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Understanding PSAT scores and National Merit


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This post is in regard to my 10th grader so it is not critical for this year but trying to figure out what I want to do regarding PSAT.

My only interest in the PSAT is for National Merit. We usually do the ACT in our family and while I understand it is advised to try both SAT and ACT, for now I am confident ds will take the ACT and do well. So, I really have no interest in pursuing the PSAT unless ds was in range to be close to the National Merit cutoff. 

The cutoff in my state was a 219 last year. That means nothing to me. What might a corresponding ACT score be? Or even an SAT score? If your dc was NMF and also took the ACT, do you mind sharing the ACT score? Or for those who have more experience with all the tests, what ACT range would you think a NMF would be scoring in? (For example, are most NMF in the 35-36 ACT range?) Do practice tests available online give a good prediction?

Our state passed a law that public schools must accomodate homeschool students for the PSAT. That said, I think it is going to be a huge hassle and run around and I don't think the one private school in town even offers it.  If my ds has no shot I'd rather not pursue it but I'm willing to fuss and push the local school if he has a chance.  I didn't bother for my oldest two as I knew they would not be close.

Based on previous testing I'm pretty confident that ds will have 30+ when he takes the ACT spring of tenth grade. But he's not going to be a kid with a 35-36. 

(disclaimer- I obviously know that the ACT and PSAT/SAT are different tests. I also know that no one here can tell me whether or not my ds will score high on the PSAT. What I am looking for is just any insight about whether or not it is worth it to take the test when accessing the test is going to be a huge hassle).

 

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Next summer, just do a practice test to see how close he might be.  That would be the best approximation.  https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/practice/full-length-practice-tests  I'm not positive, but I think the second practice test was the 2016 administration.  If you decide he should prep, use SAT prep.

In our house, ACT and SAT results are not comparable (i.e. the concordance is not helpful) due to personal strengths and weaknesses that render the ACT unsuitable (speed).

As far as comparing PSAT and SAT, in theory, a student should receive the same numerical score on both tests if they were taken on the same day.  I'll never understand the point of the lower ceiling on the PSAT, but College Board set up this system so that students would see growth in the form of score increases between the time of the PSAT fall junior year and the time that they typically would take the SAT the following spring or fall.

NMSQT relies on the Selection Index instead of the four-digit PSAT score.  To calculate the SI, add together the subscores for reading, writing and math (each out of 38 total possible), and then double.

Edited by wapiti
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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

There is no simple answer to your question. The PSAT give 2/3 weight to the reading and writing portions and only 1/3 to math for the total score. Your best bet would be to have him take a practice test on Khan and see how his score weighs.

 The bolded is a very important piece to keep in mind when evaluating scores and chances to qualify for National Merit.  You can't really compare the composite ACT or the composite SAT score or the composite PSAT score to determine if your child is in range for National Merit.  For example, my current senior's overall composite PSAT score was in range for National Merit, but she is stronger in math than EBRW.  Since the EBRW score is given double the weight of the math score, she missed the National Merit Semi-Finalist cutoff when other students who had a lower composite PSAT score made the cut-off.

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56 minutes ago, wapiti said:

NMSQT relies on the Selection Index instead of the four-digit PSAT score.  To calculate the SI, add together the subscores for reading, writing and math (each out of 38 total possible), and then double.

Another way to say this is to take the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score (which is between 160 and 760 for the PSAT), double it, then add it to the math Score (also between 160 and 760). The individual section subscores (which wapiti references above) are used to calculate the Scores I mention above.

So, let's say your kid scores a 32 on the Reading subscore and a 30 on the Writing and Language test. Add these together to get a 62. The Evidence Based Reading and Writing Score would then be 620 (62*10). The Math subscore can be in 0.5 increments between 8-38. Let's say you have a whiz in math and they score a 36.5. The Math Score would be 36.5*2*10 = 730.

To get the Selection Index, it would be 62*2+73=197. (EBRW is given double the weight as the math.)
Wapiti's way would be (30+32+36.5)*2 = 197 --> Same result.

I find it easier to use the scores that are more familiar to me than to use the subscores.

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Always assume your state's SI will go up. So, let's go with an SI of 220 (math is easier that way, too). You're looking at a 730 score level on the two sections. Here are the combos to get a SI of 220 on the PSAT with corresponding ACT scores in parenthesis.

720 EBRW with a perfect 760 math (67 ACT English + Reading, 34 math)

730 EBRW w/740 math (68 ACT English + Reading, 33 math)

740 EBRW w/720 math (69 ACT English + Reading, 32 math)

750 EBRW w/700 math (70 ACT English + Reading, 30 math)

perfect 760 EBRW w/680 math (70 ACT English + Reading, 29 math)

Hope that helps!

Edited by RootAnn
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One more note - was the 219 this year's cutoff for the test from last year or last year's cutoff for last year's seniors? (Latest cutoffs can be seen at the Compass Prep Blog.) Out of the 7 - 219s from last year, two went up to 220, one went down to 218, and four stayed the same. But you always want some buffer. Also, the SAT & the ACT are just different tests, so you may do better on one than the other. The math on the ACT covers different things than the SAT.

My kid is going to miss taking the PSAT this year because she loves to chuckle along with the memes that are posted to twitter after the test. It isn't as fun when you didn't have to suffer through the passages first, she says.

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26 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Always assume your state's SI will go up. So, let's go with an SI of 220 (math is easier that way, too). You're looking at a 730 score level on the two sections. Here are the combos to get a SI of 220 on the PSAT with corresponding ACT scores in parenthesis.

720 EBRW with a perfect 760 math (67 ACT English + Reading, 34 math)

730 EBRW w/740 math (68 ACT English + Reading, 33 math)

740 EBRW w/720 math (69 ACT English + Reading, 32 math)

750 EBRW w/700 math (70 ACT English + Reading, 30 math)

perfect 760 EBRW w/680 math (70 ACT English + Reading, 29 math)

Hope that helps!

Wow. Thank you. That is very helpful actually. 

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I would just try to have him take the PSAT this year in 10th grade to see how he fares.   The public schools in my area charge only $16 for homeschoolers to take it, and private schools also offer it.   A baseline would let you know whether he would be in the running for National Merit the following year, and I think it's worth the hassle for very little money to simulate the testing environment and get an idea of how he will do on the SAT.   

FWIW, my DS has taken the PSAT, SAT, and ACT (he just started his junior year).   According to the concordance, his ACT from July was much higher comparatively than last December's SAT or last October's PSAT.    I think the ACT will probably be our preferred test going forward, but he could definitely qualify for National Merit semi-finalist.

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