What is an average PSAT score?
The PSAT is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or the Pre-SAT. It is also known as the NMSQT or National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test — scores on the PSAT can earn high school students accolades and scholarships as part of the National Merit Scholars program. The PSAT is a good barometer for a student’s performance on the SAT and their ability to earn admission at colleges around the country.
Students take the PSAT / NMSQT in either tenth or eleventh grade as a way of preparing them for the actual SAT, qualifying for academic awards, and getting an idea of whether they should apply to college or not.
PSAT Scoring and Average Scores
PSAT scores are reported on a scale that runs from 20 to 80, 20 being the lowest and 80 the highest. This is a parallel to the SAT, which scores between 200 and 800 on each test part. If you want an idea of how you’ll do on an SAT test, simply add a 0 to your score. There are three test parts (critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills) which are each scored from 20 – 80 for a total between 60 and 240.
In 2008, the average score for eleventh graders was 142 — this broke down as an average of 47 in Critical Reading, 49 in Mathematics, and 46 in Writing Skills.
That same year, the average score for tenth graders was 127 — this average broke down as 42 in Critical Reading, 44 in Mathematics, and 41 in Writing Skills.
Selection Index and Averages
When you get your PSAT / NMSQT score report you’ll also see something called the Selection Index which is the score used to determine a student’s eligibility in the National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs.
This Index is the sum of the three scores in each test section (critical reading + mathematics + writing skills) and this Index obviously ranges from 60 to 240. The average Selection Index for students in eleventh grade was 142 in 2008. Please note that only eleventh graders qualify for the NMSQT programs.
PSAT / NMSQT National Percentiles
The last thing on a PSAT / NMSQT score report is your national percentiles. These numbers let you compare your own scores and testing abilities with the scores and abilities of other students of your grade level who took the same test you took.
If you take the PSAT in the eleventh grade, you receive what are called “junior percentiles”. If you take the PSAT in tenth grade or younger, you will be given “sophomore percentiles”. The number you see is the percentage of students of your grade whose scores you bested.
For example, a student in eleventh grade with a percentile of 65 did better on the test than 65 percent of all eleventh graders.
Think of it this way — imagine 100 students lined up from the lowest (or 1st) percentile at the end of the line to the highest (or 99th) percentile at the front of the line. If you are at the 65th percentile, you would be the 66th person in line, ahead of 65 people in the line and behind 34.
Don’t try to “hit the average” when you take the PSAT. Remember that this is a preliminary test and doesn’t really give you a good idea of how you’ll do on that big bad SAT test. The tests are different, the test parts are different, and you don’t want to stress yourself out any more than is necessary. The SAT is hard enough without worrying about averages.
This post is part of a series of college prep posts focused on various college entrance exams. Other posts in the series include:
- What Is an Average ASVAB Score?
- What Is an Average MCAT Score?
- What Is an Average DAT Score?
- What Is an Average GMAT Score?
- What Is an Average PSAT Score?
- What Is an Average GRE Score?
- What Is an Average LSAT Score?
- What Is an Average ACT Score?
- What Is an Average SAT Score?