The Ivy Coach Daily

July 12, 2023

What Is a Good PSAT Score?

A math problem from the SAT is featured with bubble answer options.
PSAT scores are not submitted to colleges (photo credit: Erjwiki).

What constitutes a good PSAT score? Many parents and students get nervous leading up to the PSAT (or the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) because they believe the student’s score will impact their case for admission to elite universities.

But, as we’ll discuss in this post, the PSAT, which is now digital and shorter than in previous years with more time per question, is not a significant factor in the elite college admissions process. Nonetheless, you might wonder about the PSAT score range, what the PSAT score percentiles and academic benchmarks mean, and what kind of PSAT score is worthy of National Merit awards. So let’s dive in!

PSAT Sections and Scoring Scale

The PSAT is divided into two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale of 160-760, and your total is the sum of both sections. Your overall PSAT score range is 320-1520.

For example, a student who scores a 660 on the EBRW section and a 730 on the Math section has a total PSAT score of 1390.

Students also receive section scores on a scale of 8-38. These scores are used to formulate a Section Index Score, which the National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses to determine if a student qualifies for semifinalist recognition.

PSAT Scores vs. SAT Scores

The PSAT’s score ranges differ from the SAT’s score ranges. For the SAT, which is also comprised of a Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, students can score between 200-800 on each section (or between 400-1600 for the two sections combined).

PSAT Score Percentiles

A PSAT Score Report, provided by The College Board, includes a percentile (or a comparison between a student and the other test-takers). If a student is in the 99th percentile, they scored better than or equal to 99% of all test-takers on that administration. If a student is in the 65th percentile, they scored equal to or better than 65% of all test-takers on that administration.

10th and 11th Grade Total Score Percentiles

Total Score Nationally Representative Percentiles – 10th GradeUser Group Percentiles – 10th GradeNationally Representative Percentiles – 11th GradeUser Group Percentiles – 11th Grade
152099999999
151099999999
150099999999
149099999999
148099999999
147099999999
146099999999
145099999999
144099999998
143099999998
142099999997
141099999997
140099999997
139099999996
138099999996
137099999995
136099989895
135098989894
134098989894
133098989793
132098989793
131097979792
130097979691
129097979690
128097969590
127096969589
126096959488
125095959487
124095949386
123094949285
122094939284
121093929182
120092919081
119091918980
118091908878
117090898777
116089888676
115088878574
114087868473
113086858371
112084838269
111083828168
110082817966
109081797764
108079787662
107078767461
106076757359
105075737057
104073726855
103071706553
102069686351
101067676150
100065655948
99063635746
98062615544
97060595342
96058575140
95056554839
94054534637
93052524435
92050504233
91048483932
90046463730
89044443528
88042423327
87040403125
86038382924
85036362822
84033342621
83031322420
82028302118
81026282017
80024261816
79022251514
78019231413
77017211212
76015191011
7501317810
740111588
73091377
72081256
71061036
7005925
6904724
6803613
6702513
66024-12
65014-12
64013-12
63012-11
62012-11
610-12-11
600-11-11
590-11-11
580-11-11
570-11-1-1
560-11-1-1
550-11-1-1
540-11-1-1
530-11-1-1
520-1-1-1-1
510-1-1-1-1
500-1-1-1-1
490-1-1-1-1
480-1-1-1-1
470-1-1-1-1
460-1-1-1-1
450-1-1-1-1
440-1-1-1-1
430-1-1-1-1
420-1-1-1-1
410-1-1-1-1
400-1-1-1-1
390-1-1-1-1
380-1-1-1-1
370-1-1-1-1
360-1-1-1-1
350-1-1-1-1
340-1-1-1-1
330-1-1-1-1
320-1-1-1-1

11th Grade Section Score Percentiles

Section ScoreNationally Representative Percentiles – EBRWUser Group Percentiles – EBRWNationally Representative Percentiles – MathUser Group Percentiles – Math
76099999999
75099999999
74099999998
73099999997
72099989997
71099979896
70099969895
69099959795
68099939794
67098929693
66097909593
65096889592
64095869491
63093849389
62091819288
61090799186
60088769084
59086738882
58085708679
57082678376
56080648173
55077617770
54074587367
53071546963
52067516560
51063476256
50060445853
49055415449
48050374945
47046354341
46042324037
45039293733
44035263129
43031242625
42028222322
41026192020
40023171816
39020151413
38016131111
370121199
36010966
3507735
3406524
3304413
3202312
31012-12
300-11-11
290-11-11
280-11-11
270-1-1-11
260-1-1-1-1
250-1-1-1-1
240-1-1-1-1
230-1-1-1-1
220-1-1-1-1
210-1-1-1-1
200-1-1-1-1
190-1-1-1-1
180-1-1-1-1
170-1-1-1-1
160-1-1-1-1

10th Grade Section Score Percentiles

Section ScoreNationally Representative Percentiles – EBRWUser Group Percentiles – EBRWNationally Representative Percentiles – MathUser Group Percentiles – Math
76099999999
75099999999
74099999999
73099999999
72099999999
71099999999
70099999998
69099989898
68098989898
67098979798
66097969797
65097959697
64096949696
63095939596
62093919595
61092909494
60090889293
59089869191
58087848990
57085818688
56082798486
55079768283
54076737981
53073707678
52070677275
51066646972
50063606669
49059576265
48056545761
47053505257
46049474953
45046444648
44043414043
43039383638
42036353135
41032312631
40028282326
39024251922
38021221518
37017191215
36013161011
350101279
3407957
3305735
3203524
3102323
3001212
290-1212
280-11-11
270-11-11
260-11-11
250-11-11
240-1-1-11
230-1-1-1-1
220-1-1-1-1
210-1-1-1-1
200-1-1-1-1
190-1-1-1-1
180-1-1-1-1
170-1-1-1-1
160-1-1-1-1

PSAT Academic Benchmark Scores

In addition to percentiles, the PSAT Score Report also includes Academic Benchmarks, which indicate whether a test-taker’s score is on grade level and progressing toward college readiness. 11th graders, after all, should have higher PSAT scores than 10th graders since they’ve been exposed to more math and reading/writing.

The College Board releases the following Academic Benchmarks for the PSAT. According to The College Board, green indicates the score “meets or exceeds” the mark, yellow indicates the score is “within a year of academic growth,” and red indicates the score is below the mark by more than a year of academic growth.”

SAT Section Benchmarks

200–800 Point Scale (480 EBRW and 530 Math Benchmarks)

Evidence-Based
Reading and Writing
200–450 (Red)460–470 (Yellow)480–800 (Green)
Math200–500 (Red510–520 (Yellow)530–800 (Green)

11th Grade Benchmarks

160–760 Point Scale (460 EBRW and 510 Math Benchmarks)

Evidence-Based
Reading and Writing
160–420 (Red)430–450 (Yellow)460–760 (Green)
Math160–470 (Red)480–500 (Yellow)510–760 (Green)

10th Grade Benchmarks

160–760 Point Scale (430 EBRW and 480 Math Benchmarks)

Evidence-Based
Reading and Writing
160–400 (Red)410–420 (Yellow)430–760 (Green)
Math160–440 (Red)450–470 (Yellow)480–760 (Green)

What PSAT Score Earns National Merit?

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses the Selection Index score to select National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The Selection Index is calculated by combining a student’s EBRW and Math scores from the 8-38 scale published in the Score Report. That figure is then doubled, so it should fall within a 48-228 range.

In most years, to secure a National Merit semifinalist nod, a test-taker will have to score in the 99th percentile of all test-takers on that administration, though it varies by the state in which the student lives.

Do Elite Colleges Ask for PSAT Scores?

Elite colleges do not ask for PSAT scores. As such, there’s nothing to be nervous about when taking the PSAT. A bad PSAT score will not hurt a student’s case for admission to elite universities since the score is not submitted to colleges. Likewise, a top score will have a negligible impact on one’s case for admission to elite universities. After all, the awards one can earn from a top score, including National Merit, are not considered difference-makers in the highly selective college admissions process.

That said, we at Ivy Coach like when students list National Merit among their honors on their Common Application because — whether it’s the case or not — it implies that students did not need a lot of fancy tutoring to land their top SAT (or ACT) score. Instead, the test likely came naturally to them. Of course, this is only sometimes the case since students can get tutoring before the PSAT to boost their scores, but this is the message delivered to admissions officers.

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