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PSAT/NMSQT score release day is an exciting time for students – it’s an important moment that kickstarts the college planning process. We realize the significance of this day and the anxiety that you may feel as you review your scores and think about your future.  We want to make sure you understand that different October 2018 PSAT/NMSQT tests were given across the country and how that relates to your scores.

Different PSAT/NMSQT tests were given to students on October 10th, 13th and 24th. Whichever day you took the PSAT/NMSQT, you can trust the scores you receive thanks to a statistical process called equating. Equating considers how many questions you got correct (a raw score) and the difficulty of those questions in order to produce what’s called a scaled score.  Because of varying levels of difficulty on the tests given over these three days, the same raw score on different tests did not produce the same scaled score.  Equating will sometimes create score gaps along the score scale.  In the math section of one of the tests from October 24th, we saw gaps at the high end of the score scale.  These types of gaps occur regularly on many standardized tests.

We want to reassure you that your score is fair and accurate.  Test scores are equivalent and valid, regardless of when you tested, which test you took or the level of difficulty of the test.

Here is some more information to help you better interpret you score:

Q: What is equating?

Students take different PSAT/NMSQT tests across the testing period. Equating makes sure that a score for a test taken during one administration is equivalent and comparable to a score from a test on a different date. For example, a single incorrect answer on one test could equal two or three incorrect answers on a more difficult test. Equating ensures that the number answered correctly (the raw score) and the difficulty of the questions are taken into consideration in the calculation of scale score.

Q: Why are there score gaps for some tests in October?

On the PSAT/NMSQT, you can earn from 160 to 760 points per section. Equating will sometimes create score gaps along this score scale, as happened with the math section of one of the forms used on October 24th. You’ll see these gaps frequently on many standardized tests.

Please know that we try very hard in the test design to ensure these score gaps are distributed throughout the available score range.

Q: What is the difference between a raw score and a scale score?

The raw score is the number of questions answered correctly. The scale score factors in the difficulty of each question.

Q: Can I get my test rescored?

The scores we reported are accurate. We know this may be disappointing to hear but the result would be the same even if we rescored it. Rescoring results in a change of score only in those rare instances where a question was answered correctly but was marked as being incorrect.

Q: If I got more questions right on this PSAT/NMSQT than previous tests or compared to other students, why did I receive a lower score?

Questions on tests administered on different dates are unique. Because the tests are different, you shouldn’t directly compare the number of questions answered correctly. You need to consider the difference in difficulty between the test questions.   This is what equating does and why you are best to compare at the scale scores rather than the raw scores.

Q: Will this affect my chances for National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs?

We are in contact with National Merit Scholarship Corporation about gaps at the high end of the score scale in the math section of an alternate test form so that they have all the information they will need when determining qualifying scores for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Q: Will this affect my chances for other scholarship programs that use PSAT/NMSQT as part of their qualification or decision-making process or my chances to be recruited by colleges that use PSAT/NMSQT?

Colleges and our other scholarship partners consider students based on a broad set of score ranges across the PSAT/NMSQT, which is one of the early indicators of college success, in addition to other factors to determine eligibility. Fifteen scholarship organizations – including many of the largest in the country – partner with College Board’s Student Search to help deserving students access scholarships they’ve earned. Rest assured that colleges and these partner scholarship organizations understand the scores and how they are equated.

Please contact [email protected] if you have additional questions.