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Understanding PSAT/NMSQT Scores

Student score reports include a score for each section of the test — Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing Skills. These section scores are on a scale of 20 to 80. Find out how a student’s answers become a score and how to understand the meaning of a score.

If You’re Not in 11th Grade

If the test seemed hard, remember — it’s aimed at students in 11th grade. Look at your percentiles to see how your scores compare to the scores of 10th grade test-takers. Look at your skills to see where to focus your improvement efforts. Know that you’re taking a critical early step for your future.

Raw Scores

The scores included on score reports are based on raw scores. To arrive at a raw score, correct, incorrect, and unanswered questions are counted. Points are added or subtracted using the following rules:

Calculation of Raw PSAT/NMSQT Score
Answer TypePoint Value
Correct answerPlus 1 point
Wrong answer to multiple-choice questionsMinus 1/4 point
Wrong answer to math grid-ins0 points deducted
Unanswered question0 points deducted

Converting Raw Scores

Next, the raw score is converted to a score on a scale of 20 to 80. This process, called equating , adjusts for slight differences in difficulty between various versions of the test (such as the Wednesday form and the Saturday form). Equating ensures that a score of, say, 65 on one form reflects a similar level of performance as does a 65 on another form. There is no advantage or disadvantage in taking the test on a Wednesday or a Saturday or taking an alternate version.

Score Ranges

Score ranges show the extent to which a student's score might change with repeated testing, assuming that the student's skill level remains the same.

No test measures precisely what someone knows and many factors can affect a student’s results. It’s helpful to think of each score as a range that extends from a few points below to a few points above the score earned. 

Making Sense of the Numbers

Scoring Data

View answer keys and conversion tables for each version of the test as well as percentiles and mean scores. Download Understanding PSAT/NMSQT Scores (.pdf/1.09MB).

PSAT/NMSQT mean (average) scores and percentiles can be used to gauge college readiness and compare a student’s performance with that of other students.

Mean (Average) Scores

The table below shows the mean score for each section of the PSAT/NMSQT. Unless students earn scores that are much lower than average, they’re probably developing the kinds of critical reading, math reasoning, and writing skills needed for academic success in college.

Mean Scores for the 2013 PSAT/NMSQT

Test Section

11th-Grade Mean

10th-Grade Mean

Critical Reading

47.7

43.1

Mathematics

48.6

43.6

Writing Skills

46.5

41.8

Percentiles

In addition to scores, students receive percentiles for each test section. A student’s percentile is a number between 0 and 100. It shows the percentage of students in a particular grade whose scores fall below the student’s score. For example, an 11th-grade student whose Mathematics percentile is 57 scored higher than 57 percent of 11th-grade test-takers.

Percentiles are grade-specific:

  • On both the paper score report and the online My College QuickStart™ score report, 11th graders and 10th graders see percentiles that compare their score to the scores of other test-takers in their grade.
  • On the paper score report, all students in 9th grade or below see percentiles that compare their scores to the scores of 10th graders.
  • The online score report shows 9th graders how their scores compares to those of other 9th grade test-takers in the nation.

Improving Skills

PSAT/NMSQT score reports are intended to help students learn from their mistakes, improve their skills, and prepare for college. Students can see which skills need the most improvement and sign into My College QuickStart to review test questions and answer explanations related to those skills.

Related Topics

Score Report Guide

The paper report helps students understand their scores with personalized feedback so they can improve their skills.

Score Report Plus

Online Scores and College Planning

Test-takers get My College QuickStart™, a free online tool providing personalized feedback and SAT practice based on their test results.

My College QuickStart