Understanding The PSAT Scoring System

Taking the PSAT and not obtaining scores for each section would be meaningless.  Only on the basis of this score is one able to understand his skill level and consequently prepare for SAT.

PSAT scores help students understand their skills, prepare for SAT, compare their performance with those of others and obtain suggestions about career planning.
The scores are used by schools to analyze student performance, compare the performance of their students at state and national levels and evaluate the quality of education they provide. This information can then be used by school authorities to improve their student performance and their own education system.

PSAT Score Report

There are five main parts of the score report.

1. Your Scores: The score of each section is reported on a scale of 20 to 80. Along with the score, you obtain a score range. This range extends from a few points below to a few points above your score. The score range is an estimate of how much you are likely to score if you retake the test. It is advised by the College Board that the score range be considered as a better estimator of a student’s capabilities.
Apart from these, you get a percentile rank for each section. A percentile rank is the percentage of students who scored lesser than you did in the section. If your percentile rank in a section is 78th, then you have performed better than 78% test takers. The results of sophomores are compared among sophomores for calculating percentile ranks; similarly, for juniors the results are compared among juniors.

2. Review Your Answers: In this section, you are given complete information about your performance. The correct answer, your answer and the difficulty level of each response is reported. Your own test book is given back to you for keeps. This section is particularly helpful for checking where you went wrong in the exam.

3. Improve Your Skills: This section contains customized feedback about your skills. The skills that you require to improve upon are listed according to the different sections. Consequently, you are provided with valuable suggestions about how to improve the skills. Questions pertaining to testing those skills are also listed for reference. This section of the score report can be instrumental in helping you prepare for the test again and for SAT.

4. National Merit Scholarship Programs Information: The Selection Index, its corresponding percentile and information about entry requirements are mentioned in this part of the score report. The Selection Index is the sum of the three different scaled scores. The average Selection Index for 11th grade students is 147. Generally, students obtaining a percentile higher than the 96th percentile are likely to obtain the scholarship.

5. Your Educational Plans: You shall be required to mention a college major that interests you in your answer sheet. This section of the score report describes the skills required to complete that major in college and suggestions about the courses that should be taken in high school for learning the required skills.

Some Common Queries about PSAT Scoring
There are many questions in the minds of students, regarding the scores. Let us address a few.

When are PSAT scores declared?

PSAT is administered on two dates in October and PSAT scores are sent to schools in December beginning.

How much do students score in PSAT on an average?

There is no fixed definition of a good score. A score of 49 in each section is considered average. By studying the results for previous years, one can arrive at some conclusion about what a good score is. The average scores in Critical Reading were 47 and 42, in Writing Skills they were 46 and 41 and they were 49 and 44 in Mathematics for 11th and 10th graders respectively in 2008. The average Selection Index for 11th graders is nearly 147.

How are PSAT and SAT Scores Related?
PSAT scores can be used to estimate SAT scores. The scores in SAT can be assumed to be 10 times the scores in PSAT.

What if I have not scored well in PSAT?
The score report is elaborate and gives details of your weaknesses. This shall help you greatly in preparing for SAT. This examination acts as a litmus test of your skill level for SAT. Hence, you must learn from your mistakes and overcome your shortcomings.

How do the scores vary on taking PSAT again?
Studies show that those who take this test as sophomores and then again as juniors increase their scores by 3-4 points in each section. There have been occurrences of students scoring lower as well. However, in general, those who scored low as sophomores had greater increase in their scores as juniors than those who scored high as sophomores.

How to Maximize Your Score

There are tips that can come in handy for gaining the maximum possible score. Though there is no substitute for preparation, tips can make you gain the most out of your efforts.

    • Do not spend too much time on difficult questions and leave out others. On an average, you should spend half a minute on one question. Since all questions are rated equally, you should try to complete the easier ones first and go on to difficult ones after that.
    • Since this test is not offered throughout the year, you must start preparing for it well in time. Two months of dedicated study should be sufficient for preparation.
    • Do not guess the answers if you are absolutely clueless about the likely answer. Educated guesswork can reap you results rather than random guessing.
    • Take the practice test under timed real test like conditions. An initial diagnostic test shall prove to be beneficial since you shall understand your level of knowledge and skills better and can concentrate on your weak areas.
    • Make sure that you gain enough practice to fill in answers in the grid-in questions. Answers entered wrongly are not considered for scoring.
    • Take the PSAT as a test in itself, rather than merely a practice tool for SAT. Preparing for this test seriously shall place you in a better position than non-serious test takers when you prepare for SAT.

When you take the PSAT, your job is not finished with appearing for the test. When you obtain your scores, it should be the beginning of another significant stage for you, that of improving your skill level. The score report is very elaborate and you should make efforts to make the most of the information and suggestions available.