At long last, PSAT scores are out!

Once you gain the courage to open the envelope or log onto the website, you will see a confusing page of numbers, graphs, and fine print otherwise known as the PSAT Score Report.

“If this user-unfriendly page of information seems like a second test of your analytical skills, you are not alone,” says Travis Minor, Founder of Open Door.

Read on for help decoding the report.


Section and Total Scores

The easy reading appears at the top. It includes two section scores–Evidence-Based Reading and Language (a combination of Reading Comprehension and Writing/Language scores) and Math–and the total score, the sum of the two sectional scores.

Each section is scored on a scale of 160 to 760, resulting in a total score between 320-1520.

In addition to these section scores, the PSAT report provides you with a lot of other information more difficult to interpret.



Nationally Representative Sample Percentile

Near the top of the score report, under the section scores, you will see something called the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile, or the percent of students who scored the same or lower than you.

For example, if you are in the 65th percentile, you scored the same as or better than 65% of a nationally representative group of students in the same grade. This percentile is based on a research study of U.S. students; the number is mostly a data-driven evaluation of how a student performed relative to every other junior in the country. Your percentile score remains somewhat of an estimate, however, as for some mysterious reason the College Board includes juniors who did not actually take the PSAT!

User Group Percentile

In the online version of the report, you will see a User Group Percentile, which is based on the performance of students who have actually taken the PSAT; this percentile is the more valid of the two.


PSAT Benchmarks indicate college readiness in content areas where you may need extra support as you prepare for college. The red, yellow, and green color-coding highlights relative strengths and weaknesses, but as they are based on this test alone, they should not discourage you from taking difficult courses or make you think you are under-qualified for the college you’ve dreamed about attending.


Toward the bottom of the page appears a list of subscores, which report performance on different aspects of the PSAT. Reading and Language subscores cover Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions. Math subscores include PSAT/SAT identified areas named Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving/Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math (which includes geometry and basic trigonometry).

Cross-Test Scores

Cross-test scores, which can be found next to the subscores, show how you performed on test items pertaining to Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science in more than one section of the test. For example, the Science cross-test score might refer to questions in the Reading Comprehension or Writing/Language section from a passage about a scientific study (which may or may not include data literacy and graph interpretation). The History Social Studies cross-test score is based on passages that might emphasize those content areas, but might also include a math question about a sociological study accompanied by a figure or graph.

Annotated PSAT Score Report
Click here to see an annotated score report

Next Steps

Open Door can help you further interpret the results–that’s part of our expertise. We will also advise you on what your next steps should be.

The PSAT shows you which section is your stronger, and predicts how you will perform on your first SAT only if you do no additional preparation. Disappointing scores are not the final word.

  • Try an ACT. You may do better taking the ACT. Open Door offers proctored SAT and ACT diagnostic tests that can help you decide which test is a best fit for you.
  • Determine which test is right for you. After completing the diagnostic test, you’ll be offered a 30 minute free consultation with Open Door. You’ll receive a written analytical report and, yes, more advice.
  • Make time to prepare for the official test. No matter which test you decide to take, at least six weeks of preparation with a tutor–combined with diligent practice as assigned–almost invariably lead to significant score improvement.
  • Consider taking a proctored practice test. In addition, when you prepare with us, you typically take additional proctored practice tests, which helps reduce anxiety and improve pacing. Working through completed practice tests with your tutor help you further improve on challenging areas and identify how to approach the actual exam.
  • Know that an individualized approach to admission testing is best. Most students take the official SAT or ACT at least twice. Some students take both the SAT and the ACT. Everyone is an individual and you should do what’s best for you. Open Door can help you figure out what that is.

Final Note

You don’t have to go this alone.

“Don’t forget to review your PSAT scores with your guidance counselor, too,” adds Minor. “They will be with you through the entire process of applying to college.”

And don’t forget to call or email Open Door Education when you are ready to take the next steps in the college admissions testing process.

For more information on ACT/SAT Test Prep tutoring at Open Door Education, check out our Test Prep page or contact us directly.