What is an Average PSAT Score?

As you prepare to take the PSAT, it is good to have a broader context in which you may view your PSAT score. First, it’s important to be aware that you’ll get your PSAT score back in a few different ways. An average PSAT score is made up of several different scores, such as your total score, section scores for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language sections, and your Selection Index.

Looking at the combination of scores, it may initially be difficult to determine how well you did on the PSAT. Once you understand how the PSAT is scored, you’ll have an easier time determining an average PSAT score, and seeing where you fall on the curve. Keep reading to learn more about what makes up an average PSAT score.

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The different PSAT scores

In your packet of PSAT results, you’ll see a lot of things. Among them will be your scaled total scores, which range between 320 and 1520. Half comes from the Math sections, while the other half is garnered from Evidence-based Reading and Writing.

You’ll also receive scaled section scores for each of the categories listed above, between 160 and 760. Then, you’ll get section scores, which include one for Math, one for Reading, and one for Writing and Language, which fall between eight and 38.

Your subscores will also come as a part of your results, and will be between one and 15. They’ll indicate how you performed on certain types of questions in these categories:

  • Command of Evidence

  • Words in Context

  • Expression of Ideas

  • Standard English Conventions

  • Heart of Algebra

  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis

  • Passport to Advanced Math

You’ll get your raw scores for each PSAT section that represent the number of questions you answered correctly. The range will vary by section, though 48 is the highest raw score for Math, 47 is highest for Reading, and 44 is a top score for Writing and Language.

You’ll have your Selection Index, which is one score anywhere from 48 to 228 and is the sum of your section scores multiplied by two. This is used to determine National Merit Scholars.

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Finally, your packet will contain your percentiles, which is your ranking as a percent compared to others who took the PSAT. If you scored in the 70th percentile, it means you scored the same or better than 70% of students who took the test.

Sifting through your PSAT scores

Some scores are bound to be more important than others, and it is key to know what you’re looking for in your quest to identify an average score. Look to your scaled total score and your section score. If you’re competing for status as a National Merit Scholar, you’ll also want to look at your Selection Index. If you wish to retake the test or better understand your own capabilities as a test taker, the other sections can provide valuable insight and direction as you plan your next course of action, which could include PSAT practice tests and more focused study.

Your PSAT goals

Because an average score can vary from year to year, it can be helpful to identify your own PSAT goals. What do you hope to accomplish? If you’re hoping to be a National Merit Scholar, your definition of good might look a little different than someone who is taking the PSAT as preparation for later tests. A good way to set a goal is to research what SAT scores your top schools want. Figure out what it is you hope to accomplish and go from there.

Percentiles and your PSAT score

Students who score in the 99th percentile do not have perfect scores. In 2016, students who received a 740 scored in the 99th percentile in both Reading and Writing and Math. Scores versus percentiles can even vary within the same test; 700 in Math may be enough to put you in the 99th percentile, but it will take a 740 to get you there in Reading and Writing.

To determine what an average PSAT score is, rely on percentages. What score ranks you higher than most other test takers? How are you defining average? Look at your percentage to find where exactly you fall.

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In 2016, you would have needed a score of 540 in Reading and Writing and a score of 540 in Math (a composite score of 1080) to score in the 70th percentile.

Of course, if you’re aiming for National Merit Scholar status, you’ll have to adjust these numbers.

What’s next after the PSAT?

A good approach would be to look at the required score of the college you hope to attend and work toward that. The PSAT is a good indicator of your preparedness for the SAT and can give you valuable insights into your test-taking strengths and weaknesses.

If your score was a little below average, don’t sweat it—instead, make adjustments to make sure your SAT score shines bright. Good luck!


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