The Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, is a test administered by the College Board, sponsor of the SAT, that most students take in October or November during their junior year of high school, and possibly during freshmen or sophomore year. What is a good PSAT score? PSAT scores range from 320 to 1520. The average PSAT score is around 920 (460 in Math and 460 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing), while an outstanding PSAT score (one that will qualify you as a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist) is between 1420 and 1480.
The PSAT is very similar to the SAT in terms of content and skills measured, although it’s a little simpler. The main purpose of the PSAT is to help students get an assessment of their SAT readiness and college readiness.
Table of Contents
- What Is the PSAT?
- How Is the PSAT Scored?
- What Is an Average PSAT Score?
- What Is a Good PSAT Score?
- PSAT Scoring vs SAT Scoring
- A Final Word on PSAT Scores
What Is the PSAT?
To talk about the PSAT, it makes sense to first talk about the SAT. This is a test many have heard of, usually with a little touch of fear. To prepare students of the rigors of the SAT, and to provide a possible scholarship, the College Board designed a slightly easier and shorter version of the SAT. This is called the PSAT, or the preliminary SAT.
What Is the National Merit Scholarship?
The National Merit Scholarship is a one-time scholarship based on academic achievement and exam scores. The PSAT serves as the qualifying test for a National Merit Scholarship. All National Merit finalists receive a scholarship of $2,500.
National Merit Finalists then go on to “win” through applications to school-financed awards and scholarships funded by companies. These can vary from a one-time award of a few thousand dollars to significant amounts of money over four years.
What Is a Good PSAT Score for a National Merit Scholarship?
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 2018 and 2019 range somewhere between 214 and 223 in most states (on the PSAT scale of 228; corresponds to PSAT scores of around 1420 and 1480).
How Is the PSAT Scored?
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 this scale similar but not identical to the SAT scoring scale. PSAT scores start and end lower specifically because the PSAT is just a little bit easier than the SAT.
What Is an Average PSAT Score?
What Is a Good PSAT Score?
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 1520 on the PSAT, you might be able to get a perfect 1600 on the SAT. Since the PSAT doesn’t go above 1520, a prefect PSAT score indicates an ability to get 1520 or higher on the SAT.
Still, there are some decent ways to guess what is a good PSAT score good in relation to a university’s SAT requirements. 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.”
PSAT Scoring vs SAT Scoring
|Reading & Writing Score Range||160 to 760||200 to 800|
|Math Score Range||160 to 760||200 to 800|
|Total Score Range||320 to 1520||400 to 1600|
The reason the PSAT is scored out of 1520 instead of 1600 is because it is an easier test. The idea is that you’ll be able to better predict your SAT scores using your PSAT results this way.
Although, honestly, this probably creates more confusion than it is worth. And I am willing to bet if you score a perfect 1520 on the PSAT, you sure are going to set your sights higher for the SAT!
How Will PSAT Scores Compare to My SAT Scores?
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.
What PSAT score do I need for a National Merit Scholarship?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict given that varies by state and changes from year to year. Recently, state cut-offs for semi-finalists have varied from around 1420 to 1480 (we’re estimating because the NMS translates these onto their own 228 point scale—on that scale, it’s between 214 to 223).
Should I submit my PSAT scores to colleges?
Nope! Schools are interested in your SAT scores, not your PSAT scores. However, getting a National Merit Scholarship is impressive—and taking the PSAT is likely to improve your score on the SAT, so there’s a double benefit!
A Final Word
Before you take the test, make sure you know what’s on the PSAT. Then, review as much as you can in the time you have left and take at least one practice test. And with that done, you’ll be on your way to a perfect score!