PSAT: The Good, The Very Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Last Updated: Jan 3, 2019 12:01:41 PM

Students who took the October PSATs have had their results for a few weeks, and while that’s mostly good, there’s also some bad and ugly involved. Before we explain, here’s some germane information.

The PSAT score report is awash with numbers, the most important of which is the Total Score – the first number presented. It’s the sum of your scores on the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math sections. PSAT scores are associated with two percentiles that show how you did in comparison to other PSAT test-takers in your grade (user percentile) and in comparison to all high school students in your grade, even if they didn’t take the PSAT (nationally representative sample percentile). It’s the lower percentiles — user percentiles — that matter. Benchmark scores tell you how you’re doing for your current grade level, and whether or not you’re on-track to be ready for college after you graduate.

good - volkan-olmez-101863-unsplashThe Good

At worst, you’ve now taken what’s essentially a practice test for the “real thing” SAT, and since practice increases familiarity and lessens stress, you’re already ahead of the game and better prepared for additional practice leading to the SAT (and even the ACT).

Your score report indicates those areas in which you need to improve in order to do better on a future SAT or ACT.

It also provides guidance on the AP courses in which you are most – or least – likely to succeed should you decide to enroll in any next year.

If you didn’t do particularly well, remember that your score can’t possibly hurt your chances of admission to colleges, because colleges don’t see your PSAT scores — even if you opted into College Board’s Student Search Service® when you took the PSAT.

The Very Good

good 2 - ashley-whitlatch-615530-unsplashIf you did well, your score can result in scholarships and recognition that will open many doors to you when you’re ready to apply to colleges. According to the National Merit Scholarship website, about 50,000 (3%) of the roughly 1.6 million students who take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) will be recognized either as Commended Students – about 34,000 of the 50,000 – or as Semifinalists. Then, about 15,000 of the 16,000 Semifinalists will advance to Finalist standing. Winners of Merit Scholarship® awards will number about 8,500, chosen from Finalists.

But even if you don’t win a Merit Scholarship, a good score could result in a corporate- or college-sponsored scholarship. According to, “Corporate sponsors look for children of employees, residents of an eligible community or students planning to major or work in certain fields. College-sponsored scholarships usually go to students who inform NMSC [the National Merit Scholarship Corporation] of their first-choice school and their plan to enroll there.”

Call us to help you analyze your PSAT performance, as we have for thousands of successful test-takers over the decades. Using the findings from your PSAT score report, we’ll create a targeted plan just for you, one that reinforces your strengths and addresses your testing and academic weaknesses — to prepare you for future tests and help you achieve  a higher level of academic success. 

bad - wout-vanacker-552915-unsplashThe Bad and the Ugly

When the SAT underwent its major redesign in 2016, the College Board stopped using Educational Testing Service (ETS) for test creation and brought that function “in-house.” Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly because “in-house” was unable to provide a proper balance of easy and difficult questions, leading to uneven scoring across tests. The problem was particularly acute at higher performance levels, so that a test-taker who incorrectly answered only one, two, or three questions on one test might score substantially worse or better with the same number of incorrect answers on another test. Boom! That’s exactly what occurred with respect to the October 10th and October 24th PSATs.

We’ll leave the bad behind, and focus on the good we bring to test-takers like you. Need a boost? Do you have your eyes on a particular college for which you need higher scores? Call us. We’ll take you there.

Topics: SAT Test PSAT College Board


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