Understanding the New PSAT Results
More than four million students, a new record, took the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) this past October. The PSAT is primarily taken by sophomores and juniors to begin preparing for the SAT as well as a means to qualify for the National Merit and National Achievement Scholarships.
Similar to the SAT, the PSAT was redesigned to assess more directly those skills most relevant to college and career readiness, and to better reflect what students learn in school.
Earlier this month, the scores for the redesigned test were released online for the first time, which has in turn led to a variety of questions.
How do Students Access PSAT Scores?
In order to access their scores, students are required to create a College Board account.
If a student has trouble accessing their scores, he or she can visit the College Board website for assistance.
How do I Make Sense of the New Score Report?
Here is a sample student report, which includes information on test scores, college and career-readiness benchmarks, and the National Merit Scholarship Program. We’re happy to review the sample report or your student’s individual report with you in more detail.
The College Board has also released a score report video guide to provide additional assistance.
What Role does the PSAT Play for National Merit Scholarship Selection?
Included in each formal PSAT score report is a page dedicated to a National Merit score, which is separate from the 1520 point scale that is determined by College Board. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses a selection index based on the PSAT scores to screen students, and the new score report indicates whether or not a student meets the entry requirements.
The scale used to determine which students qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition has also changed. The highest possible index score is now 228 instead of 240, so cutoff scores are expected to decrease as well.
The cut-off for any and all National Merit decisions has not yet been determined. Students will be informed of National Merit’s decision regarding Semi-Finalist and Commended Scholar score requirements by September of 2016.
What About College and Career Readiness?
Beyond National Merit Scholarship requirements, the PSAT provides students with a strong feel for their college readiness and the level of preparation needed to excel at the college level.
Students can compare their scores to the college-readiness benchmarks provided in the score report for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math to determine if they are on track for college readiness.
Additional test scores and subscores on the report provide students and families with a better understanding of what academic areas need to be addressed at the high school level prior to college.
How has the Scoring Scale Changed?
Previously, the highest score achievable on the PSAT was 240. On the redesigned test, each section (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) is scored between 160 to 760, for a possible score range of 320 to 1520.
This has led to questions regarding how this year’s PSAT scores relate to scores from past years’ tests. To see how scores on the redesigned test compare to the previous version you can view this table. For example, a student scoring a 210 on the 2014 version would be equivalent to scoring a 1420 on the redesigned 2015 test.
Are PSAT Scores Predictive of SAT Scores?
Absolutely! The PSAT is predictive of how students should perform on the redesigned SAT as both tests cover the same type of content and include the same question types.
If a student had taken the SAT instead of the PSAT on the same day, they should have received the exact same score. The exception is at the highest end of the scale as the PSAT cuts off at 760 per section while the redesigned SAT is scored up to 800 for each section. The difference is because there are upper-level question types on the SAT that are not included on the PSAT.
Students can use their PSAT scores to determine their strengths and areas for improvement in terms of reading, writing, and math. This information can help guide students and families on where to focus additional attention in order to improve scores.
In fact, students can click on any question they got wrong to see the question and receive a tutorial on the skill being tested.
We’re Here to Help!
Do you have any questions or need help interpreting your student’s PSAT scores? If so, add a comment to this article or reach out to us directly at the location nearest to you and we will be happy to help!