The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is a high school sophomore and junior preparation test for the SAT. The PSAT can also assess your readiness for other national tests and indicate where to focus your studies.

Yet, the PSAT is utilized for more than just practice; the results are also used to choose National Merit Scholarship Program winners. Find out below how the PSAT scores work and why you need to be prepared for this test. 

Do Colleges Care About Your PSAT Score?

PSAT scores are not forwarded to colleges or used to make admission choices. The PSAT primarily assesses students’ readiness for the SAT and college-level courses. However, the skills you use on the PSAT will be transferred to later tests that will be crucial for your admission into good colleges. 

If your PSAT results qualify you as a National Merit semifinalist (top 1% of test-takers) or commended student (top 3-4%), that honor should be included in your college application and can help you stand out. Otherwise, institutions will be more concerned with your SAT or ACT scores.

How Scores Are Calculated

Total Score

The total score is 320-1520, which is the sum of the two-part scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Arithmetic. These two section scores vary from 160 to 760.

All test scores are scaled by converting from raw scores (equal to the number of questions properly answered) using a specific equating technique. For example, the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score combines Reading Test and Writing and Language Test scores, contributing equally and scaled. This procedure accounts for differences in difficulty among PSATs, ensuring that a scaled PSAT score always indicates the same level of aptitude regardless of when you take the test.

How the Section Scores Are Calculated

Section scores are calculated using your raw score in each section. This approach explains why different versions of the PSAT/NMSQT given on different days are slightly easier or harder than others.

For example, the Math Test and Math section scores always have 48 questions. A raw score of 46 on some test versions will result in the same overall score if you answer 48 correctly on a different test. 

Each section will have its own key; how much each question is worth in points. This way, when compared to other tests, the scores will remain equal, despite the questions sometimes being harder on each test. 

What Are Subscores?

The PSAT/NMSQT has seven subscores:

Math Subscores

  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math

Evidence Based Reading and Writing Subscores

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions

Because the amount of questions on the exam that contribute to each subscore varies, the raw scores for each subscore are scaled to a value between 1 and 15, and are then scaled to a score that makes all tests fair.

What Are Cross-Test Scores?

Cross-test scores are calculated using results from more than one of three tests. Analysis in History, Social Studies, and Science have two cross-test scores. Each test’s raw score is transformed into a scaled score ranging from 8 to 38.

Your National Merit Selection Index Score

A contest for intellectual achievement and awards called the National Merit Scholarship Program was first held in 1955. Each year, the program enrolls over 1.5 million high school pupils. This program can help those working hard to gain financial help through college. 

To establish your eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program, the NMSC uses your Selection Index results. Students who achieve unusually high PSAT scores are eligible for a scholarship and a highly coveted distinction through this program. The minimum Selection Index score required to advance to the semifinals varies by state but often falls between 209 and 222.

Your PSAT score will be converted into a Selection Index score by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Your Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic exam results (those on scales of 8-38) multiplied by two will give you your Selection Index score. The total of which will be a score range of 48-228.

Each year, over 16,000 of the top 1 percent of PSAT 11th-grade scores move on to the semifinals and 15,000 will move on to the final round. Furthermore, 8,000 will be given $2,500 scholarships apiece.

Get Help Today with Your PSAT

If you’re ready to start your studies for the PSAT, look into Jantzi PSAT prep tutoring. After working virtually with one of our qualified tutors, you will feel ready and confident for the test. Please get in touch with us right away; our team is here to help.