After taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), you might have to wait a little while before you get your test scores back. Typically, scores will be available in early December, about six weeks from when you take the test in October. The scores will be available to you as well as your school’s guidance counselor. After reviewing your results, you should speak with your guidance counselor about what it means from their perspective and next steps.

Interpreting your PSAT scores

Ultimately, your PSAT scores are for you to determine your strengths and weaknesses for taking the SAT your junior and/or senior year. Here are some key points:

  • Your composite total score will range from 320-1520
    • Reading and writing scores between 160-760
    • Math score ranging from 160-760
  • Average, or mean, scores will be provided with your scores, which are based on scores earned by a typical student of the same grade.
  • You’ll be given benchmarks for each section that are meant to show your college readiness.
  • Percentile ranks are given to show you how you compare to other students.
    • National Representative Sample percentile compares your score to other students in your grade.
    • User Percentile-National compares your score to the U.S. College Board test takes in your grade.
  • Use your scores to help guide you when studying for the SAT.

What do your PSAT scores tell you about the SAT?

Because the PSAT is supposed to be representative of taking the SAT, your scores are supposed to represent that you would get on the SAT. Some will say that if you scored 1300 on the PSAT, for example, you can assume you would get a 1300 on the SAT, but that isn’t always true. The question will be different on the PSAT than they are on the SAT, and though the questions are similar, they can be more difficult.

After you get your scores, assess your strengths and weaknesses and focus on studying more in your weakness. Don’t forget to study your strengths, though, as these areas are just as important. If anything, get a tutor or extra help to improve your scores before taking the SAT.

What to do next?

First, don’t panic. No matter what score you got, even it is below average, it’s OK. If anything, your PSAT scores help you to do better when it comes time to take the SAT. Just because you did poorly on the PSAT doesn’t mean you will do poorly on the SAT. If you study enough you will do better than you did before. Believe it or not, many students don’t do well on the PSAT and then go on to do very well on the SAT.

Use the mistakes you made when studying for the PSAT to improve your knowledge and test taking strategies. The PSAT and SAT aren’t like the typical test you will take in high school. They are difficult tests and you will have to prepare more than you would any other test. Remember, the PSAT is a practice test, and practice makes perfect.

Now, if you did well on the PSAT, don’t take it for granted. Don’t think that just because you did well you’ll do well on the SAT. You need to study for the SAT as if you are taking the test for the first time. You can still improve on your scores even if they are above average.

When you get your scores, you will be able to know each question you got right and each one you got wrong, so you can go back and see exactly where you went wrong. Go through each question, one by one, and understand why you got it wrong. Not just how you got it wrong, but why and what you need to learn or understand to get it right next time. Ultimately, your PSAT scores will prepare you for studying for the SAT. The SAT is the test that is important to do well on because of the weight it plays when applying to college. Take the PSAT as a learning experience.