It may not have quite the same ring as “Black Friday,” but today, Tuesday, December 6th, is PSAT score release day in MA for 2022. All juniors can access their scores, score analysis, and individual test questions through their College Board accounts. It’s always a long wait for the PSAT, but the time has come. This PSAT is particularly notable because it is the last pencil-and-paper PSAT; in 2023, the PSAT will be administered digitally, in preparation for the fully digital SAT beginning in 2024. For current juniors, that doesn’t matter, but for current sophomores or younger, that digital horizon is drawing closer.
Back to the present though… The PSAT includes two sections – Verbal and Math – scored out of 760, for a total score out of 1520. This is unlike the SAT, in which the two scores are each out of 800. Within Verbal, two scores exist: half of the Verbal score is Reading, and the other half is Writing and Language, each of which is scored out of 38. (for the SAT they are each 40). Each score is accompanied by a percentile, 1-99, that states what percent of test-takers the student outperformed. Finally, students receive a National Merit Index, out of 228, which is obtained by doubling each of the Math, Reading, and Writing and Language scores (now all out of 76) and then adding those three results together.
For most students, PSAT scores can help set SAT score goals, identify areas of weakness or gaps in learning, and even determine whether to pursue testing at all. Student results can vary widely, but given that the majority of students will improve between 120-220 points from a tutoring program or structured study regimen, one can predict a reasonable range of scores. Obviously, exceptions exist – someone who scores near the very top of scale cannot improve by many points, and there’s always that one student who improves much higher than the average – but with a reasonable score goal in hand, one can compare one’s projected score to the score ranges of colleges of interest.
Students receive subscores (scored 1-15) along with their main scores, and these subscores are helpful for identifying gaps in understanding. A weaker “Standard English Conventions” subscore, for example, indicates that the student needs to brush up on punctuation and grammar. A lower “Heart of Algebra” subscore shows that the student needs to review material from Algebra I. Reviewing these subscores with a tutor, along with the individual test questions, can help a student create a precisely targeted study plan.
Finally, very low PSAT scores may indicate that a student should postpone or opt out of testing. Granted, many PSAT scores are artificially low, as students may be unfamiliar with the content, style, and pacing of the exam. But, low scores should examined critically, especially for students with already strong grades and other attributes, because even large score improvements may not bring results that are assets to applications at desired schools. Test optional is a widespread and viable admission strategy. By forgoing test preparation, certain students may gain significant time to hone their other strengths.
A brief note on National Merit: the qualifying score varies by state, and MA always has one of the highest score cutoffs in the country. For this class of juniors, the predicted cutoff (from Compass Education) is 220 out of 228, a nearly perfect score. Very, very few students qualify for National Merit, as there is almost no margin for error, and so it is not a reasonable pursuit for 99+% of students. For those lucky few genius test-takers, though, go for it!
Please contact us, by phone or email, with any questions how to interpret your PSAT scores, how to use them to begin a tutoring program, or just any questions about testing in college admissions in general. We’re here to help!