Understanding Your 2016 PSAT Score Report

The top 3 Scores: On the top of your score report, you will see three separate scores:

  1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ranges from 160 to 760)
  2. Math (ranges from 160 to 760)
  3. Total Score (ranges from 320 to 1520)

The percentile underneath each score indicates the percentage of students that this score is greater than or equal to of same-grade-level students who took the PSAT. For example, a total score percentile rank of 15th would mean that the student scored the same or higher than 15 percent of PSAT takers across the country.

What are the Color-Indicators? Directly under the score, you will see a colored line that is red on the left, yellow in the middle, and green on the right.  There is also a black tick mark that shows where the score falls on the line. In general, the three different colors mean the following:

Green – indicates strength and that the score meets or exceeds the benchmark for that section.

Yellow – indicates the score is close to the benchmark level but that the skills necessary for meeting the benchmark in that section require some work.

Red – indicates weakness and the need to strengthen skills in order to meet the benchmark. 

How is the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score calculated?  It is a combination of the Reading and Writing sub-scores under Test Scores. For example, to come up with a score of 380, you might add an 18 for Reading and 20 for Writing and Language to make a total of 38.  Multiply the 38 by 10 and you’d have 380. 

How is the Math score calculated? The calculation of the math section’s three-digit score is done a bit differently.  Just as with the Reading and Writing score, you must go below to the Test Scores section, but this time, you must multiply the total math score by 20.  For example, with a math test score of 24, multiply by 20, for a scaled math score of 480.

How is the Total score calculated?  Determining the total score is as simple as adding the Reading and Writing Score and Math Score together. For example, 380 Reading and Writing + 480 Math would yield a total score of 860.

Please note that because the total score is simply the sum of the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math scores, the math score accounts for half of the total score even though there are three test scores listed (Reading, Writing and Language, and Math).

So the highest possible score on the redesigned PSAT is 1520?

Yes. The highest possible score on each section is 760.  By adding the two sections together, the highest possible total score is 1520. 

Please note that the redesigned SAT exam will still be scored on the familiar scale of 200-800 per section, with a highest possible total score of 1600. 

The idea behind the new scoring system is that a student’s score on the redesigned PSAT is indicative of what the student will likely score on the redesigned SAT.  However, since the PSAT does not contain the most difficult questions that are found on the SAT, they have capped PSAT scores at 1520. 

What about the Sub-scores and the Cross-Test Scores? There is little reason to be concerned with the new sub-scores or college-readiness indicators.  The College Board will require several cycles (years) of PSAT testing and academic performance data to be able to make claims of “college readiness” with any degree of accuracy. 

What is the National Merit Scholarship section and why do I have a NMSC Selection Index score? The PSAT is not only a practice run for the SAT, but is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.  Additional information about qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship can be found in a separate post here.

How is the Selection Index calculated? The selection index on the redesigned PSAT is generated by multiplying your Reading and Writing score by 2, adding in your math score, and then dropping the zero at the end. If that strikes you as needlessly complicated, you are not alone. 

Let’s review an example:

“Johnny Tester” posts the following scores:

Reading and Writing: 690; Math: 680; Total: 1370

Step 1) Multiple the Reading and Writing score by 2 (690 x 2 = 1380.)

Step 2) Add the math score (1380 + 680 = 2060)

Step 3) Drop the zero on the end, for a selection index of 206.

Note that if you see an * next to the index score, this means you do not meet the entry requirements for National Merit Scholarship selection. Usually, this applies to students who take the PSAT prior to Junior year.

Sometime in the following September, the qualifying cutoff scores for national merit semi-finalists are released.  The qualifying scores vary by state. The 2016 semi-finalist cut-off score in California was 221.

The last page of the report: The last page of the score report is called “Your Question-Level Feedback.” It presents your answer choices to each question. This section has potential to be the most important section of the score report because it shows you exactly which questions you answered correctly and incorrectly.  To view the actual questions, you must have your test booklet or log on to the College Board’s website.  It is a smart idea to at least look at the questions that you answered incorrectly so that you can see if you made a simple mistake or if you need to improve your knowledge in that area.


Do you have specific questions about your PSAT score report?  

Contact us here.