PSAT Scores: Prepping For College


By Will Roby

The PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, is also known as the Pre-SAT. It is a test given to students before they take the SAT test to give them an idea of how much they need to study and how they may perform on the real deal.

The PSAT has a third name — the NMSQT or National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test. Results from the PSAT can qualify a student for placement as a National Merit Scholar, and the huge amount of money available to students in this program is reason enough to take the PSAT. Scores on the PSAT can earn high school students accolades and scholarships, and more than just being a good barometer for a student’s performance on the SAT and in college, their increased ability to earn admissions and scholarship money at colleges is a big draw to the PSAT.

Students take the PSAT / NMSQT in tenth or eleventh grade both to prepare them for the actual SAT and to qualifying for academic awards. Some students even use the PSAT to decide whether they should apply to college or not.

PSAT Scoring

PSAT scores are reported on a scale from 20 to 80, 20 being the lowest and 80 the highest. This creates a parallel to the SAT, which scores between 200 and 800 on each test part. Students can get an idea for how they’ll do on the SAT by adding a 0 to their score.

Just like the SAT, there are three test parts to the PSAT — critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills. Each part is scored from 20 – 80 for a total between 60 and 240.

Average PSAT Scores

In 2008, the most recent data-year available, the average score for eleventh graders was a total of 142 — this broke down as an average of 47 in Critical Reading, 49 in Mathematics, and 46 in Writing Skills. That same year, the average score for tenth graders was 127 — this average broke down as 42 in Critical Reading, 44 in Mathematics, and 41 in Writing Skills.

PSAT / NMSQT National Percentiles

National percentile numbers help a student compare their own scores and testing abilities with the scores and abilities of other students of their grade level who took the same test.

If you take the PSATin the eleventh grade, you receive what are called “junior percentiles”. If you take the PSAT in tenth grade or younger, you will be given “sophomore percentiles”. The percentile number reported is the percentage of students in your grade whose scores are lower than your own.

In other words, a student in eleventh grade with a percentile of 75 did better on the test than 74 percent of all eleventh graders taking the test.

Author Information

Will Roby writes about topics like PSAT scores for the question and answer blog at


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Categories: Academics