2023 PSAT Scores and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Scores [UPDATED]

Matt Larriva
Jul 28, 2023
Home » 2023 PSAT Scores and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Scores [UPDATED]

It’s been a few weeks since you took the PSAT, and by now you’ve probably even forgotten about it. But PSAT and NMSQT scores have been announced, so now it’s time to figure out exactly what it all means.


Well, let us help you.

Here’s what you need to know about your PSAT scores for 2023 and the National Merit Qualifying Scores (NMQST).

The Difference Between The Different PSATs

group of high school students taking the PSAT test

The difference between all the new and different PSATs (the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT) is simple.

  • The PSAT 8/9 is a shorter and easier version of the PSAT 10, and it is intended to give you an idea of how prepared you are for the PSAT 10.
  • The PSAT 10 is a slightly easier version of the PSAT/NMSQT.
  • PSAT/NMSQT is an easier version of the SAT.

The key difference between the PSAT 10 and the PSAT/NMSQT is only the PSAT/NMSQT score can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship. This makes sense, considering that the acronym PSAT/NMSQT stands for “The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.”

If you are interested in a more thorough breakdown of how all these tests are different, you can refer to the chart below:

psat tests

Now that you know what the difference is between all these tests, let’s take a look at what the PSAT/NMSQT scores actually mean.

2023 PSAT / NMSQT Dates

According to the College Board:

The PSAT/NMSQT testing window is October 2–October 31, 2023.

• Schools can test on any day of the window, including testing groups of students across different days.
• Schools may also choose to administer the PSAT/NMSQT on Saturday, October 14, 2023. (Note: This is the only Saturday available for PSAT/NMSQT testing.)

When Are PSAT Scores Released?

When do PSAT scores come out each year? In general, PSAT scores are released online about eight weeks after taking the PSAT test.

Scores are released depending on when the PSAT was taken.

Annual deadlines are closely aligned with those same dates. Some variation may occur, such as scores being released earlier in the fall. It depends on what the SAT Suite of Assessments board members decides when creating the annual deadline calendar.

2022 PSAT/NMSQT Score Release Dates

Students who took the PSAT should receive their scores:

  • November 6, 2023 – Scores available to students who tested by Oct 14, 2023.
  • November 16, 2023 – Scores available to students who tested by Oct 31, 2023.

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    How To Access Your PSAT Scores

    The CollegeBoard will send you an email when your test scores are ready. The email will contain all the instructions you will need to create an account on the College Board website, accessing your score report online, as well as viewing your scores with your access code.

    The process is simple and quick. Once you have accessed your College Board account, you will have the option to download and print out the report if desired.

    Additionally, you can also ask your school for a printout of your PSAT score report.

    student and parents looking at psat score online

    How to get your PSAT Scores Early

    Educators can actually access scores earlier (in late November) using a special educator portal on the College Board website.

    Given that the schedule states that educators can see the scores in late November, some students may wonder if they can access their PSAT scores earlier.

    Unfortunately, guidance counselors and school administrators cannot release PSAT scores early because individual scores come out simultaneously for national and international students.

    Understanding Your PSAT Scores

    You will receive an Evidence Based Reading and Writing score on a scale from 160-760.

    You will also receive a Math score on a scale from 160-760.

    People who wonder what the PSAT is out of should add these two scores together. The sum results in a student’s Total score, on a scale from 320-1520.

    These are the scores to pay attention to.

    There are also other metrics you will see. For example:

    • Test Scores
    • Cross-Test Scores
    • Subscores

    However, the score that matters most is your Total Score.

    For a step-by-step diagram of what each number on your score report means you can also check out the graphic below from the CollegeBoard.

    PSAT Scores

    Why Aren’t the PSAT Scores Out of 800?

    Notice that the highest total score a student could achieve on the PSAT is 1520.


    The highest total score a student could achieve on the SAT is a 1600.

    Why Would A Perfect PSAT Score Not Lead To A Perfect Score On The SAT?

    Because the PSAT is easier than the SAT. Not only is it a shorter test, but the material is also not the same. The CollegeBoard is being conservative.

    And we agree.

    In our experience, PSAT scores are usually higher than SAT scores.

    The PSAT test materials are typically easier for students to understand, so they don’t focus as much on the content. Instead, they should walk away from their PSAT and pinpoint which question formats made them struggle.

    They can use the coming weeks and months to learn the best strategies for taking the SAT. Steps like answering the questions that are easiest and guessing what you’re unsure about will result in higher scores because the current system doesn’t penalize students for guessing answers.

    More Students Can Take The PSAT vs the SAT

    PSATs are also easier because a wider range of students can take them. Freshmen can sit for the same test as juniors, but the actual SAT contains content meant only for students who have completed three years of high school.

    If you take the PSAT and find yourself having a challenging time, use the extra time before your SAT to get tutoring. Tutors train specifically to prepare high schoolers for their SAT because the test-taking strategies and questions have different formatting than standard exams.

    I also recommend taking a look at the best SAT prep books and study materials we list in our article, Best SAT Prep Books. You’ll find an exhaustive list of study materials, some which are totally free to download.

    What Is the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile?

    tutor and student studying for sat test

    Each PSAT score will also be tied to your Nationally Representative Sample Percentile.

    This simply means that if you scored in the 60th percentile, you scored higher than 60% of the other high school juniors who took the PSAT.

    For example, if you are a sophomore, then your scores are compared only to the other sophomores who took the exam.

    What Is A Good PSAT Score For A Sophomore?

    To fully understand what a good PSAT score for a sophomore is, know that it all depends on what the student’s goals are.

    If your ultimate goal is to attend an elite university, then you should know that a good PSAT score for Ivy League admission is to be in the 99th percentile or higher.

    In other words, if your main priority is getting into the Ivy League, you should aim for a composite PSAT score anywhere between 1280 and 1520.

    If you’re looking at less selective institutions, then the 80th percentile is a good benchmark.

    But keep in mind that:

    1. these are very early days, and your score can improve markedly over the next year
    2. this is not necessarily an indication of what you would score on the SAT

    I will discuss this more in a following section. First, let’s cover the National Merit Selection Index.

    RELATED READING: How to Get into UPenn

    What About the National Merit Selection Index?

    The National Merit Scholarship is a distinction and a small sum of money given to recipients that is awarded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

    The first step of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship is scoring well on the PSAT as a junior.

    Juniors should sign up for their PSAT before the annual fall exam, which typically takes place in October.

    studying for psat

    Each year, an average of 1.5 million students enter the National Merit Scholarship Competition, which takes their Selection Index scores from the PSAT Math, Reading and Writing, and Language sections into account.

    Students will receive letters of commendation the following September if their PSAT scores qualify for the scholarship.

    Finalists and semi-finalists move forward to the final round, where 7,500 applicants receive scholarship funding based on their skills and accomplishments outside of the PSAT.

    The other thing high school students should keep in mind if they’d like to compete for the National Merit Scholarship is when they’ll begin college. 

    Some young people need or want to take a gap year before entering a university, but the scholarship funding only goes to students who begin school by the fall semester after high school graduation.

    How Well Do You Need To Score On The PSAT?

    That figure changes annually and is released later in the year, but for Californians (one of the most competitive states) the minimum score to qualify is usually about 220.

    Your NMSC Selection Index score is calculated by adding together the Reading score, the Writing and Language score, and the Math score, and then multiplying the total by two.

    A Reading score of 33, a Writing and Language score of 35, and a Math score of 30 would yield an NMSC selection index of 196.

    But this is just the beginning: qualifying students have a long path to get to the coveted National Merit Scholarship Finalist round. Check out the National Merit site for full details on what to expect.

    In the meantime, it’s never a bad idea to begin prepping for the SAT or ACT.

    Students often start studying for these tests months in advance. Reviewing test-taking strategies with a teacher is helpful, but tutoring is the best way to learn the most accurate information that will be on the latest SAT or ACT materials.

    Between one-on-one SAT test prep, group SAT test prep, and self-study, finding a test prep method that works for you and your budget is an attainable goal. 

    Start with the following resources from Powerful Prep:

    Look into opportunities to meet with tutors in-person and online to find the best solution that meets your needs without compromising your schedule or budget.

    Why Your PSAT Score Doesn’t Really Matter

    In all things, it’s important to ask: is this what I should be focusing on?

    That includes your PSAT scores.

    Powerful Prep has long held that the PSAT and its derivatives are over-hyped and distracting tests.

    As proxies for real SAT scores, PSAT scores are woefully off and largely unnecessary.

    If you’d like to see what you would score on an SAT, then take an SAT in a practice setting.

    At best the PSAT will give you a ballpark estimate of your score, and at worst it will give you a false sense of security or dread.

    psat score stress
    Don’t let your PSAT scores fill you with a sense of dread (or, for that matter, a false sense of security). Focus your energy on prepping for the actual SAT instead.

    The good news is that students can take the PSAT three times in high school or once per year. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors can try their skills at the PSAT before taking the SAT for college applications.

    However, there’s no pressure to take the PSAT that many times. It’s more important to focus on your future SAT score by studying and learning from a tutor. The additional opportunities are only there to help students who want to practice their test-taking skills.

    Who Should Take the PSAT?

    We posit that the only students who should be focusing on, or even taking, the PSAT are those who are strong candidates for National Merit. For all others, this test is a distraction and an unnecessary stressor in an already busy time.

    In fact, we feel so strongly about this that we discontinued our broad PSAT prep offering in 2015.

    We now only prep students for the PSAT in very special circumstances, for example, if a student is prepping for a fall SAT and is showing very strong scores, we will encourage them to sit for the PSAT and dedicate a few sessions to that end, if it does not detract from the more important SAT goal.

    student studying for test

    So, if you didn’t take the PSAT or didn’t quite earn the PSAT score you were hoping for, try not to stress out too much about it. Instead, focus on SAT prep—your time will be much better spent.

    Strategizing is one of the key parts of SAT prep. You’ll learn how to approach questions, analyze wording and come to the correct answer with the guidance of someone who knows how the SATs work.

    Research shows that extra studying always results in higher exam scores for students who strategize their study resources. The extra time and effort will pay off when your final SAT results get you into your dream college.

    With PSATs out of the way, are your sights set on the Ivy League?

    Dive into our comprehensive, data-backed guides to learn what it takes to get into the Ivy Leagues, including:

    • what your high school GPA should be
    • what your target SAT or ACT test scores need to be
    • what kind of extra-cirriculars to focus on

    Plus, other actionable tips you can use to gain an ethical edge when applying to your dream school.

    Schedule a FREE Consultation

    Marc Grey, Powerful Prep

    Marc Gray, Client Success Manager

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    Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.

    Give us a call at 805-876-4687 or schedule a consultation by simply choosing a date and time that works best for you below.

    Schedule a FREE Consultation

    Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.

    Give us a call at 805-876-4687 or schedule a consultation by simply choosing a date and time that works best for you below.