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Understanding Scores: PSAT 8/9

Find out how your PSAT 8/9 scores are calculated and what those scores mean.


Go online and get the most from your score report! Think of PSAT 8/9 score reports as roadmaps. They show what you’re doing well, and what you should work on to get ready for the SAT – and for college.

Steps to retrieving your score reports online if it is your FIRST time making a College Board account and/or taking the PSAT:

  • You need to retrieve your access code first:

  1. You should have received an email that provides your access code

  • Then follow the following instructions to get your PSAT scores:

  1. Create an online account here: https//

  2. Upon logging in or registering, you will see a screen to enter your online access code.

  3. You will then see detailed information about your PSAT results, including information on specific section results, readiness for the SAT and readiness for college.

Once you are logged in, there are different tabs that will help you get the most from your score report.

About Those Numbers

When you view your online score reports, you’ll get summaries of your performance on each test and content area. You can also filter results and drill down to see how you performed on easy, medium, and hard questions or on questions that measure different skills. Percentiles will show how you did compared to your peers.

Learn more about the PSAT 8/9 score structure or get help understanding scores. (see next pages)

Next Steps

Online score reports do more than show you which skills you should work on. They also connect you to:

  • Free, personalized SAT study on the Khan Academy® platform based on your test results

  • AP courses through AP Potential feedback  (we provided letters for each one of you).

  • A personality profiler that suggests majors and careers to explore

  • College Search and Major and Career Search on BigFuture

Although, this handout should help you understand your scores a lot better and help you plan your future better, please check out: OR Guide yourself through the different links to get a more personalized report and help you prepare for specific NEXT STEPS you could take.


  • The PSAT 8/9 provides a clear, early picture of you and your readiness for college. They help you and your teachers pinpoint areas for improvement. Learn about the tests' place in the vertical score scale that spans all tests in the SAT Suite of Assessments.

PSAT 8/9 Score Ranges

PSAT 8/9 Score Reported


Score Range

Total score

Sum of the two section scores.


Section scores (2)

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math.


Test scores (3)

Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.


Cross-test scores (2)

Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. Based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests.


Subscores (6)

Reading and Writing and Language: Command of Evidence and Words in Context. Writing and Language: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. Math: Heart of Algebra, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis.


Vertical Score Scale

The redesigned SAT Suite uses a common score scale, providing consistent feedback across assessments to help educators and students monitor growth across grades and to identify areas in need of improvement. This new level of feedback can help both students and educators engage in the best possible practice for future assessments: strong classroom work and instruction.

Middle schools and high schools can also use this information to evaluate their curriculum. Higher education institutions can use the new scores to get deep insight into student readiness.

Total Score and Section Scores

Each of the assessments in the SAT Suite reports a total score that is the sum of two section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. Scores for the SAT Essay are reported separately and are not part of a student’s total SAT score.

Ranges for Total Scores

  • SAT: 400-1600

  • PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10: 320-1520

  • PSAT 8/9: 240-1440

Ranges for Section Scores (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math)

  • SAT: 200-800

  • PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10: 160-760

  • PSAT 8/9: 120-720

Test Scores

Each assessment reports three test scores: the Reading Test score, the Writing and Language Test score, and the Math Test score.

Ranges for Test Scores (Reading, Writing and Language, Math)

  • SAT: 10-40

  • PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10: 8-38

  • PSAT 8/9: 6-36

SAT Essay Scoring

Scores on the SAT Essay of the redesigned SAT are reported separately and are divided into three dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Each dimension is scored on a 2–8 point scale.

Cross-Test Scores

Each of the assessments reports two cross-test scores: Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science. These scores are based on questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests that ask students to think analytically about texts and problems in these subject areas.

Ranges for Cross-Test Scores (Analysis in History/Social Studies, Analysis in Science)

  • SAT: 10-40

  • PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10: 8-38

  • PSAT 8/9: 6-36


The assessments report multiple subscores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math, all ranging from 1 to 15 points. Subscores provide more detail about student achievement.

The Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test each contribute questions to two subscores:

  • Command of Evidence

  • Words in Context

The Writing and Language Test also reports two additional subscores:

  • Expression of Ideas

  • Standard English Conventions

The Math Test reports three subscores:

  • Heart of Algebra

  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis

  • Passport to Advanced Math (SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 only)


Calculating Your Score

Because there’s no penalty for guessing, your raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly. Raw scores are converted to scores on a scale of 120 to 720 using a process called equating. Equating adjusts for slight differences in difficulty between various versions of the test (such as versions taken on different days).

The College Board uses equating to make sure that there’s no advantage in taking the test on a particular day. A score of 400, for instance, on one day’s test means the same thing as a 400 on a test taken on a different day — even though the questions are different.

Making Sense of the Numbers

Score ranges, mean (average) scores, benchmarks, and percentiles can be used to see if you’re on track for college readiness.

For the next few years, norm groups for the score ranges, mean scores, and percentiles described below will be derived from research data, not the prior year’s test-taking populations. A norm group, also called a reference population, is the group whose data your results are compared to.

Score Ranges

Tests can’t measure exactly what you know, and many factors can affect your score. After all, no two days are the same, and if you were to take the PSAT 8/9 three times in a week or once a week for a month, your scores would vary.

That’s why 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. Score ranges show how much your score might change with repeated testing, assuming that your skill level remains the same.

Mean (Average) Scores 

Your score report will show you the mean, or average, scores earned by typical U.S. test-takers per grade. Unless your score is much lower than average, you’re probably developing the kinds of reading, writing and language, and math skills you’ll need in college.

College Readiness Benchmarks

You’ll see a benchmark for each section of the PSAT 8/9. Benchmarks are the scores that represent college readiness. In other words, if you score at or above the benchmark, you’re on track to be ready for college when you graduate high school.

If you score below the benchmark, you still have time to work on your skills. Use the detailed feedback in your online score report to see which skills need the most improvement.


A percentile is a number between 0 and 100 that shows how you rank compared to other students. It represents the percentage of students in a particular grade whose scores fall at or below your score.

For example, a 9th-grade student whose Math percentile is 57 scored higher or equal to 57 percent of 9th-graders. You’ll see two percentiles:

The Nationally Representative Sample percentile shows how your score compares to the scores of all U.S. students in a particular grade, including those who don’t typically take the test.

The User Percentile — Nation shows how your score compares to the scores of only some U.S. students in a particular grade, a group limited to students who typically take the test.

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