Flickr user Jake Bellucci

Flickr user Jake Bellucci

Approximately 3.6 million high school sophomores and juniors take the PSAT (preliminary SAT) each year. In addition to qualifying students for National Merit Scholarships, the test is also an indicator for college entrance exam preparedness.

The test is administered each year in mid-October and score reports are distributed in December. The PSAT is meant to be comparable to the SAT, and both are created by the same company (the College Board).

How does my score predict how I’ll perform on the SAT?

Questions on the PSAT are purposely written to be similar to the ones on the SAT. This makes them an accurate predictor of future SAT performance.

The rule of thumb is that adding a zero to the end of your PSAT score will give you an SAT score estimate. For example, scoring a 170 on the PSAT is comparable to scoring 1700 on the SAT.

Your score report should also come with an SAT score range predictor. According to the College Board, 2 out 3 test takers will score in the predicted range when they take the SAT.

How does my performance compare to others’?

Along with scores, you’ll be provided with performance percentiles. These indicate how you scored compared to others in your grade level who took the exam at the same time as you.

Percentiles tell you how many test-takers scored at or below your level. For example, if you’re in the 60th percentile, you scored as high or higher than 60 percent of students in your grade who took the test.

What if my score isn’t what I wanted it to be?

The PSAT is a preliminary test, which means that colleges won’t see your score (unless you qualified for a National Merit Scholarship). You can use your PSAT scores to improve your future SAT scores.

The PSAT is broken into 3 sections: writing, critical reading, and math. You can figure out where your weaknesses are by looking at how you scored in these sections.

Unlike the SAT and ACT, you’ll have access to PSAT questions after you’ve finished the test. When you get your score report, you’ll see which questions you answered incorrectly, and you you’ll get an answer key. This way, you can see exactly where you went wrong so you know which skills need practice.

Keep in mind that you’ll have up to a year and half more school completed before taking the actual SAT. You’ll be better prepared for standardized tests when you have more college-prep classes under your belt.

Why is the PSAT so important?

The main thing, as we’ve already pointed out, is that the PSAT is essentially a practice SAT. Any sort of experience you can get before taking the real-deal SAT, is good experience. Taking the PSAT will show you which areas you need to brush up on, where your strengths lie, and what test-day might look like.

In addition to preparation, your PSAT score can also qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship program, and potentially award you with scholarship money. It is a prestigious award given out to the highest scorers—so study up!

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the country—all for FREE!