What to Do When Your PSAT Scores Come In

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, April 17, 2014

Have you gotten your PSAT scores back? Most scores arrive in the beginning of December. No matter what your scores are, now is not the time to gloat, panic, or feel indifferent. Your scores can give you an insight into potential SAT scores and provide you with a roadmap of where you need to go from here as you look toward SAT prep.

But before getting into that, look at what your PSAT score means.

Interpreting your PSAT scores

The PSAT/NMSQT reports scores for the three areas you were tested on: the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing sections. Here are some key points:

  • Your scores will fall within the range of 20 to 80 points for each section, with 20 being the lowest possible score and 80 being the highest.
  • A score of 49 in any of these subject areas is about average for a student in eleventh grade.
  • The percentile information shows how you performed compared to others. For example, if you scored in the 85th percentile, then you scored better than 85 percent of students who took the test at the same time you did.
  • The Selection Index is the sum of all your scores.
What do these scores mean for my SAT scores?
Your scores can give you an idea of what kind of SAT scores you might receive. To get an estimate of how the results of your PSAT test would convert into SAT figures, simply add a zero to the end of each of your scores. (Remember that the SAT will also include an essay as part of the Writing test.)

Keep in mind that the numbers you see on your PSAT score report are not a guarantee of how you will perform on the SAT—they simply provide an estimate. And, if you are so inclined, there are things you can do that should improve your SAT score.

What should I do if my PSAT test scores aren’t great?

First, don’t panic. If you’re not happy with your scores, then you’re in good company. Many students aren’t happy with the numbers they receive, and most think they could have done better. That’s actually good news! You can use your PSAT scores to figure out the exact areas of weakness you need to work on, which can help you with SAT prep. For example, on this free SAT practice test from Peterson's, you could watch for questions in subjects that you didn't do so well with on the PSAT, and make sure you know how to deal with those questions moving forward.

Your score report provides you with each question you got right and also the ones you got wrong. Better still, you’ll also get your copy of the actual test, so you can go back and see exactly where you went wrong, question by question. And if that’s not enough, your score report suggests skills you need to improve on, along with tips on how to perform better in these areas.

As you go through SAT prep, take time to review your performance on the PSAT. Prep yourself by using this time to improve your weaknesses and further enhance your strengths. It will pay off when it comes time for the real thing!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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