PSAT Results: What the Numbers Really Mean

As most of you already know, the first iteration of the NEW PSAT has come and gone and students should all have their results in hand.

The question is: What do these results really mean and how can students use them to prepare for the New SAT?

Testive’s Head of Learning John LaPlante analyzed one student’s results and gives his take on how Testive can help her get ready for the New SAT.

We also asked the student what her impression of the test was to see if her experience matched the results.

Overall Score Results

Looking at this student’s results she received 1130 out of the possible 1520 points on the NEW PSAT and scored better than 86% of the students who took the test. Although this is a great score, there is always room for improvement.

PSAT Score Report

What the student had to say:

“I thought the test was challenging, but not overly difficult. My greatest difficulty had to do with timing. I am a pretty slow test taker, and I wasn’t able to finish all of the questions. I did a little bit of prep before the test so I knew the format of the test which helped. Otherwise I would have wasted time reading the instructions and figuring out what to do. My advice for other students would be to definitely take a full length practice test and take the time to go over the questions that you missed so you’ll better be able to answer them correctly when you actually take the PSAT.”

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Evidence Based Reading and Writing

For the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section of the test, this student scored well in all of the subcategories/subscores (Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions), reaching the “meets or exceeds” benchmark in each.

This means that there is no area where she really needs to focus in order to reach “college readiness,” which is good.

Instead, she was a bit on the low end of the scale in two subcategories – Command of Evidence and Expression of Ideas – so these are two areas in English/Writing where she should focus her work.

Both of these subcategories require very close reading of the text, and students often choose the wrong answers by making assumptions or inferences that are not supported by the passage and/or not thinking about the passage as a whole. The good news is that for the most part, she missed only the most difficult questions, which means that she is not making careless mistakes. The bad news is that she will have to work harder to get the questions she’s missed correct, since they are the most challenging.

What the student had to say:

“I found the reading section to be the easiest, even though I really hate traditional reading comprehension questions on standardized tests. The format was really familiar to me, so that was a big help, and they didn’t ask any type of question that I hadn’t already seen on other tests.”


In math, it’s clear that this student needs to focus the most on one subcategory – Problem Solving and Data Analysis – where she is just barely approaching the benchmark. Although most of the questions that she missed in this category were difficult, she likely encountered questions or data that was presented in a manner that was unfamiliar to her, causing confusion for problems that she likely would know how to solve.

This category of questions is challenging, but once students become familiar with the type of analysis required, which often involves answering questions about information presented graphically, they typically can improve quite rapidly. The other math section where she needs to work is “Passport to Advanced Math,” which was also a bit low.

I suspect, however, that some of this weakness was due to the fact that, as a sophomore, she hasn’t covered in class some of the material that was presented. Most likely, this subscore will improve by virtue of the fact that she will learn the math over the next few months. Still, since these are the most challenging questions, she should review the topics covered and begin completing practice questions in an area that is unfamiliar.

What the student had to say:

“The math-no calculator section-was the hardest, and basically all the math questions where you had to come up with your own answer. Some of those I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t even really try them, so I just guessed. I also ran out of time in math.”

How Testive would help this student prepare for the NEW SAT to increase her score

We are experts in interpreting this type of report, and knowing exactly what type of material is covered in each topic. It is difficult for most students to understand what type of question is included in “Heart of Algebra,” but we know exactly what that means since we dissect every category and question on the test, and have the ability to break down all the terminology that the College Board uses into plain English and actionable work.

We would set up a solid plan for this student, one that initially leans more towards math practice and that exposes her to all possible question types in her areas of weakness (data interpretation).

This plan would be completely adaptive and based on tangible goals; once she meets one goal, her study plan would adjust, always stressing the current area of weakness. This is a student who appears able to target an overall score in the 90th percentile or above on the NEW SAT, and working with Testive would allow her to make steady progress towards that goal (a range of 680-750 in English, and 650-720 in Math).

Advice for Parents

Depending on your student’s year (2017 or 2018), these scores mean something different. For parents of juniors (2017), NEW PSAT scores can be helpful to determine whether the redesigned test is worth prepping for, or if your student should spend at least the spring of junior year preparing for the ACT.

Since this test is fairly reliable indicator of how your student will do on a “real” SAT, it’s important that you understand what the score report means and, more importantly, how accurately it reflects your students strengths and weaknesses.

If the score seems uncharacteristically “low,” then there is a chance that the structure/format of the test does not allow your student to perform to the best of his/her abilities. In that case, the ACT may be a better test.

If standardized tests just simply aren’t your student’s strength, then these scores should be viewed as an opportunity to establish a test prep plan that will work with his/her or schedule over the next few months to become more familiar with the test format and questions and to focus on areas of weakness.

For parents of sophomores, these scores can also be helpful in making an initial determination as to whether to pursue the ACT as another option and can also help to identify major areas of difficulty on a broader scale, for instance, if math is significantly lower (130 points or more) than English, it’s worth it to begin focusing on that one subject area now, since a lot of ground will need to be covered before the next round – either next year’s PSAT, or a real SAT this spring or fall.

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By | 2017-12-01T21:54:38+00:00 November 1st, 2016|SAT|0 Comments