One of the major changes with the new PSAT and SAT is an overhaul of the scoring and the score reporting. While some changes are designed to make the scores more informative and understandable, there are a lot of confusing details.
First things first: the new SAT is out of 1600 again, not 2400. However, to give students an appropriate diagnostic test for their grade level while also reporting as accurately as possible on their preparedness for the SAT, the PSAT scores will be scaled differently: the PSAT8/9 will be scored between 120 and 720 and the PSAT10 and PSAT/NMSQT between 160 and 760 (the SAT range is 200-800). If you get a 600 on the PSAT10, you can extrapolate that you would get around a 600 on the SAT if you took it today. The difference in the range reflects that the PSATs are slightly easier than the SAT to be more appropriate for the intended grade level.
Nuts and bolts aside, in some ways the most important information in the score report is the percentile, measuring your score relative to those of others taking the test. For one, this is the most direct measure of how students are doing relative to their peers. But more fundamentally, this represents the underlying data that College Board uses to calculate your scores. The thing to remember for a scaled test like this is how “hard” or “easy” the test is shouldn’t affect your score, as the score is meant as a direct comparison between students, not an objective measure of knowledge.
One exciting thing about the new SAT suite is that the score report includes more helpful information for students and parents. Though the Writing and Reading sections are combined into one section score out of 800 (or 760/720 for the PSATs), they will still be scored as separate “tests.” So, after the two section scores, there will be three test scores, for Math, Reading, and Writing and Language, each with a possible score range of 10-40 (or 8-38/6-36 for the PSATs). Note that you can just add a zero and multiply by two to equate this test score to an 800-point scale. (The new optional essay will receive three scores ranging from 2-8 for Reading, Analysis, and Writing, but there isn’t an essay on the PSATs.) There will then be two cross-test scores, for Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science, each on a scale of 10-40 (or 8-38/6-36 for the PSATs). Additionally, within each of the three tests, there will be several subscores ranging from 1-15, indicating how students fared on specific types of questions.
Since the most important role of the PSAT is as a diagnostic, these cross-test scores and subscores can be really valuable to identify areas of weakness. The main thing to look for (as anyone who has studied for the SAT data-analysis questions or ACT Science test can tell you) is outliers—sections with especially low scores. As you begin studying for the SAT, these areas are a great place to start!
One way to enhance the usefulness of the diagnostic is to connect your College Board account with a Khan Academy account (a free online resource). The PSAT scores will get pulled into Khan’s diagnostic system, and Khan Academy will make study suggestions, adjusting these recommendations as you improve and do further diagnostic work.