Scores for students who took the PSAT in October were released this week and, of course, there were many questions. For many the PSAT is their first step into the test-taking world thus explaining its importance to lessen the confusion is best.
Before you panic or rejoice about your child’s results, let's break down what these results mean and what your follow-up steps should be.
The point of the PSAT is gaining familiarity with the SAT. So before you exhaust yourself analyzing the score, ask yourself, “Do I understand the format of the SAT?” and “Has my child identified what sections are challenging for them?”
How it's Scored
The PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520 points. Your child will get two scaled scores between 160 and 760: one for Math and one for Reading and Writing combined (called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, or EBRW). You'll also get to see how your child performed on each of the three sections with a test score between 8 and 38.
The PSAT is actually scaled lower than the SAT because it's an easier test.
So a slightly lower score should not cause you to panic because the PSAT score is 80-100 points lower than what your SAT score would be.
Pay Attention to Percentiles
There will be a lot of data crammed into your PSAT scores. Perhaps the data to pay the most attention to are the percentiles. The percentiles will show you how you rank among other test takers. This is great information because it will be really helpful to know if your child is performing at an average level or if they are trailing behind.
What is a Good PSAT Score?
Everyone has their own expectations, but many academic scholars and admissions advisors consider a score that is at least in the 75th percentile or more to be a good score. Anything above the 50th percentile is an OK score and any score ranking below 50 should definitely cause you to be concerned.
If you are less than thrilled with your child’s results, you still have ample time to take the PSAT again. There is no limit to the amount of times that you can take the PSAT and by understanding your score you should now have a great idea as to your weak spots. Now is the time to study, so get a tutor.
Or, before paying to take the PSAT over and over, search for practice PSAT tests online. Practice may not literally make perfect, but it will help to better prepare your child. The PSAT is a great guide to the SAT. Use it to feel empowered and informed versus nervous and panicked. It is just another tool in your toolbox to help you gain admissions success.
A few other points I want to make:
The most important parts of the score report are the Reading/Writing, Math, and Total Scores.
Don't worry about the National Merit Scholarship (which is tied to PSAT scores) unless you are aiming for a score in the top 1%.
The PSAT itself does not affect the college application. PSAT scores should be regarded as another data point in the context of each student's test prep process, but not necessarily a predictor of SAT outcomes.
If your child is a freshman or a sophomore and will take this again as a junior, please do not do test prep for the PSAT. This should be much more diagnostic than anything else. As a junior, review the scores, discuss with your test-prep professional, and prepare accordingly. While we do not offer test prep directly, we know plenty of companies and can refer you. We hope you will call us to learn how we can help you in any aspect of the college admissions process.
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