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Understanding Your PSAT Results: Next Steps for Success

By Laura Whitmore

Navigating your PSAT scores can be a complex task. Whether you're satisfied with your results or looking to improve, understanding what these numbers mean is crucial. In this blog, I'll help you decode your PSAT scores and outline the steps you can take to achieve your academic goals.

Not in a reading mood? Check out my YouTube video instead!

Your PSAT Score Explained: The PSAT/NMSQT is scored out of 1520, but understanding where you stand is more than just knowing the numbers. An average score typically falls between 920 and 1010. If you're scoring above 1210, you're among the top 10% of test-takers. For those aiming for National Merit recognition, a score above 1500, representing the top 1%, is your target.

Direct Translation to SAT Scores: Your PSAT scores give a good estimate of what you might score on the SAT. To put it another way, if you turned around tomorrow and took an SAT, you would score roughly the same as what you scored on your PSAT. This comparison can help set your SAT preparation goals.

Improving Your Score: Improvement requires time and strategic effort. For every 100 points increase, expect to dedicate about two months of regular, weekly preparation. Of course, this is a rudimentary estimate and every individual student varies. 

Identifying Weaknesses: Understanding each section and the types of questions you'll face is key to improving your scores. Look at your PSAT score report and assess what categories you are weaker in for targeted practice. Let's break the categories down, so you understand what types of questions fall into each one:


  • Craft & Structure (28% of the section): This part tests your understanding of words in context, the function of sentences within a passage, the main purpose of the text, and comparisons between different texts.

  • Information & Ideas (26% of the section): Questions here revolve around identifying the main idea, supporting statements or quotations, interpreting graphs, and completing texts logically.

  • Expression of Ideas (20% of the section): Focuses on your ability to use transitions effectively, answer note-taking questions, and other related skills.

  • Standard English Conventions (26% of the section): This category tests your grammar skills, including sentence structure, punctuation, and usage.


  • Algebra: Questions include solving linear equations in one or two variables, linear functions, systems of equations, and inequalities.

  • Advanced Math: This includes questions on equivalent expressions, nonlinear equations, systems of equations with different variables, and understanding nonlinear functions.

  • Problem-Solving and Data Analysis: Covers ratios, rates, percentages, understanding data distributions, probability, and interpreting statistical claims.

  • Geometry & Trigonometry: Questions on area and volume formulas, lines, angles, triangles, right triangle trigonometry, and circles.

Targeted Study with Preptly: Using targeted resources like Preptly can help you focus on your weaker areas, making your study sessions more effective.

Considering a Tutor: While self-study is viable with resources like Khan Academy, a tutor can provide personalized guidance and structure, helping you reach your goals more efficiently. The tutors on our team all score in the top 1% nationally and we have helped hundreds of students improve their scores significantly with our innovative prep program! Please request a consultation. 

Self-Paced Learning Options: If you prefer self-study, consider my self-paced English course, which boasts a 100+ point score gain guarantee. Please note I am in the process of designing a digital SAT math course and it will be coming soon! 

ACT as an Alternative: Don't forget to consider the ACT. Taking a practice ACT test can provide insight into which test suits you better. Here is a practice test that you can take for a direct score comparison.

Conclusion: Understanding your PSAT score is the first step in a larger journey. With targeted preparation and the right resources, you can improve your scores and open doors to future academic opportunities.

Happy prepping!


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