PSAT Scores – Part II

PSAT and National Merit

All high school juniors who took the PSAT in October, 2018, should have received an email with their scores. If you haven’t received any notification from College Board, contact your high school guidance office.

The October PSAT also serves as the National Merit Qualifying Test (NMSQT). National Merit provides recognition and scholarships for the highest performing students.

Here’s some new information on the latest PSAT.

  • 50,000 students across the country with the highest PSAT scores will qualify for recognition
  • The top 32,000 students with the highest scores will qualify to receive a Letter of Commendation
  • The top 16,000 students with the highest scores will be named “Semi-Finalists”
  • The top 15,000 students will be named “Finalists”
  • Of the 15,000 finalists, 8,500 will receive National Merit Scholarships of up to $2,500 a year toward their college education. More than 10,000 of these students share more than $47 million in National Merit Scholarship money. Only juniors who take the PSAT are eligible for National Merit Scholarships.

Many high scorers who don’t receive National Merit Scholarships are awarded merit scholarships from the schools to which they apply based on their high scores. Whether you qualify as a Commended Student, a Semifinalist, a Finalist, or a full-fledged National Merit Scholar, it’s definitely worth noting this achievement on your college applications.

For more detailed information on the National Merit Scholarships and Special Scholarships, visit


Understanding the Scores

Students received two separate scores and a total score:

Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (EBRW): Score range 160-760

Math: Score range: 160-760

TOTAL SCORE RANGE:  320 – 1520


Here are the national averages from 2017, last year’s test, not this year’s test:

Top 50% – 950-1060

Top 25% – 1070-1200

Top 10% – 1210 – 1520

Interpreting your score:

Here is what the PSAT is testing:

  1. Command of Evidence – reading comprehension
  2. Words in Context – vocabulary
  3. Expression of Ideas – revising sentences to make them better
  4. Standard English conventions – grammar and punctuation
  5. Heart of Algebra – expressions, equations and word problems
  6. Problem-solving and Data Analysis – interpretation of mathematical expressions, graphs and data
  7. Passport to Advanced Math – high-level math function and quadratic equations

Tips on how to utilize the report:

  • Use test scores, cross-test scores, and sub-scores to evaluate relative strengths and weaknesses and see what skills need practice.
  • Use the red/yellow/green coding on test scores and sub-scores to evaluate performance relative to students who are meeting or exceeding the benchmark.
  • Highlight the areas in green as the student’s strengths.
  • Prioritize areas in the red range for additional work and practice.
  • Use the “Your Scores: Next Steps” section to identify the specific skills that the student should address.
  • Work to develop each of the skills you have identified for focus and improvement.
  • Encourage students to go online for more details and to link their College Board account to Khan Academy for a personalized study plan.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte:;