Juniors who took the PSAT/NMSQT test in October will get their scores back in early December. Consider this the starting gun for your test preparation and planning efforts over the next 12 months. Not sure what else the test and its many scores mean?
Here are our top 3 tips for acting on your PSAT score report:
What Is the PSAT?
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) is a standardized test administered by the College Board and co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which is supposed to measure a student’s readiness for college by testing their skills in reading, writing, and math. It also initiates a student’s participation in the National Merit Scholarship Competition, which awards scholarships to more than 15,000 seniors each year.
The PSAT test is designed to mirror the SAT up to a certain level of difficulty, and thereby give an accurate assessment of how a student will do on actual SAT tests in future months. You should think of it as a baseline for your future test scores, one from which to increase. The test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes and includes 139 questions split among three sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
Is the PSAT Important?
The score is NOT important to your college applications, but it CAN BE important to how you plan for and tackle the admissions tests you will use as part of your applications. A thorough analysis of your score report will identify areas to focus your prep time on before your first actual test.
Getting Your Score
For Maryland students, your score will be available through www.psat.org/myscore on December 7, 2021. Students who provided an email address when they took the test will receive an email from the College Board linking to their score report. If you have already registered for a College Board account, you can use your existing account to access the report. If not, you will need to set up an account to access your score report [parents: you can search for your student once your account is created]. Once you are logged in, you can follow the prompts to review and download your score report.
What Do the Scores Mean?
Total Score: a scaled score meant to be comparable between test dates, so your 1420 in 2021 should equate to the same score in 2019 even though the test material was different. Since the PSAT is slightly easier than the SAT, the range of the Total Score is from 320-1520, whereas the SAT is 400-1600, but the intent is for a student to know how well they would do with similar material on the SAT. The SAT will just include a few questions of a higher difficulty.
Test Scores or Section Scores: These are the scores for the individual sections of the test and range from 8-38. These are used to compute your Total Score, but they also play a role in your NMSC Selection Index Score, which will be used to rank candidates for National Merit Finalists in each state.
Subscores: You will find the most important information for improving your future SAT scores in the online score report’s Subscore section, where you can see your scores for each of the types of questions on the test. Knowing these details allows you to focus your prep and maximize your preparation time. The Question Level Feedback section of the score report will also help you hone in on the question types and skills that are tripping you up.
Percentiles: Ignore them and focus on improving your overall score. At best, they show you how you ranked against everyone who tested with you that day, but they will not reflect your potential rank against those in your test pool when you take the actual SAT, and the difference could be substantial (for example, if you were taking the March test, which is the year’s most competitive).
Prepare Your Test Plan Now
Whether you scored a 1480 or a 900, take the time between December and February to get your 2022 test plan in place:
National Merit Scholarship Competition
For the top 1% of test takers (roughly 15,000 students a year), their PSAT scores will give them the chance to compete with others for tens of millions of dollars in scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Your three section scores will be used to create a NMSC Selection Index Score (double the sum of your three scores). Each state has a cutoff score that will be announced in September 2022. Students who’s NMSCSI score is at or above this level will become a National Merit Finalist and will be invited to submit an application for a scholarship award during their senior year. In recent years, the cutoff score for students in Maryland has been between 221-224.
Student Search Service
One of the main reasons the College Board offers the PSAT is to provide students the opportunity to sign up for its Student Search Service, a student database where colleges and scholarship providers can search for students to send information and offers to directly. Schools use the service, and a similar database from ACT, to find prospective students to market their school, and each school pays the College Board a fee for access to your information that College Board has collected through questionnaires, your test scores, and other tracked activities. The College Board starts trying to capture this information about a student as early as possible in their academic career, which is why the PSAT 10 is available to sophomores at many high schools in the spring semester.
Have your score report and still have questions? Contact us for a free consultation on planning your upcoming admissions tests.
Ready to see how your ACT score will compare? Register for a free ACT diagnostic test with us on December 18, 2021 or January 8, 2022.