The PSAT is the preliminary exam taken by the College Board before the SAT exams are conducted. It is a prelim exam taken to test the student’s capability of scoring in the SAT exam while calculating the SAT score. The marks gained in the PSAT predict the actual marks that a student will score. The PSAT exam has gone digital since October 2023. High school students take the PSAT in their junior year to get admission into reputed colleges.

Similar to the written PSAT NMSQT, the digital PSAT is also a prelim exam to the digital SAT exam. Students take it before their SAT exam to test their ability for the SAT finals. The time duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes and the maximum score is 1520. The test can be taken in the 10th and the 11th grade as well. PSAT exams can be taken only once per year.

PSAT Scoring: How is digital PSAT scoring done?

The digital PSAT NMSQT consists of two sections: 1) Reading and Writing section and 2) Math section. Each section consists of two modules. Because of its digital nature, the exam uses predictive technology. If a student’s performance is high in the first set of questions, the difficulty level of the next set automatically increases. Thus, the difficulty level of the exam is determined by the student’s performance.

What is adaptive scoring in digital PSAT NMSQT?

Adaptive scoring means increasing or decreasing the difficulty level of the questions as per the student’s performance. Much like the paper SAT, the digital PSAT allows for adaptive scoring. The first set of questions is the same for all students. The second set changes according to the performance of the student in the first set.

Image showing adaptive PSAT Scoring

What is a good PSAT score?

Each section of the digital PSAT is scored from 160-170 with an overall score of 1520. The lowest qualifying score in the PSAT is 320. A score above 1210 is considered to be a good PSAT score. Generally, than 75th percentile is considered to benchmark scores and receive national merit recognition. A good PSAT score can get you into a college of your choice. College Board has also given guidelines on how to calculate your selection index.

Are there any scholarships for high school students who get high scores on digital PSAT?

Students who score high in the digital PSAT exams are qualified to earn a scholarship from the US government. Every year, the National Merit Scholarship distributes 180 million dollars to students who get high scores. Students with a high score on the digital PSAT can qualify for the national merit semifinalists. The cutoff scores vary by state each year. You can check the test scores for previous years on the official website of the College Board.

Why is a digital PSAT score important?

College Board has organized PSAT exams because PSAT scores tell you how well you will do in your SAT exam. So, they are important to determine your overall test score in the SAT exam. PSAT scores are also important because they may help you win a national merit scholarship if you get high scores and land in the top 1% of test-takers.

PSAT Score Range

PSAT test score ranges from 320 to 1520. High school students score from 320 to 1520 in the digital PSAT exam. SAT scoring is different from PSAT scoring as its scale range is from 400 to 1600. A good PSAT score is considered to be from 1150 onward. Students in high school who took the PSAT can calculate their selection index score and check whether they are eligible for the national merit scholarship. The section report is based on a scale of 8 to 38.

What Are PSAT Subscores and Cross-Test Scores?

PSAT does not only contain section scores but also consists of subscores and cross-test scores. The subscores analyze specific skills in the EBRW section. The Reading, Writing, and Language Section scores focus on a student’s ability to answer queries related to the following:

  1. Command of evidence
  2. Expression of ideas
  3. Words in context
  4. Conventions in the English language

In the Math section, the subscores focus on the following:

  1. Problem solving
  2. Data analysis
  3. Heart of Algebra
  4. Advanced level of Math.

Subscores lie within the score range of 1-15.

Cross-test scores test a student’s ability to analyze passages that have historical or scientific content. They cover two abilities: 1) Analysis of history and social science passages and 2) Analysis of science passages. Cross-test scores lie within the score range of 8 to 38.

A scoring guide is provided to determine which passages from the Math and EBRW sections fall into the science and history classifications.

Who is eligible for the PSAT scholarship?

The top 1% of students are eligible for National Merit Scholarship. The exact score for the National Merit scholarship varies from year to year. Usually, students who get a scaled score of more than 1180 can expect to be eligible for the scholarship.

Scores Needed for National Merit Scholarships

If you wish to become a National Merit Scholar, you need to rush ahead of 99% of PSAT test-takers. Almost 50,000 students are shortlisted in the first round of selection. They form the commended list. These juniors are then selected for the semifinals according to their states. Out of these semi-finalists, less than half students are selected for the final round based on their SAT scores.

The National Merit Scholarship program sets a cutoff PSAT score for each state. A student with the same score may qualify in one state but not qualify in another state.

How do you become a National Merit Semifinalist?

The National Merit Scholarship Program uses a special method to determine digital PSAT scores. It uses a selection index to establish the eligibility of the high school juniors for the scholarship. The range of the selection index is from 48 to 228 and calculates the overall scores from Math, Reading, and Writing.

Before taking the PSAT, test-takers should refer to the previous year's data to understand whether they qualify as a semi-finalist or not. For example, in the 2022 scholarship cycle, 207 was the national cutoff score. However, a student from California might need 219 and a student from Texas might need 215 to qualify for the scholarship.

What is the National Merit Selection Index?

The Selection Index is a type of standard used by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to convert your PSAT scores to an eligibility standard for scholarships. Whether you are eligible for the PSAT scholarship or not depends upon your selection index score. The formula to calculate the selection index is very simple. You need to add your raw scores from the EBRW and Math sections and then multiply the sum by 2.

Selection Index = (Reading raw scores + Writing and Language raw scores + Math raw scores) X 2

The selection index uses a range of 48 to 228 to calculate the scores.

How to calculate your digital PSAT Math test scores?

After taking the PSAT, you can calculate your scores and check whether you score in the top 1% of test-takers. The Math section in the digital PSAT has 22 questions per section. Thus, the maximum raw score in the digital PSAT is 44 points. You can calculate your digital PSAT Math section score using these steps.

1) Find your raw scores:

The answer key to the test is released soon after the test. Using the answer key, find out your raw score first. For example, you may have got 35 questions right out of 44. So, 35 is your raw Math score.

2) Convert raw scores to scaled scores:

The College Board website has conversion tables on its official website to convert raw Math scores to scaled scores. There are other websites as well that provide conversion tables online. You can use any of these to find out your scaled scores. For example, if your raw scores stand at 35, your scaled scores could be anywhere between 590 to 620.

How to calculate your digital PSAT Reading, Writing, and Language test scores?

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section consists of two subsections: 1) Reading 2) Writing and Language. The Reading raw score is calculated out of 44 and the Writing and Language raw score is calculated out of 47. You can use these scores to calculate your scaled scores. Calculating Math scores is easier than calculating EBRW scores because here the number of questions is not the scale through which the scores are calculated. Use these steps to find out how to calculate your digital PSAT Reading and Writing score.

1. Find your raw scores:

As soon as the answer key to the test is released, tally the responses from each section to get aggregate scores. The scores will be differently calculated compared to the Math section because each question is marked differently. You can use your practice test for reference.

2. Scaled scores:

The EBRW section scores are first translated on a score of 8 to 38. They are then converted to scaled scores.

3. Overall EBRW scores:

The scores on the Reading section and the Writing Section are calculated separately. You can add these scores to get your total EBRW-scaled scores. You can then multiply the number by 10 to get your score out of 760.

4. Overall PSAT score:

Add your Math scaled scores to your EBRW scaled scores to calculate your score out of 1520.

When do digital PSAT scores come out?

The digital PSAT scores were released on two dates, namely November 6 and November 16. The test date was in October 2023. Thus, it takes around 15 days to 4 weeks for digital PSAT scores to come out. You can take the PSAT from March 4–April 26, 2024.

Do colleges care about digital PSAT scores?

The PSAT is a national merit scholarship qualifying test. However, colleges only consider SAT scores while granting admissions. The PSAT scores are for the reference of the students. The PSAT scores remind the students where they stand in the test scoring scheme. They are not relevant when taking admission as colleges hardly care about them. You can qualify for national merit scholarships if you take the PSAT NMSQT.

Advantages of PSAT scores

You may think that since PSAT scores are not considered during admission, they are not helpful. However, this is a delusion. If you take the PSAT test, it will help you ease your college application in these ways:

1)  Scholarship:

The PSAT tests national merit scholarship eligibility. Students who are commended, semi-finalists, or finalists in the National Merit Program are considered high academic achievers. A National Merit Program scholar will naturally have a better chance than others. Mentioning this on your college application will give you an edge over other applicants.

2) Preparation for SAT:

The PSAT helps you realize how well you have understood the SAT exam. Since both their formats are similar, a student who has scored high on the PSAT will also score high on the SAT. A student can identify his or her strengths and weaknesses work on those areas in which improvement is required and prepare for SAT accordingly.

3) Overall profile:

The SAT score report overshadows the PSAT score report. However, a consistent performance in both PSAT and SAT gives a holistic view of your academic strength. It adds a feather to your profile.

4) College selection:

Your PSAT score report will help you select your college early. If you know which range of scores you fall in, you can choose your college according to it.

Is the Digital PSAT scored differently than the paper-and-pencil PSAT?

The total PSAT score range in digital PSAT has certain differences from the paper SAT. Here are the expected differences in the section scores between digital PSAT and paper SAT. However, these differences are expected to be implemented later on. As of now, digital PSAT and paper PSAT will not have any major differences.

Table showing differences between digital PSAT and Paper PSAT
Table showing differences in Reading and Writing scores between digital PSAT and Paper PSAT
Table showing differences in Math scores between digital PSAT and Paper PSAT

How PSAT Scoring Works?

The range of PSAT scores is from 320 to 1520. This means that you cannot score less than 320 and more than 1520 in your digital PSAT exam. SAT scoring is different from PSAT scoring as its scale range is from 400 to 1600. There are no negative marks for incorrect answers.

PSAT is divided into two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections form the ERBW section. Each unit of PSAT carries 10 points and each subsection has a 160-170 scoring range. Thus, the Math section will have a 50% score and the ERBW section will have a 50% score. The total of these two scores will form your PSAT score.

Do all questions have equal markings in the digital PSAT?

As mentioned earlier, the PSAT follows an adaptive scoring system. This means that the scores are technically scaled according to the difficulty level of the questions. So, if the PSAT consists of 1100 questions, not all questions carry equal marks.

Once you finish your digital PSAT exam, you will first get your raw scores. Raw scores tell you how many questions have been answered correctly in each section – Math, Reading Writing, and Language. For example, if you have attempted 40 questions in Math out of which 30 are correct, your raw scores will be 30 in Math. But each question has a different difficulty level which means that your final PSAT score will be more than 30. Another student who has also attempted 40 questions and got 30 correct may get a different score than yours as the difficulty level of his questions will not be the same as yours.

Afrin Shaikh
Content Marketing Associate
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