PSAT + Score Report Plus + Immediate Attention = Higher SAT Scores

By Sam Rosensohn

Students who took the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) in October just received or are about to receive their scores on a valuable and often overlooked map that will help them to dramatically improve their scores – the map is called Score Report Plus.

Higher scores are attainable and the place to start is with the individualized map, Score Report Plus, which breaks down how each student did, question by question, on each of the 125 questions.

There’s an enormous amount of information on the multi-colored Score Report Plus issued by the College Board, and I’d encourage you to not get bogged down in the details at the top of the page, but rather to jump down to the section, Improve Your Skills, at the bottom.

This section lists skills for students to work on based on their test performance, which is what needs to be done if they’re to improve their scores. And we will get to the specific scores, ranges, percentiles and projections, but for now it’s important for students to review the College Board’s findings.

Let’s take a random look at some of the comments my son, Zac, who’s a sophomore, received on his Score Report.

For Critical Reading, Zac was advised to read editorials that take opposing views on an issue. He was told to look for differences and similarities in tone, point of view, and main idea.  This was based on his answers to questions 49 and 50 in the verbal section. It’s a solid suggestion for test prep, his general education, and it might also make for conversation at the dinner table.

For Writing Skills, Zac was advised to better understand the structure of sentences that were related to the arts. To improve he was told to read articles about the arts so that he will feel more comfortable with the subject. This was based on questions 12 and 31 that he missed.

For Math, Zac was advised to recognize patterns and equivalent forms. He was told to recognize a pattern by considering a simpler pattern. He was referred to questions 29 and 38 and told to rewrite and rearrange the given expressions in a different form.

Once the skill suggestions are reviewed, students should review the questions they got wrong in each section. As they go through the test, which they were given back with the answers, there’s little doubt that there will be some questions they can’t quite figure out. They should take those questions to their Language Arts and Math teachers. Keep in mind that the answers on the verbal side are often not a precise fit, but the best of the five answers.

There were 52 questions in the verbal section of the PSAT. The score card notes there were 15 easy questions, and how many the student got right; 20 medium questions and how many were answered right, and 17 hard questions and how many were answered correctly. This is valuable information because it lets students see they got easy ones wrong as they rushed to answer all of the questions. Students should spend all the time they need on the easy and medium questions.

A student who gets 80 percent of the questions right is looking at a 650 score. The mistake is to fly through the test hoping to answer all the questions. The tough questions were designed to trip students up, and they soak up valuable time that could be spent answering the easy and medium questions.

I suggest students purchase the book, 10 Real SATs by the College Board and do one test a month. Each test in the book is made up of six sections. Answers are included. The more students do these tests, the better they get. Familiarity helps one determine the degree of difficulty of the question, pick up speed, and get into the rhythm of the SATs.

At the top of the multi-colored score report are the scores for the verbal, math and writing sections. Each of the scores is somewhere on the scale of 20-80 (200-800). Underneath the score is the Score Range, which projects how students would score if they took the SAT without learning additional skills.

Next are the percentiles, which compare the student’s performance with all the other students who took the test in that grade. While all of this data is critical – and in some instances – a wicked cold shower, what’s important is that students decide what they want to tackle first.

Here’s an easy suggestion that will result in more points – learn eight new words a week. Keep the words in a vocabulary book and on flash cards. If students do that starting this week, they’ll have learned over 400 words over the next year.

Now let’s do some easy math, if 15 of those words appeared on the test and knowing those words enabled a student to get right answers, those 15 right answers would increase a score by 150 points. I based that on the SAT I score conversion table for the May 2002 SATs.

So get a handle on this test, start practicing, and the score goes up.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at