Updated: December 6, 2023

PSAT to SAT Conversion

Student taking PSAT or SAT Test

The most widely used standardized test for college admission is the SAT, and many high school students worry endlessly about their SAT scores. However, there are many ways to prepare for the SAT, and one way is to take the PSAT.

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The PSAT can give you an indication of how you will perform on the SAT, by converting your PSAT score into an SAT score. We’ll explain exactly how to do this to help ease your worries about the SAT and make the process a less stressful one.

What is the difference between the PSAT and SAT?


The Preliminary SAT, commonly abbreviated as the PSAT, is a standardized test taken at high school level, and is administered by the College Board. It is sometimes known as the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), as students can take the PSAT to qualify for college scholarships. It is essentially a practice version of the SAT, used to test students on their writing, reading, and math ability. Both verbal scores and math scores are added together, giving you a composite score. This score is then converted into a raw score, based on a formula from the The College Board.

The PSAT enables students to prepare for the SAT exam and is usually taken by students in 10th or 11th grade. Many students will prepare for the PSAT early in their school career to ensure that they are academically ready for the SAT.

The PSAT typically lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the style of questioning is similar to the SAT in that it uses multiple-choice questions, with a range of math questions and reading questions. The cost of taking the PSAT is $18, but many schools will administer the test for free.


The SAT is a college entrance exam, often used as a screening tool during the college admissions process. Over 2 million students will complete the SAT every year. It is generally considered to be more difficult than the PSAT. It is typically taken by 11th graders, giving students time to retake the test if they wish. The PSAT is scored between 320 and 1520, while the SAT is scored between 400 and 1600.

The tests are almost identical in style and structure. The main differences are:

Of course, the SAT score is considered in college applications, so it holds more weight for your future. The PSAT should not be overlooked as a great way to prepare for the SAT, however, as it helps with college readiness in preparation for taking a more difficult exam.

What do I need to study to take the PSAT?

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Reading comprehension plays a big role in the PSAT. You will be given passages to read and be asked to find information and assess the author’s intent. Reading a wide range of texts will be useful before taking the PSAT, and the College Board explains which different types of texts you may have to read on the test.

The writing portion of the test focuses more on your ability to identify spelling and grammar mistakes and correct them accurately. The questions will be multiple choice, and the College Board also explains this in more detail here.


The majority of math questions will be algebra focused. There will be other questions involving equations and data analysis too. You can use a calculator for some of the test, but not for the whole math section, so you should practice being confident with and without a calculator when answering math questions.

Frequently asked questions about PSAT to SAT conversion

How are PSAT scores used in college admissions?

Your PSAT score does not impact college admission decisions. To be clear, you can still go to college if you didn’t perform well on the PSAT.

However, PSAT scores can be used to give you an insight into how you will perform on the SAT, a test that can be used to determine your entry into college. You can do this by using a PSAT to SAT conversion chart. This can help you to see, assuming you perform the same on the SAT, what your anticipated score would be.

Performing highly on the PSAT does have other benefits, too. PSAT/NMSQT scores are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Around 50,000 students a year qualify for this, and an even smaller amount will receive a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Students who score in the top 1% for the PSAT/NMSQT can receive recognition as National Merit Scholars. The top-performing students with the highest scores in the country will be in with a chance of winning a paid scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, based on their school records and recommendations from their teachers. So, while it’s no easy feat, there’s an opportunity for high-achieving students to benefit greatly from the PSAT.

What is the range of PSAT and SAT scores?

The PSAT score range is generally between 320-1520. The SAT score range, however, is between 400 - 1600. Although the scoring range is slightly different, you can predict your SAT score based on your PSAT score. However, the conversion into raw scores does not mean you will achieve exactly the same overall score on the SAT.

In the PSAT, math and language sections are scored between 160-760 for each section. In the SAT, these sections are scored between 200-800 each. Knowing your scores for each section in the PSAT will help you figure out which areas you need to work on before you take the SAT.

How important is scoring well on the PSAT and SAT?

Whilst it may seem like merely a ‘practice test,’ scoring well on the PSAT can help you to properly prepare for the SAT and ensure that you perform your best. The chance of college scholarships by performing well is also a great reason to study hard. The PSAT should be taken seriously to help you gain a real understanding of what taking the SAT is like, as well as give you a clear outline of areas you need to study further.

In 2019, the average SAT score was 1059. A score above this will be considered acceptable for many colleges. Performing well on the SAT gives colleges a clear indication of your overall academic ability, and, when given in conjunction with a solid school record, a strong personal essay, and an enthusiastic application, the SAT score can be the make or break between you getting into your dream school.

A score of 1200 is a good number to keep in mind when preparing for the SAT. This score is considered to be above average and will make it possible for you to apply to most schools across the country. Approximately 50% of students who take the SAT retake the exam at least once to improve their scores. This demonstrates how important the SAT is for students across the country hoping to get a college education.

What should I be doing to prepare for both exams?