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Most generally, the PSAT/NMSQT (literally Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) serves as practice for the SAT. This test is usually taken in the first semester of 11th grade, while the newer versions, which include PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9, are taken in 10th and 8th or 9th grades respectively. Since you probably won’t be taking the SAT before your junior year, the latter tests serve as measures for what you’re learning and indicate whether you’re on track for college.

 

Colleges usually don’t see your PSAT scores. In most cases, just you and your high school are able to see the report. These reports offer details on your performance in different areas and can help you determine which areas you need to improve and hone your practicing.

 

Your PSAT/NMSQT scores may enter you in the National Merit Scholarship Program if you take the test as an 11th grader. Your scores may also be used as qualifiers for other scholarships.

 

So while college probably won’t see your PSAT scores, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

 

What Does My Score Indicate?

The earlier you take the PSAT, the more likely your score will change when you take the SAT. That’s one reason why it’s not the most solid indicator of your SAT performance, though it can show you where you should focus your practice efforts.

 

When you receive your report, you’ll see college readiness benchmarks that indicate how prepared you are for a college curriculum. Still, remember that you have more than a year and a half of high school education, so there’s plenty of time to improve. Check out Are PSAT Scores Related to SAT Scores? for more information on how your results on the tests correlate.

 

What’s a Good PSAT Score?

You raw scores, or total number questions you answered correctly, are converted to a score on a scale of 160–760 for each section, for a total of 320–1520. The tests themselves mirror the SAT and include Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.

 

You will also see subscores for specific skill sets and percentiles that indicate how you did relative to others taking the same test. For instance, if you scored in the 80th percentile, you scored better than 80 percent of test takers.

 

Whatever your personal goals and objectives are for the PSAT, you should definitely aim to exceed the College Readiness Benchmarks. The good news is that if you don’t, you have time to improve for the SAT.

 

Each skill will be color-coded according to when you’ve reached the benchmark. Green means you’ve met or exceed it in that area, yellow means you’re approaching the benchmark, and red means you need to strengthen your skills in the area.

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Why the PSAT Still Matters

As we’ve discussed, colleges don’t typically pay attention to PSAT results. In most cases, they won’t even see your results. However, you shouldn’t blow off the test. It can help you a lot in preparing for the SAT and understanding your college readiness and where you need to improve.

 

If you take the PSAT seriously and prepare for it as though you were taking the SAT, you may have a less stressful admissions and financial aid process. Doing well can also boost your confidence, since scoring well can alleviate fears that you might not do well on the SAT, and the practice can help you cope with test anxiety before the tests colleges will see. Think of it as a rehearsal for the real test.

 

Your PSAT scores can also help you win scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation cosponsors the test and will automatically receive your results. (Check out How to Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program for information on the award.) Some other scholarship committees, including National Hispanic Recognition Program, the National Scholarship Service, and Telluride Seminar Scholarships, use these results, too, although you may elect to not have them sent.

 

Ultimately, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the PSAT. It can help you a lot with practicing, studying, preparation and, ultimately, getting into college.

 

Looking for some help with acing the SAT? The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program will help you achieve top scores on your test. We’ll pair you with two private tutors, one for English and writing, and one for math and science. All of our tutors have scored in the 99th percentile on the section they are teaching and are chosen based on teaching skills and ability to relate to their students.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine