### What are your chances of acceptance?

Duke University
UCLA
##### Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
1.0
4.0
SAT: 720 math
200
800
| 800 verbal
200
800

#### Extracurriculars

Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)
5

# How to Understand and Use Your PSAT Results

## What’s Covered:

The PSAT is often your first exposure to college-oriented standardized tests, but many students wonder afterward what they’re supposed to do with their results. If you scored well, you likely want to know if you’re sure to have an ace performance on the SAT, too. Or if you didn’t do as well as you had hoped, you might want guidance on how to learn from your results, so that you do better on the real SAT.

Either way, the PSAT can be a useful tool for SAT prep and college planning. If you already have your PSAT results in hand or are expecting them soon, read on to learn more about what these results mean and how you can use them to your advantage.

## Do PSAT Scores Predict SAT Scores?

PSAT scores are not an exact indicator of SAT performance, but they can give you a good understanding of where you stand at the beginning of your SAT prep. The tests are similar, and there are plenty of resources out there for converting your PSAT score into an SAT score.

That said, using your PSAT score to predict your SAT score exactly is a little tricky. For starters, the tests are scored on a different scale—while the PSAT is scored on a scale from 320-1520, the SAT is scored on a scale from 400-1600. So, a 1-to-1 translation isn’t possible.

To get a more concrete idea of how you might do on the SAT, you might want to look at percentiles, rather than actual scores. Percentile data tells you what percentage of students you did better than–being in the 99th percentile means you did better than 99% of test-takers, while being in the 50th percentile means you did better than 50% of test-takers.

For example, over the past three years, high school juniors who scored in the 99th percentile on the PSAT achieved a score of 1450 or above. Students in the past three years who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT achieved a score of 1530

Or, 11th graders who scored in the 50th percentile on the PSAT achieved a score of 960, while students in the same percentile on the SAT achieved a score of 1010.

Of course, which score corresponds to which percentile can change slightly from year to year, and you’re not guaranteed to fall at exactly the same percentile on the SAT as you did on the PSAT. But since the tests use different scales, looking at how you performed relative to your peers can help you more accurately predict how you’ll do on the real SAT.

That being said, your PSAT score doesn’t guarantee anything. The amount of preparation students put into the PSAT and SAT can vary widely, and the SAT does cover slightly harder material.

If you studied a lot for the PSAT, earned a high score, and then didn’t prepare at all for the SAT, you could underperform. On the flip side, if there was some material in, say, geometry that you hadn’t yet covered in school when you took the PSAT, and you take the SAT after learning it, you might see yourself do significantly better on the SAT than your PSAT score would suggest.

Rather than treating your PSAT score as a promise of any particular SAT score, view it as a tool for planning your SAT preparation and starting to craft your college list. Don’t set any schools in stone until you have your SAT results, but you can start researching middle 50% data now, to get a general sense of how competitive you’d be at a certain school.

## How to Use Your PSAT Score to Prepare for the SAT

You can definitely use your PSAT to help you prepare for the SAT. The first step is knowing how to read your score report. Usually, the thing students pay the most attention to is their composite score, which will range from 320-1520 and will reflect your performance across the whole test. While your composite score certainly matters, it alone doesn’t do much to help you prepare for the SAT.

Instead, you’ll want to get a more concrete sense of why you earned that particular score. The College Board doesn’t release copies of your answer sheets, so there’s no way of knowing exactly which questions you got right or wrong.

However, the Knowledge and Skills page of your score report allows you to view how you performed in the eight content domains assessed by the PSAT. In the Reading and Writing section, those are:

• Information and Ideas
• Craft and Structure
• Expression of Ideas
• Standard English Conventions

The content domains tested in the Math section are:

• Algebra
• Problem-Solving and Data Analysis
• Geometry and Trigonometry

The Knowledge and Skills page of your score report quantifies your specific strengths and weaknesses, which is invaluable for building a productive, efficient SAT study plan that maximizes your limited study time.

For example, if you performed notably worse on Craft and Structure than the other Reading and Writing content areas, you’ll want to brush up on your vocabulary, and make sure you understand how authors draw connections between various ideas.

Similarly, if an otherwise strong Math score was dragged down by a poor performance in, say, Geometry and Trigonometry, you should practice common geometric theorems and make sure you understand the key relationships between the various sides and angles of a triangle.

You can also use your PSAT score to set a rough goal score for the SAT—for example, if you’re committed to studying hard for the real test, maybe you’ll shoot for an improvement of 70 points. Just remember to base your target SAT score off your PSAT percentile, not your numerical score.

## The Impact of Standardized Tests on Your Chances of Acceptance

Even with many colleges adopting test-optional policies, standardized test scores can still be a crucial part of your application, especially at more selective institutions. As you evaluate your PSAT results and prepare for the actual SAT (or ACT), you may be wondering how to set a target score for yourself—middle 50% data can only take you so far.

To get a concrete sense of what SAT/ACT score you’d need at your top-choice schools, given the rest of your profile, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. This tool accounts for all quantifiable aspects of your application, including not only test scores but also grades, course rigor, extracurriculars, and so on to give you personalized odds of acceptance at more than 1,600 schools around the country.

You can start by entering your potential SAT score based on your PSAT results into the engine, and then experiment by entering slightly higher scores, to see how much of an impact a bump of say, 50 points would make. Or, if you’re unsure which schools you want to apply to, the engine can give you some suggestions of schools that are a good match for your overall profile, which you can use as a starting point for building your school list.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.