What Is A Good PSAT Score?

Photo of a ninth grader in a stripey t-shirt taking the PSAT for the first time
November 3, 2022
How Is the PSAT Scored?PSAT PercentilesWhat Is a Good PSAT Score?What Is a Good PSAT Score for the National Merit?FAQs: PSAT Scores


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/19/22

Let’s explore what good PSAT scores look like. Generally speaking, the definition of a good PSAT score depends on your personal goals. To further answer this question, we must evaluate how the PSAT is graded and more.

Wondering what a good Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) is? We’ll outline the PSAT grading scale, how percentiles for PSAT scores are calculated, what scores you need to receive the National Trust Scholarship, and more. To understand what PSAT score to aim for, let’s start by understanding how the PSAT is graded.

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How Is the PSAT Scored?

The PSAT’s scoring system is complicated, and you may want to re-read this section once or twice! However, we’ll provide a brief overview of how the PSAT is scored

PSAT Scoring: 8/9 

Here is a breakdown of the score structure for the PSAT 8/9: 

Table outlining the PSAT 8/9 Score Structure and Score Range

Scoring of the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT

The PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT variants follow the same PSAT scoring structure

Table outlining the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT Score Structure and Score Range

Now that you know all about PSAT scoring, the PSAT grading scale, and how the PSAT is graded, let’s talk percentiles. 

PSAT Percentiles

PSAT percentiles are used to compare your overall and section scores with those achieved by other students. The percentiles show what percentage of students have scores equal to or lower than yours. 

For example, if your total PSAT score falls in the 70th percentile, you have achieved a score equal to or higher than 70% of test-takers; the remaining 30% of students scored higher than you. 

Your PSAT percentiles are split into two categories: your PSAT total scores and PSAT section scores to percentiles. The former is used to see how your overall score ranks among everyone else who took the test. The latter is used to see how your specific section scores rank. 

PSAT Total Scores to Percentiles

Your PSAT total scores to percentiles are derived from the sum of your two scaled section scores, as described in the scoring section above. So, if you scored 650 in Math and 570 in EBRW, for example, your total PSAT score would be:

650 + 570 = 1220

Using the table below, which shows a selection of scores from 11th-grade students who took the PSAT/NMSQT or the PSAT 10, your score is in the 84th percentile.

Table outlining which percentile your total score on the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 would fall under
Source: College Board 

PSAT Section Test Scores to Percentiles

You can use your section test scores to find the percentiles assigned to each section. The table below provides a selection of section scores from 11th-grade students who took the PSAT/NMSQT or the PSAT 10: 

Table outlining which section-specific percentile your Section score on the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 would fall under
Source: College Board 

What Is a Good PSAT Score?

The answer to “what is a good PSAT score?” depends on your goals and whether you’re applying for scholarships or simply practicing for the SAT. Your definition of a “good” score may differ from another student’s.

The College Board has established benchmarks for each version of the PSAT: 

Table outlining the reading and writing section and Math section benchmark scores for the PSAT 8/9, PSAT10, and the PSAT/NMSQT
Source: U.S. News 

These benchmark scores are indicators of a student’s future performance as they “predict a 75% likelihood of achieving a C or higher in related first-year, credit-bearing college courses.”

However, according to the College Board, the average scores achieved by test-takers seem to be slightly higher than these benchmarks, apart from the scores achieved by eighth-graders: 

Table outlining the average scaled total score of students sitting the PSAT 8/9, PSAT10, and the PSAT/NMSQT exams
Source: U.S. News 

Again, deciding what a good PSAT score is depends on your goals and why you’re taking the test. However, if you’re aiming for high PSAT scores for the National Merit Scholarship, keep reading to determine what scores you will need to succeed. 

What Is a Good PSAT Score for the National Merit?

The National Merit Scholarship is granted to approximately 7,500 graduating high school seniors annually. Approximately 50,000 of the 1.5 million high school juniors who take the PSAT annually qualify for recognition from the NMSC, and around 34,000 will receive a letter of commendation for their efforts. 

The NMSC notes, “Although Commended Students will not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships, some may be candidates for Special Scholarships provided by corporate and business sponsors.” We’ll explore this later. 

National Merit Scholarship PSAT Score Requirements 

So, what is a good PSAT score to qualify? The 16,000 remaining students who rank in each state’s top 1% (or 99th percentile) are National Merit Semifinalists. To be named a semifinalist, you must score at or above your state’s Selection Index score, which is established at the 99th percentile for tests taken by a state’s students.

These cut-off scores vary by state, year, and test difficulty. To give you an example, here are several state’s cut-off scores: 

Table outlining the PSAT cut-off scores or several US states
Source: The University Network 

Once each state has named its semifinalists, 15,000 finalists who meet the NMSC’s requirements will be chosen. Then, a Merit Scholarship is awarded to 7,500 students from the finalist pool. 

There are three types of National Merit Scholarships: 

However, there are approximately an additional 1,000 Special Scholarship recipients who’ll receive Special Scholarships provided by corporate sponsors. 

To win a scholarship, you must excel in every aspect of the test. You should aim to score at least five points above your state’s cut-off score to give yourself the best chance of receiving a scholarship after the Semifinalist round. 

FAQs: PSAT Scores 

Still have questions about PSAT scores? Then check out these FAQs! 

1. What Is the Average PSAT Score for a 10th Grader?

According to the College Board, the average PSAT score for a 10th grader is 920. 

2. What Is the Average PSAT Score for 11th Graders? 

The average PSAT score for 11th graders is 1010. 

3. Does a 1400 PSAT Qualify for the National Merit?

While a 1400 PSAT score is excellent and places you in the 97th percentile, whether or not you’ll qualify for the National Merit depends on if you rank within the top 99% scorers in your state. However, it's unlikely you’ll qualify for the National Merit with this PSAT score. 

4. Is 1000 a Good PSAT Score? 

It depends – if you’re in grade 10, this score is above average and slightly below average if you’re an 11th grader. 

5. What Is the Highest PSAT Score? 

The highest possible PSAT score is 1520. 

6. What Is the Average PSAT Score? 

It depends: the average PSAT score for 10th graders is 920, and the average for 11th graders is 1010. 

What’s Your Ideal PSAT Score?

The PSAT, although scored in a complicated way, offers a brilliant opportunity to understand the SAT by practicing with an easier version. What makes a good PSAT score is subjective; it depends on your ambitions, the amount of work you have put in, your state’s cut-off score, and how your scores compare to other test-takers.

If your goal is to earn a National Merit Scholarship, start preparing as early as you can. If you just want to practice for the SAT, ensure you reflect upon your score and identify which sections you can improve. Good luck! 

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