PSAT Scores Are Back – Now What?
Remember the PSAT examination that you took back in October? Scores are finally here! After 9 weeks of waiting, test takers nationwide can now access their scores on their College Board accounts. For information on how to access the scores, review the instructions provided by the College Board at this link.
Now that your scores are here, you may be wondering where to go next. For sophomores or younger students, you can gauge your current level of performance and begin planning for the all-important junior year. For juniors, your scores will be much more important. You can use the scores to help make decisions about whether to pursue the SAT or ACT for official college admission examinations, or you may be in the top 50,000 test takers who will qualify for some form of National Merit Commendation. Read on to learn about what to do next!
Your PSAT results will not be provided to any colleges and will not follow you into your junior year. So what can you use the scores for?
The PSAT and SAT are scored on exactly the same scale: if you score a 1200 on your PSAT, the College Board says that you would have scored a 1200 if you had taken the full SAT, rather than the PSAT, on that day. Therefore, you can use your PSAT scores to get a preliminary look at your level of readiness for the SAT.
It is important to keep in mind that the SAT is designed to be taken by high school juniors — so, if you are not happy with your scores, do not panic! The PSAT tests content that you may not have yet encountered in school, and in one year you will be more prepared to take the examination. If you feel that your scores are significantly below your expectations, then you will want to begin to consider how you will structure your test prep and official testing during junior year. If you anticipate that you will need a long-term prep period, then you may want to consider prepping over the summer when there are no competing academic demands or consider getting a tutor if you feel that you are falling behind in relevant classes — geometry and algebra II are heavily tested on the SAT, so you want to make sure you are crafting a solid foundation.
If your PSAT scores come back with a score greater than 1380, you may want to consider completing dedicated test prep for next year’s PSAT examination, as your score after a year of growth and some dedicated prep may break into the national merit range and render you eligible to receive a Commendation status or scholarship funds.
Congratulations on taking your last ever PSAT/NMSQT! Now that you have your scores, you can use the scores to help you plan for official SAT and ACT testing during the spring of your junior year.
The PSAT is a slightly easier, slightly shorter version of the SAT. A perfect score on the PSAT is a 1520, whereas the perfect score on the SAT is a 1600. This means that the College Board is leaving off the 80 most difficult points (40 from EBRW and 40 from Math) and saving those 80 points for the SAT. Therefore, if you are scoring around a 1520, it is possible that your SAT score could be considerably higher, as you may be able to easily snag those final 80 points. If your score is around or below a 1480, you can expect that these PSAT scores will align with your ability on the official SAT examination.
Because the vast majority of colleges will accept either the SAT or the ACT, we strongly recommend that students identify which examination better suits their strengths and weaknesses. The only way to do so with any accuracy is to obtain valid SAT and ACT baseline scores and compare your performance among the two examinations. The PSAT is a fantastic baseline for this purpose — again, because it is on the same scale, you can use your PSAT score as a representation of what you would have scored had you taken the SAT on October 11th!
As soon as you can (before your PSAT results become stale and outdated), try to take an ACT mock test under official time conditions so that you can compare your scores and identify a path forward. If you can identify which test is best for your academic strengths, you can cut down on the prep time and effort by 50%, as you only have to master one exam!
Beyond the SAT score, you will want to play close attention to your Selection Index Score, which can be found on the second page of your PSAT report. The PSAT selection score is easy to calculate — you add up your Reading, Writing and Language, and Math scores, and multiply that number by 2. Approximately 1.6 million juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT each year — students with the top 50,000 selection scores will qualify for some form of National Merit recognition. Approximately 34,000 students will receive Commendation status, whereas the top 16,000 scorers will qualify for Semi-finalist status. For more information on scholarship details, check out this link from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
The official NMSQT cutoffs for the class of 2019 will not be revealed until September of 2018, but you can check out last year’s cutoffs at this link. If your selection score on the PSAT/NMSQT is near or above the cutoff listed for your state, you will want to pay attention next September when the official cutoffs are announced because you may find yourself eligible for a number of scholarship if you have completed all of the eligibility requirements!
Regardless of how your scores came out, be sure to keep them in perspective. You have plenty of time to take the SAT and ACT this semester, and your scores will not follow you to college. Use them as a guide, get excited if your scores are high, and prepare for the real thing this semester!