Trying to Understand the PSAT Scores

By Lee Shulman Bierer, College Admissions Strategies, Founder

Most high school juniors across the country took the PSAT back in October of 2021. Guidance counselors at schools received the scores in December and shared them with students. Students can also retrieve their scores online at College Board.

The PSAT score report is full of helpful information. Here is a link to a 2 minute plus video Understanding Your PSAT/NMSQT Score Report and some basic items from the College Board website to help you to interpret the PSAT score report:


The entry for each score report shows the total score and section scores you received for that test. Click on the box containing your score to go to your score report for that test.

Total Score

The top portion of the score report contains a big black number. This number is the PSAT/NMSQT Score, also referred to as your total score. NMSQT refers to National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This is for merit-based scholarships.

The Total Score section also includes this information:

  • Next to your score are the numbers 320–1520—these numbers are the range of possible scores on the PSAT/NMSQT.
  • Below your score is your score range. These numbers are the range of scores you might get if you took the PSAT/NMSQT multiple times on different days.
  • If you click the arrow next to your score, you can view your score percentile. The score percentile is the percentage of students who took the test and scored higher or lower than you.

Section Scores

After the total score are your two section scores:

  • The 2 sections of the PSAT/NMSQT are (1) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and (2) Math.
  • The PSAT/NMSQT contains 3 tests: (1) Reading, (2) Writing and Language, and (3) Math, but the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test are combined into 1 section score.
  • Section scores are based on your raw score in each section, which is the number of questions you got correct. For each section, the raw scores are converted to a scaled score in the range of 160–760.
  • These 2 scores added together equal your total score.
  • There are two sections: 1) Math and 2) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. So, where Math is half a student’s score on the SAT, it is just one-quarter of their score on the ACT. That fact may sway stronger math students towards the SAT. The other three sections of the ACT are: English, Reading and Science.
  • Remember, no college will ever see these scores.

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