Are you a Sophomore, planning to take the PSAT in your junior year? Why not take it as a Sophomore instead! As a stepping stone towards your SATs, the PSAT is not only beneficial for your preparation, it also gives you a clearer picture of where you stand in the competition. Not to forget, the importance of PSAT/NMSQT scores to qualify for the National Merit Scholarships towards your college funding.
With the competition increasing by the year, taking the PSAT as a Sophomore can benefit you in more ways than one if your ultimate goal is to clear the SATs and NMSQT with flying colours. This will not only help you gauge your strengths and weaknesses; it also gives you a clear idea of the areas that you need to work on, so as to improve your scores even more for the SATs.
But, before you can move further, it is important to know how the PSAT is scored and what is a good PSAT score; if you are taking it as a Sophomore. So let's get moving!
How is the PSAT Scored?
The PSAT exam essentially has two sections, Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (EBRW) (which is a combination of 2 subsections namely reading and writing) and Mathematics. With a total of 139 questions, each of the two sections are scored between 160-760 points (Section Score); making the overall Total Score add up to 320-1520 points. This is 80 points lower than the SAT, which is scored at an overall score of 400-1600 points.
Other than the total test scores, you will also receive Test Score for each of the 3 sections ranging between 8-38.
Additionally, your PSAT report will also display Cross-Test Scores (8-38) and Subscores (1-15) to help you gauge your standing at various study areas and skills.
At this point, it is important to note that, with the PSAT being scored at 80 points lower than the SAT (due to the lower difficulty level) it cannot be equated with the SAT; but, can always be used for a relative comparison.
#Total Score Calculation = (EBRW Test Score x 10) + (Maths Test Score x 20)
You can find a detailed interpretation of the PSAT scorecard here
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Percentile and Its Implications
Your percentile represents the percentage of students who have scored equal to or lower than your score in the PSAT. For example, if your score is in the 80th percentile (80%), your score is higher than 80% of the test takers and the remaining 20% have a higher score than you. Higher percentile means a better score. Your Total Score and the Section Score will each have separate percentiles.
Though the College Board has defined 2 different sets of Percentiles- Nationally Representative Percentile and User Group Percentile, it is the latter one that is used for the grading purpose.
The table below will give you a quick understanding of how the percentiles are tied up with your Total Score and Section Scores:
Percentiles For Total Scores
Percentile For Section Scores
NMSC Selection Index
Each year The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) identifies juniors who get top scores on the PSAT to be recognised towards scholarships for their college funding known as the National Merit Scholarship Program. This entails a rigorous selection process that starts in the junior year and usually concludes close to the SAT final results. Taking the PSAT as Sophomore sets the base for the test takers who aim to qualify for this program as semi finalists in the Junior year. Since, only the top 1% percent of the test takers qualify as semifinalists, an early start can always help you get ahead of the competition.
The NMSC Selection Index score calculation can be done by summing up the Math score with that of Reading and Writing Score, and multiplying the complete total with two. For example, a score of 30 in the Math section, a score of 36 in the Reading section, and a score of 28 in the writing section would make up a total NMSC selection index of 188.
Is my Score Good enough?
At the end, all of it comes down to whether your score is good enough; if not then what is a good score for a Sophomore aiming at SAT and/or National Merit?
Going by the benchmarks set by the College Board, a score corresponding to 50th percentile is a ‘decent’ score that would land you in any good four year college.
Scores pertaining to 75th percentile or a composite score close to 1050-1060 should be your goal as a Sophomore, to be in the ‘Good’ PSAT score window. This can land you into nationally recognised universities. To start with, this is where you should ideally be as a Sophomore to stay on track for your NMSQT and SAT prep.
Then again, if you aim to qualify for national merit as a semifinalist in your junior year, you should be on target for a score of close to 1440 on the PSAT, or about 35-36 as your "test score".
If an Ivy league school is what you are aiming at, the 90-99th percentile window is what you need.
The below table shows the minimum section and the composite scores needed to get to the various percentile ranges on the PSAT, ranging from good to excellent:
It is important to bear in mind that these scores are only an early indication of your preparedness, and can always be worked on and improved by the time you take the PSAT and eventually the SAT.
With this in mind, you can gear up for your preparation and begin pooling your efforts towards taking the PSAT.