So your student just received a PSAT score report, and there are what seems like a hundred different scores on it! How did your student do? How do you interpret this thing, and which scores are the most important? Here’s what parents need to know about the most important parts of the PSAT score report.
The first thing to remember is that the PSAT is not used for college admissions, but high scores can earn scholarship dollars, including a National Merit Scholarship (you can read more on that below). PSAT scores may also be a good predictor for how a student may score on the SAT, which will be very important for college admissions and scholarships.
When a student takes the SAT (assuming that they prefer that to the ACT, of course, since both tests are treated equally by college admissions officers), schools will be looking at:
- A Student’s Total Score
- Reading & Writing Score
- Math Score
The PSAT is scored on the same rubric, but a slightly different scale, as the real SAT. While the new SAT is scored on a scale of 400–1600, the PSAT is scored on a scale of 320–1520. That difference may seem confusing — but since the material on the SAT is harder than what students encounter on the PSAT, the College Board assumes that the PSAT-to-SAT scale is a good indicator.
National Percentile Scores
The percentile compares the score of everyone who took the PSAT. For example, students who score in the 90th percentile scored higher than 90% of the students who took the PSAT on that particular administration. These percentiles, right now, may be far from what you would expect for your student, since the test is new. The College Board will be refining this over time, so don’t panic too much if your student’s percentile score seems a bit low.
Understanding the Scoring for the New PSAT
Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s important about your PSAT score report:
How to Use Your PSAT Score Report
You will want to pay attention to the subscores on the second page of the report. If you’re in the ‘green’ zone in a particular subscore, that means you can probably do OK with that material on the SAT. If you’re in the ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ zone, you need more work. Use your PSAT score report to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what to work on as you prep for the real thing (at Biltmore Tutoring, we can help you come up with a plan that will maximize your results from time spent studying, and get you matched with a tutor who will help you reach your full potential). Are there geometry concepts you need to review? Are you running out of time? The PSAT is not perfect, and it suffers from all of the pitfalls of small sample sizes, but it is designed to indicate areas of strength and weakness. At Biltmore Tutoring, we use it in combination with other diagnostic tools to come up with the most scientific and effective tutoring plan possible.
What Could You Score on the New SAT?
The PSAT and SAT are scored on slightly different scales, but your TOTAL PSAT score is a direct indicator of your total SAT score. For example, a total PSAT score of 1200 means that, if you took the SAT on the same day, you probably would have gotten a total SAT score in the general neighborhood of 1200.
What’s required for National Merit scholarships?
Your student’s NMSC selection index is indicated on the third page of the report. For more information on what the National Merit Scholar program is, you may download the student guide and that will give you lots of information. Essentially, it’s a competition that affects the top 4% of students across the country, and can lead directly to scholarship dollars.
The estimated cutoff for North Carolina should be around 215 for students who took the test in the fall of 2015. How was your student’s score determined? The College Board uses a formula based on the subscores in the Reading, Writing/Literature and Math sections of the test (remember these from page 2? They are scored according to a range of 8-38 in each subsection). Add up these scores and multiply them by 2 — in other words, (R+WL+M) x 2 — and you can see where you stack up in the race for NMSQT scholarships!
Need more info? Call us at (828) 505-2495 and we’ll be happy to discuss your student’s PSAT report, as well as ways to improve your student’s chances of attending their dream college!