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Articles / Applying to College / Understanding PSAT Scores

Understanding PSAT Scores

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 18, 2004

Question: On my PSAT I received 149 for my selection index. (My scores were 500 Verbal; 480 Math; 510 Writing.) But I don't understand how everyone says that means I got 1490 out of a possible 1600 points because you can get up to 800 for each section of the test which means it's 1490 out of 2400, right? Are my scores good?

You are correct when you note that a "perfect" PSAT score is 2400, not 1600 (that's if you add a zero to your total to compare it to the SAT scoring system). The PSAT scoring system, as explained by the College Board, is below:

The PSAT/NMSQT score reports provide three different scores on the 20-to-80 scale. One each for verbal skills, math skills, and writing skills. The average verbal, math, and writing skills score for juniors is about 49.

Also on your score report is the Selection Index, which is the sum of the three scores (V + M + W). The Selection Index ranges from 60 to 240. The average Selection Index of juniors is about 147.

Those who have told you that your score was actually a 1490 out of 1600 are probably confused because the old PSAT was composed of only two scores--not three--since the writing component was recently added.

Thus, as you can see from the College Board information, your scores are slightly above the national average. That makes them "good" in many eyes but not so good if you are aiming for Ivy League universities or other highly competitive schools. However, there are many factors that go into admission decisions--not just test results--and these are only PSAT's, not the real deal.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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