PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (2023)

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (1)

Although the PSAT and SAT share many similarities, their score ranges are actually pretty different. Unlike the SAT score range, which has a maximum score of 1600, the PSAT score range only goes up to 1520. But why? What are the score ranges for each PSAT section? Also, can you use the PSAT scoring scale to predict your SAT score?

In this article, we'll go over the current PSAT scores range and PSAT score distribution. We'll then compare PSAT score ranges with SAT score ranges before concluding with a list of estimated PSAT score cutoffs for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

What Is the PSAT Score Range Overall? For Each Section?

The total PSAT scoring scale is 320-1520 in 10-point increments. Like the SAT, the PSAT has three major sections: Math, Reading, and Writing and Language (hereafter Writing).

Each section is first scored on a scale of 8-38 in one-point increments; these are your PSAT test scores. These test scores are then converted into section scores on scales of 160-760 in 10-point increments (which combine to give you a total PSAT score out of 1520).

To get your Math section score, simply multiply your Math test score by 20. To get your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score, add your Reading and Writing test scores together and then multiply the sum by 10.

There are also subscores and cross-test scores, which measure your mastery of specific skills and knowledge on each section. Subscores are scored on scales of 1-15 and encompass the following seven areas:


  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions
  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math
Cross-test scores are a little different in that they apply to all PSAT sections and use scoring scales of 8-38. The two cross-test scores are as follows:
  • Analysis in History/Social Studies
  • Analysis in Science

Finally, you'll get a Selection Index with a score range of 48-228. To calculate this score, multiply the sum of your three PSAT test scores by 2. The Selection Index score is used solely to determine your eligibility for National Merit distinction (we'll explain this in more detail later).

Here is a table showcasing the current PSAT score range as well as the score ranges for each PSAT section, subscore, and cross-test score:

PSAT Score Range

PSAT SectionScore Range
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)160-760
Writing and Language8-38
Command of Evidence1-15
Words in Context1-15
Expression of Ideas1-15
Standard English Conventions1-15
Math (Test Score)8-38
Heart of Algebra1-15
Problem Solving and Data Analysis1-15
Passport to Advanced Math1-15
TOTAL (EBRW + Math)320-1520
Cross-Test Scores*
Analysis in History/Social Studies8-38
Analysis in Science8-38
Selection Index48-228

Source: PSAT/NMSQT Understanding Scores 2020-2021

*Cross-test scores are for all sections of the PSAT.

PSAT Score Distribution

The PSAT scores scale makes it so that most test takers score around 920 (the halfway point between 320 and 1520). And the data backs this up: the average PSAT scores are 920 for 10th graders and 1010 for 11th graders.

This pattern in scoring creates a bell curve on which most PSAT takers score around the middle of the PSAT scoring scale and very few score at the lowest and highest ends of the scale:

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (2)

Now, let's look at the PSAT score distribution using percentiles. These percentiles will tell us what percentage of test takers you scored higher than on the PSAT.

In general, a score in the 75th percentile or higher means you're doing well, a score in the 50th percentile means you're about average, and a score in the 25th percentile or lower means you have some room for improvement.

Below is a condensed list of the most recent PSAT percentiles for 11th graders. For more info on PSAT percentiles for 10th graders, read our article on good PSAT scores for sophomores.

99 or 99+730-760750-7601460-1520
1 or 1-160-300160-300320-630

Source: PSAT/NMSQT Score Information

*Estimated score or score range (exact score for designated percentile unavailable).

Each year, approximately 1.6 million juniors take the PSAT. The data above tells us that the top 1% of test takers—about 16,000 juniors—scored between 1460 and 1520. Contrary to what many believe, you do not need a perfect PSAT score to get into the 99th percentile. In fact, you can miss up to 60 points and still get in the top 1%!

Likewise, very few test takers scored at the lowest end of the PSAT spectrum: only 16,000 or so juniors scored 630 or lower. In other words, your chance of scoring below 630 is quite rare, as 99% of test takers score above this range.

But what about the percentiles for individual sections? As you probably noticed, the score ranges for the 99th percentiles for EBRW and Math are not the same. For EBRW, a score as low as 730 guarantees you a spot in the 99th percentile. For Math, on the other hand, you must score at least 750—a near-perfect score!

This discrepancy between the PSAT score ranges for the sections indicates that Math is slightly more competitive than EBRW is, as more people receive high scores on Math than they do on EBRW. So if you want to get 99th percentile scores on Math and EBRW, you'll have to work a little bit harder on Math than you will on EBRW.

On the opposite end of the percentile scale, EBRW and Math maintain identical score ranges: any score below 300 falls in the 1st percentile for both EBRW and Math. Once again, though, very few students actually score in this range, so you're likely to get above 300 on both sections.

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (3)Cupcake distribution: 99% for me, 1% for you.

SAT vs PSAT Score Range: Is There a Correlation?

We've covered the basics of PSAT score distribution, so let's address another question: how does the PSAT score range compare with the SAT score range? Although the PSAT and SAT share several striking similarities, their score ranges are more like siblings than they are twins.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the current SAT and PSAT score ranges:

SectionPSAT Score RangeSAT Score Range
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)160-760200-800
Writing and Language8-3810-40
Command of Evidence1-151-15
Words in Context1-151-15
Expression of Ideas1-151-15
Standard English Conventions1-151-15
Math (Test Score)8-38
Heart of Algebra1-151-15
Problem Solving and Data Analysis1-151-15
Passport to Advanced Math1-151-15
TOTAL (EBRW + Math)320-1520400-1600
Cross-Test Scores
Analysis in History/Social Studies8-3810-40
Analysis in Science8-3810-40
Selection Index48-228

Source: The College Board

At a glance, the two tests look as though they mirror each other, but in reality the PSAT and SAT differ in a few key ways.

According to the table, the maximum PSAT score is 1520 and the maximum SAT score is 1600. But if the two tests are so similar in terms of form and content, why does the PSAT score scale only go up to 1520 and not 1600?

This difference in maximum scores is due to the two tests' differences in difficulty. Because the PSAT is a preliminary to the SAT, it has fewer questions and is overall less challenging than the SAT. As a result, the PSAT score range doesn't reach as high as the SAT score range does.

But wouldn't a 1520 on the PSAT simply correspond to a 1600 on the SAT? Nope! Even though both scores are the two tests' respective maximums, a 1520 on the PSAT is not the same as a 1600 on the SAT; rather, a 1520 on the PSAT is the same as a 1520 on the SAT.

This pattern applies not just to the maximum scores but to all possible PSAT scores. For example, a 1050 on the PSAT equals a 1050 on the SAT, a 1300 equals a 1300, a 1280 equals a 1280, and so on. In other words, scaled PSAT and SAT scores always signify the same level of ability.

The reason for this is that your PSAT score is meant to be a direct indicator of your SAT score. If I scored 1170 on the PSAT, then—at that exact point in time and without any additional studying—I should also be scoring around 1170 on the SAT.

The PSAT essentially acts as a crystal ball, revealing the level of your current (and possibly future) SAT ability.

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (4)Unfortunately, the PSAT doesn't emit bright, magical lights like a Magic 8 Ball does. (bark/Flickr)

What Is the PSAT Score Range for National Merit Scholarships?

As I mentioned briefly at the beginning of this article, high PSAT scorers (who are juniors) might qualify as Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This competition is a big deal in the academic world. Not only does the program look great on college applications, but it also hands out a $2,500 scholarship to every winner!

So what PSAT scores do you need to qualify? The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) uses Selection Index scores to determine which students are eligible for scholarship consideration.

Each year, the top 3-4% of test takers become Commended Students, and the top 1% proceed as Semifinalists. This works out to around 16,000 Semifinalists, of whom 15,000 will move on and become Finalists. (And of that 15,000, about 8,000 will eventually win scholarship money.)

But here's the caveat: the Selection Index score you need in order to qualify as a Semifinalist varies by state. Below are state selection index cutoffs for semifinalists for the 2020 PSAT, as well as the estimated cutoff scores needed to qualify as a Semifinalist in each state.

I calculated these estimated PSAT score cutoffs by working backward. First, I divided each state's Selection Index by 2. Then, I divided the quotient by 3 to get (estimated) PSAT test scores for Math, Reading, and Writing. Next, I converted each test score into a section score. Finally, I combined the EBRW and Math section scores to get an approximate PSAT score for each Selection Index cutoff.

StateSelection Index CutoffPSAT
District of Columbia2231490
New Hampshire2131420
New Jersey2231490
New Mexico2081390
New York2191460
North Carolina2171450
North Dakota2091395
Rhode Island2161440
South Carolina2131420
South Dakota2121415
West Virginia2071380

As you can see, the PSAT score required to be a Semifinalist can vary significantly by state. In Montana and West Virginia you can become a Semifinalist with a score of about 1380. But in Maryland you'll need a far higher score of around 1480—that's a 100-point difference!

Luckily, in no state do you need a perfect PSAT score to qualify as a Semifinalist. In fact, in all states you can miss at least 20 points and still qualify for National Merit!

But what scores should you aim for on each PSAT section? To calculate your individual section goal scores, divide your state's Selection Index cutoff by 2 and then again by 3. This number will act as your approximate goal score for Reading, Writing, and Math. (Note that it will be a test score out of 38 and not a section score out of 760.)

For example, if you lived in Maine, your Selection Index cutoff would be 215. Using this score, do the math as described above to get your goal (test) score for each section on the PSAT:

215 / 2 = 107.5

107.5 / 3 = 35.83

35.83 = 36 (Always round up!)

Of course you don't need to aim for the exact same score on each section. If you're stronger at Reading and Writing than you are at Math, you could instead aim for 38 on both the Reading and Writing sections and 32-33 on the Math section. This combination will still get you a Selection Index score of 215 (just do the math to check it!).

Ultimately, if you plan to strive for National Merit status, it's important to know the cutoff score for your state. Always aim, at a minimum, for your state's cutoff score, though I suggest aiming a little higher if possible. Doing this will give you a solid buffer should the cutoff score for your state go up a little the year you take the PSAT.

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (5)If you don't meet the PSAT score cutoff, you can't ride the roller coaster to Free Money Land.

Takeaways for the PSAT Score Range

The PSAT score range is 320-1520 in 10-point increments. This composite range includes two score ranges of 160-760 for EBRW and Math. In terms of test scores, Reading, Writing, and Math are all scored separately on scales of 8-38. You'll also receive subscores with ranges of 1-15 and cross-test scores with ranges of 8-38.

In regard to PSAT score distribution, most test takers score at or around 920, the halfway point between the minimum and maximum scores. As recent percentiles show, Math is slightly more competitive than EBRW since you need a higher Math score to get into the 99th percentile than you do to get into the same percentile for EBRW.

PSAT and SAT scores are analogous, meaning that a scaled score on the PSAT will always equal that same scaled score on the SAT. Therefore, you can use your PSAT score to get a rough idea of how your SAT performance might look.

The PSAT also assigns each test taker a Selection Index score on a scale of 48-228. This is the score used to determine your eligibility for National Merit consideration.

Each state maintains a different Selection Index cutoff score, with the lowest being 207 and the highest being 224. To ensure you have the best shot at winning a scholarship, try to aim for your state's cutoff score—ideally, even higher!

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (6)

What's Next?

Got more questions about the PSAT scoring system? Our guide to PSAT scoring explains how PSAT scores are calculated, and gives you tips on how you can use this info to your advantage on test day.

Confused about what's tested on the PSAT? Get the rundown with our guides to what the PSAT is and what you should know about its structure and question types.

Want to know exactly when you'll take the PSAT? Our guide to PSAT test dates will give you info on when the next PSAT will be, where you'll take it, and what you can do to prepare for it.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (7)

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (8)

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

PSAT Score Range: Where Do You Rank? (9)

Hannah Muniz

About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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What is a good enough PSAT score? ›

A good PSAT score is a composite score of 1070 or higher, which puts you in the top 25% of all PSAT test takers.

Does a 1400 PSAT qualify for National Merit? ›

Does a 1400 PSAT Qualify for National Merit? Based on the scores of real grade 11 students who took the PSAT, a score of 1400 puts you in the 97th percentile. You may not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship with this score: it also depends on the cut-off scores of your state.

Is it OK if you don't answer all the questions on the PSAT? ›

Even though you have a 75% chance of picking the wrong answer, it won't cost you any points. On the PSAT, you will get zero points on a question if you do not answer it. It would help if you always guessed, even when you do not know what to do.

What score do I need on the PSAT to be a National Merit Scholar? ›

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes exceptional college-bound students. But to become a National Merit Scholar, you'll need to outscore over 99% of PSAT test-takers.

What is the most common PSAT score? ›

The average PSAT/NMSQT score is about 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 puts you in the top 10% of test takers. The PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT are very similar tests, so your score on the PSAT/NMSQT can give you an idea of how you'll do when you take the SAT.

How do I know if I am a National Merit Scholar? ›

Finalists are notified in early February by mail at their home addresses. A student may also access their Finalist letter through their Online Scholarship Application account. See the National Merit® Scholarship Program page for additional details.

What is the commended cutoff for PSAT 2023? ›

This year's National Merit Scholarship Selection Index cutoffs range from 207 (Commended, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming) to 223 (Washington D.C, New Jersey).

How to convert PSAT to National Merit? ›

To determine who qualifies for National Merit, NMSC uses a scale called the Selection Index. To get this, NMSC adds your Math, Reading, and Writing section scores, which each fall between 8 and 38, and then multiplies that sum by 2. Thus, the PSAT NMSC Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228.

Is it better to skip a question or guess on the PSAT? ›

Even though there's a 75 percent chance of selecting the incorrect answer, you won't lose any points for doing so. The worst that can happen on the PSAT is that you'll earn zero points on a question, which means you should always at least take a guess, even when you have no idea what to do.

Is C the most common answer? ›

Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

What is the best letter to guess on a test? ›

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

What is a good PSAT score for Harvard? ›

In order to be on track for those scores on the SAT, students would have to earn a near-perfect score on the PSAT, which is a little shorter and easier than the SAT. That means a good PSAT score for students aiming at “Ivy Plus” schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Duke would be at least 1450.

What is the average PSAT score for a 12th grader? ›

Takeaways for the PSAT Score Range

You'll also receive subscores with ranges of 1-15 and cross-test scores with ranges of 8-38. In regard to PSAT score distribution, most test takers score at or around 920, the halfway point between the minimum and maximum scores.

What is the average PSAT score for 11th grade students? ›

It depends: the average PSAT score for 10th graders is 920, and the average for 11th graders is 1010.

How rare is National Merit Scholarship? ›

Of the 1.5 million applicants who submitted a PSAT score, there are only 7,500 National Merit Scholarship winners. This means you have a 0.5% chance of becoming a National Merit Scholar, making this one of the most competitive merit-based scholarships.

What percentile is PSAT National Merit? ›

What Is a Good PSAT Score for National Merit? Each year, NMSC recommends the top 1% of junior semifinalists for a scholarship, meaning you'll typically have to score in the 99th percentile. Of those students, fewer than 8,000 will receive a scholarship.

What PSAT score do you need for National Merit Semifinalist? ›

To be named a Semifinalist, you'll need a Selection Index score of 219. What score do you need on each section of the PSAT to achieve this score? As you read above, your Selection Index equals the sum of your three section test scores (each on a scale of 8-38) multiplied by 2.

What is the lowest PSAT score ever? ›

Students receive a scaled score ranging from 160 to 760 for each of the sections, with 160 being the lowest possible score and 760 being the highest possible score. The two scaled scores are added together to get the student's total PSAT score, with a total score range from 320 to 1520.

Do colleges care about National Merit Scholar? ›

Gaining recognition as a National Merit Semifinalist is a prestigious achievement to include on college applications, and many colleges and corporate sponsors offer special scholarships to these students, even if they don't become finalists.

How many people become National Merit Scholars? ›

Of the 15,000 Finalists, about 8,000 receive Merit Scholarship awards. All Finalists are considered for one of the 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships.

Can you retake PSAT for National Merit? ›

How many times can a student take the PSAT/NMSQT? Most students take the PSAT/NMSQT once—in 11th grade. They can take it up to three times in high school but only once a year.

What is the difference between commended and semifinalist on the PSAT? ›

In general, students who score in the top 3-4% are named Commended Scholars, while students who score in the top 1% are deemed Semifinalists. Students are compared on a state-by-state basis. The NMSC's Selection Index ranges from 48 to 228 and is based on PSAT section scores.

What percentile is commended scholar on PSAT? ›

NMSC compares your PSAT scores with those of other students in your state using its own Selection Index, which falls on a scale between 48 and 228. The top 3-4% of scorers are named Commended Scholar.

What is the commended cutoff for PSAT 2024? ›

April 14, 2023 Update

Compass has confirmed that the Commended cutoff for the class of 2024 is a Selection Index of 207. Commended Students will not be notified by their schools until mid-September, but every eligible junior at 207 or above will be either a Commended Student or a Semifinalist.

Should you always pick C? ›

The idea that C is the best answer to choose when guess-answering a question on a multiple choice test rests on the premise that ACT answer choices are not truly randomized. In other words, the implication is that answer choice C is correct more often than any other answer choice.

What letter is the most common answer? ›

E is everywhere. In an analysis of all 240,000 entries in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, OED editors found that the letter E appears in approximately 11% of all words in the common English vocabulary, about 6,000 more words than the runner-up letter, A.

Where is C mostly used? ›

The C language is a high-level, general-purpose programming language. It provides a straightforward, consistent, powerful interface for programming systems. That's why the C language is widely used for developing system software, application software, and embedded systems.

What is the most popular multiple choice answer? ›

On tests with four choices (say, A, B, C, and D), B was slightly more likely to be correct (28%). Remember, the expected likelihood of each option being correct is 25%. And on tests with five choices (say, A, B, C, D, and E), E was the most commonly correct answer (23%). C was the least (17%).

Is it better to guess randomly or one letter? ›

Don't choose random letters

Although your chances of answering questions correctly when you guess without eliminating a single option are slim, they will be much higher if you stick with a single letter option every time you need to guess blindly.

What is the best letter to guess on a multiple choice? ›

It's best to pick one letter and guess with the same letter throughout the test. It statistically improves the chances of guessing more right. Remember, “When in doubt, pick C!” It doesn't have to be C. It just has to be the same letter every time.

Is a 1010 a good PSAT score? ›

Any score above 1010 is above-average, and a score above 1450 is a top-tier score that makes students competitive for big scholarships and admission to elite colleges. However, the full definition of a “good PSAT score” is a little more complex, so we wrote this thorough guide.

Is 990 a good PSAT score? ›

A good PSAT score is considered to be anything above a 1280*. A score of 1280 puts a student in the 95th percentile, meaning they scored higher than 95% of other students who took the test. This score is also above the average score, which is a 920.

Is 1150 a good PSAT score for a sophomore? ›

A result superior to the 90th percentile, or 90% of test takers, is considered outstanding. According to this approach, an average score higher than 1060 indicates a decent PSAT score for a sophomore, above 920 indicates an OK score, and beyond 1180 indicates an excellent score.

Do colleges care about PSAT 10? ›

Do Colleges Care About the PSAT? The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions. Your acceptance or rejection into college is much more dependent on the SAT or ACT , so the short answer is “no,” colleges don't care at all about the PSAT.

Do colleges look at PSAT 10? ›

College Board does not send PSAT/NMSQT scores to colleges. These scores are not intended to be part of college admission decisions.

What is an Ivy League PSAT score? ›

If your ultimate goal is to attend an elite university, then you should know that a good PSAT score for Ivy League admission is to be in the 99th percentile or higher. In other words, if your main priority is getting into the Ivy League, you should aim for a composite PSAT score anywhere between 1280 and 1520.

What is an average PSAT score for a sophomore? ›

The average PSAT score is around 1000 for juniors, and 920 for sophomores.

What PSAT score do you need to get into an Ivy League school? ›

The average SAT score for admitted students at Ivy League schools is about 1550, so you want to be aiming for a PSAT score that puts you around 1490.

Does the PSAT matter in 11th grade? ›

The PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT have the same content, but only the PSAT/NMSQT can lead to scholarships through National Merit and other providers. While students can take the PSAT/NMSQT before eleventh grade, only their score in eleventh grade can qualify for National Merit and other awards.

What percentile is best for PSAT? ›

Scoring above the 50th percentile means you did better than a majority of test-takers. A "good" score, then, would probably be somewhere in the 75th percentile or higher. PSAT score percentiles change slightly each year depending on the testing class.

Is the PSAT harder than the SAT? ›

Share this Article. The PSAT is a practice SAT, usually taken by juniors, whereas the SAT is a college entrance exam. The SAT is slightly more challenging than the PSAT. While the PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520, the SAT is scored between 400 and 1600.

What do most 10th graders score of the PSAT? ›

The average PSAT 10 score is around 920. A score between 1210 and 1520 places you in the top 10% of test takers.

Do colleges look at sophomore PSAT? ›

Like the SAT, the PSAT is produced by the not-for-profit College Board, but students usually take it at their school during their sophomore or junior year. Because it is a practice test and college admissions offices don't see the scores, explaining its value to high schoolers can be a tough sell.

Does the PSAT matter in 10th grade? ›

If your child is in 10th grade, they can benefit from taking the PSAT 10 in several ways. It identifies their academic strengths and weaknesses early in high school, when there's plenty of time to improve before college. It lets them know which Advanced Placement (AP) courses they're most likely to do well in.


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