Interpreting PSAT Scores

How Are PSAT Scores Interpreted by Colleges

Why PSAT Is Important

The PSAT/NMSQT test is an important test for many high school students. It is important mainly because it is a scholarship determination test. The test scores help you to estimate your SAT preparedness level. Interpreting PSAT scores is an important step in your holistic preparation towards the SAT test. Interpreting PSAT scores helps you to identify your weak areas and strong points so that you can concentrate on those areas when preparing for the SAT test.

Importance of PSAT Scores

Interpreting PSAT scores is a manifold process. The PSAT score report is a comprehensive report about your performance in the PSAT test. It is comprehensive because it tells you where you stand in comparison to other juniors or sophomores who have taken the test. Interpreting PSAT scores is not just about knowing how much you have scored in each section but about knowing the skills you need to enhance in order to do well in the final SAT test. The PSAT score report includes a breakdown of each section to tell you about how you have scored in each type of questions. For example, you may have scored well in the sentence completion type of question but not scored well in the passage-based reading type.

Interpreting PSAT Scores

The PSAT score ranges on a scale of 20-80. The scores from each section are totalled and the raw score is calculated. The raw score is then mapped to the scale of 20-80. The following table provides sample scores that are used for conversion.



Critical Reading


Writing Skills


















For the complete list of scores, see the Understanding PSAT NMSQT Scores booklet. You can download the booklet from the College Board site:

The Understanding PSAT NMSQT Scores booklet is in PDF format and includes a complete explanation of PSAT scores and information about interpreting PSAT scores. For example, you can study the PSAT score conversion table to know the kind of scores you need in each section to gain a scholarship.

The selection index percentile will help you in interpreting PSAT scores in comparison to others. It will tell you how well you have scored compared to your juniors. The Selection Index is an important measurement because the NMSC uses the index score to select the group of students who will move ahead to the qualifying tests for scholarship programs.

Your PSAT score report will also include PSAT/NMSQT percentiles and mean score reports. These reports help you to compare your performance with that of juniors and sophomores. The PSAT percentiles indicate the fraction of students whose scores fall below the specified score. The mean score is the average performance of the group of students.

PSAT Scores vs. SAT Scores

Your PSAT scores are valuable because you can use your PSAT scores to estimate your likely SAT scores. The SAT scoring technique is similar to the PSAT scoring technique. In addition, the score range is also somewhat similar to the SAT score range. The SAT scale ranges from 200-800. Thus, most students add a zero at the end of their PSAT scores (section and total) to ascertain or pre-empt their SAT scores. This will tell them whether they will be able to make it to the college of their choice.

Other Benefits

Your PSAT scores help you to achieve scholarships. Even if you do not do well enough to secure a scholarship but have a high score, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) provides a Letter of Commendation, which is helpful for colleges to understand that you scored well in the PSAT test.

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