The PSAT/NMSQT serves a number of valuable functions; not only does this test act as the first criterion for National Merit Scholarship recognition, but its scores also offer insight into future SAT results. No, the PSAT is not exactly like the official SAT or even a well-proctored practice SAT, but PSAT scores should give high school juniors a fairly accurate sense of how–in the absence of any other prep, of course–they will score on the SAT.
What should we infer, then, from October’s alarmingly low PSAT scores?
Anecdotal information has finally been confirmed by College Board, though not in any forum available to the general public. Fortunately, Art Sawyer and his colleagues at Compass Education Group pieced together the fragmented reports available to suss out some alarming conclusions:
- The number of juniors scoring 1400+ dropped 30%, from 71,000 to less than 50,000.
- The number of sophomores scoring 1400+ dropped 36%.
- High-performing students scored as much as 30 points lower than in previous years. The student who would have scored 1400 last year was more likely to score 1370 this year.
- There were far fewer students in the typical National Merit ranges. We now project that National Merit Semifinalist cutoffs will decline 1-4 points.
- The primary PSAT form (Wednesday, October 16th, taken by 86% of students) may have been the most skewed, resulting in inequities based on when students tested.
You’ll find a thorough accounting of the scoring issue and its disconcerting implications in the aptly titled article There Was A Major Drop in PSAT Scores. College Board, Please Explain. Since little may be constructively added to such a complete analysis, I’ll simply echo and expand upon the sentiments of its author:
College Board, please explain why 2019 PSAT scores dropped so substantially, how those scores reflect SAT readiness, and whether we should see this incident as a sign of diminished capacity to design and administer standardized tests on a national scale.