be considered “good.”

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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