PSAT results were delivered online on January 7th. If you were able to log in and see your scores (with no technical glitches), you might be among the flurry of parents and students who reached out to us asking what it all means. Here is some basic guidance to help you decipher the report, as well as some advice.
Test Scores: Each of the three sections (Reading, Writing & Language, and Math) are broken into sub-scores on a scale of 8 to 38. To break down how your Total Score was calculated, you can multiply your Reading score and Writing score by 10, and then add them together to get Your Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Score. Then multiply your Math score by 20 to obtain Your Math Score. Those two numbers add up to Your Total Score, which is presented in bold and centered in your report.
The maximum Total Score is 1520, so don’t be confused/disappointed when no one receives a perfect 1600 – the PSAT score was lowered by 80 points to reflect the fact that it’s a practice test by design, and therefore slightly less difficult than the SAT. Know also that the Total Score can be used to help predict your score range for the SAT. However, most students take the PSAT with little-to-no preparation beforehand, and you can expect to see score variation the next time you take the test.
Skills Scores: One cool feature of the PSAT is that you get to see how you scored on each measured skill, as well as on the actual answers to the test questions. Be sure to take advantage of the information in this hard copy – it’s one of the best resources you’ll have to prepare for the SAT itself.
And Then There’s the “College Readiness” Benchmark…
Most of the questions we’ve heard concerning the PSAT scores have been about a new method of reporting a student’s “College Readiness.” The intentions here are good: the College Board wants you to think about the SAT as being a skills-based exam, and this feature is intended to help you identify specific areas of improvement to meet the median scores for a four-year, selective college. The confusion stems from the fact that test scores are by no means the only indicator of one’s “College Readiness”, and this is not explained by the report. At Admitster, we’re well aware of the “college readiness” buzzwords, but have taken on a broader definition of their meaning:
College Readiness refers to a student’s overall preparedness for the specific schools to which he/she is applying. College Readiness is…
- … reflected in your “non-cognitive” skills and attributes, such as your organization and time management capabilities, your independence, and your resiliency.
- … directly related to the specific schools to which you’re applying. For instance, to be college-ready for a technical program in engineering requires you to have met certain math and science prerequisites. To be college-ready for an intended arts major requires you to have a polished portfolio. To be college-ready for a liberal arts college requires demonstration of critical thinking and writing skills. Get the picture?
- … having knowledge of the college admissions process – including knowledge of different colleges and universities, the application process, and financial aid. That is, you need to know how to apply to college in order to be ready for college.
And remember, even if you earn a perfect score on the PSAT, this does not mean that you are college-ready. Any student in their junior year should expect to grow academically and personally between now and the time when he/she applies to college. Juniors have months ahead of them to practice the specific skills that these tests are measuring; to achieve success in interesting classes; to take on leadership roles; to pursue enriching summer activities; and to respond to personal experiences (even failures and disappointments) with thoughtful reflection and self-awareness.
The Bottom Line for All Students:
If your score report included some red or yellow, it’s OK. This does not mean that you will not get into college. You can help to increase your scores by looking closely at which skills you need to improve and then by being proactive! For instance, the College Board allows you to sync your score report with Khan Academy’s tutorials and, if personalized assistance would be helpful, our test prep tutors can work closely with you to examine the test questions alongside your results, recommend a personalized practice plan, and help you to put your scores in context with the overall admissions process.
If your score report contained a healthy amount of green, that’s great! Keep in mind, however, that the range of scores that meet the “readiness” benchmark is wide. Also, the score range and weighting of standardized test scores in the admissions process varies drastically depending on where you apply. Many schools, especially those that are test-optional, might value GPA over test scores, while for others, your SAT score might be a deciding factor for merit-based scholarships.
We invite all students to reach out to our admissions experts to help work towards achieving the scores needed for their top-choice schools. Moreover, now that you have actual test scores, you can begin to input your data into our free College List Builder tool, see your chances of admission at the schools of your choice, and use the What If? Engine to work out your personalized admissions strategy!
Final Advice: 1) Keep calm, 2) Resist the impulse to over-share your scores, 3) Take time to read the fine print, and 4) Don’t let any labels impact your overall attitude to the college admissions process!