Interpreting the new PSAT scores

Results from the October PSAT have been released.

Your PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)  scores are ready online, you should have received an email with instructions on creating your College Board account, going to your online score report, and using your access code to view your scores. The PSAT score report is full of helpful information.

Think of PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 score reports as roadmaps. They show what you’re doing well, and what you should work on to get ready for the SAT—and for college. Sign in to get your scores –

 Be sure to watch the 2:35 video in the “Understanding Scores” tab – it’s a great explanation of the section scores and the total score. There is also a Sample PSAT/NMSQT Score Report

PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 Score Ranges
PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 Score Reported Details Score Range
Total score Sum of the two section scores. 320–1520
Section scores (2) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. 160–760
Test scores (3) Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. 8–38
Cross-test scores (2) Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. Based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests. 8–38
Subscores (7) Reading and Writing and Language: Command of Evidence and Words in Context. Writing and Language: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. Math: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. 1–1

More information on the numbers

When you view your online score reports, you’ll get summaries of your performance on each test and content area. You can also filter results and drill down to see how you performed on easy, medium, and hard questions or on questions that measure different skills. Percentiles will show how you did compared to your peers.

Learn more about the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 score structure or get help understanding scores.

Here are some basic items to help you to interpret the new PSAT score report:

  • The total score range is now 320-1520. The old 200 – 800 scale has been replaced with a 160 – 760 scale. Some test prep centers are advising that students add 40 points to their tests to have a better sense of what their SAT score might be.
  • There are now two sections: 1) Math and 2) a combined Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, (EBRW).
  • There are test scores and cross-test scores with a range of 8-38 and sub-scores with a range of 1-15. If this isn’t confusing enough, there is a National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) Selection Index with a range of 48-228.
  • There are two types of percentiles: a Nationally Representative Sample (every other high school junior in the country) and a Test User (compared to other actual test-takers). The former will always be higher and the latter will always be more useful.
  • Remember, no college will ever see these scores.

Everything you need to know about the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT)

The following information is provided by College Board.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition among high school students for recognition and college scholarships. The program is conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. The NMSC Selection Index.Reported on a scale ranging from 48 to 228, the Selection
Index score is calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. For example, a Reading score of 23, a Writing and Language score of 20, and
a Math score of 26.5 would result in a Selection Index score of 139 [2(23+20+26.5)].

How NMSC Uses the Selection Index
NMSC uses the Selection Index score to designate groups of students to receive recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Entry to NMSC’s competition for scholarships to be offered in 2021 is determined by students’ responses to program entry questions on the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT answer sheet. Both the printed PSAT/NMSQT student score report and the online report show the student’s Selection Index, the student’s responses to entry items,and whether the student meets participation requirementsCurrently, about 1.6 million test takers meet requirements to enter NMSC’s competition each year. Almost all entrants are in their third year (grade 11, junior year) of high school.

Of the 1.6 million NMSC program entrants, about 50,000 will earn 2019 PSAT/NMSQT scores high enough to qualify them for recognition. These students will be notified of their
standing through their high schools in September 2020. Students who qualify to continue in the competition for scholarships to be offered in 2021 must then meet academic and other requirements specified by NMSC to be considered for awards

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;