At long last, PSAT scores are out!


You will receive an email letting you know that your PSAT scores are available. Once you gain the courage to log onto the College Board website, you see your PSAT score, followed by pages of overwhelming and intimidating data. So what does it all mean?

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. Clicking “View Details” gives you information on percentiles, benchmarks, subscores, and cross-section scores.

Percentiles and Benchmarks


Below each of your section scores, some benchmark data is provided. PSAT Benchmarks indicate college readiness in content areas where you may need extra support. The red, yellow, and green color-coding highlights relative strengths and weaknesses, but as they are based on this test alone (which is a relatively small sample size), they should not discourage you from taking difficult courses, and they do not indicate how well you are capable of scoring on the SAT.  


Nationally Representative Sample Percentile

Under the section scores and benchmarks, 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. This data point is less reliable, as the College Board includes juniors who might not actually take the PSAT when conducting this research.

Your PSAT/NMSQT User Group Percentile

Below the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile,  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.

Cross-Test Scores

A screen capture showing what PSAT cross test score reports look like. There are boxes for each cross test score with numbers in them.

Cross-test scores 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 or Writing/Language sections 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 emphasize those content areas, but might also include a math question about a sociological study accompanied by a figure or graph.



A screen capture showing what the PSAT subscores report looks like. It is a series of number lines, with sections colored red, yellow, and green for benchmarks.

Toward the bottom of the page appears a list of subscores, which report performance on different aspects of each PSAT section. 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. The subscores can help identify the areas in which you may want to focus your efforts as you prepare for the SAT. 

AP Potential™

The College Board now offers AP Potential™, a tool intended to identify which students are likely to succeed on AP Exams. As this is based on your PSAT alone, it should not deter you from taking an AP-level class that interests you.


Next Steps

The PSAT can give you an idea of which sections are strengths (and which need some extra practice), 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 receive a written analytical report and be offered a free consultation with Open Door.
  • Make time to prepare for the official test. No matter which test you decide to take, preparation with a tutor — combined with practice tests and homework — almost invariably leads to significant score improvement.
  • 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. You can review your PSAT scores with your guidance counselor — they will be with you through the entire process of applying to college.

Open Door can help you further interpret the results and advise you on what your next steps should be. Contact us when you are ready to take the next steps in the college admissions testing process.