Reasonable Expectation for improvement from PSAT to SAT

Wondering about experiences in score improvement from PSAT to SAT with prep/tutor and without…and both.

My daughter took the PSAT-10 last year and did fair. She took the 10/17 PSAT test this year as a Junior with minimal prep----just poking around on Khan, and said it was “impossible.” She begins a prep class Saturday for the 12/5 SAT and just trying to gauge a fair level of expectation both from where she started last year to a longer term goal.

It’s a bit disheartening because she has a 3.97 UW GPA, is acing her honors and AP courses this year thus far. She is a year round competitive swimmer, went to States her Freshman & Sophomore years, strong ECs and volunteers with Special Olympics, part time lifeguard…but definitely discouraged about the opportunities for direct admit nursing unless she is able to increase her score significantly.

Any thoughts, experiences, guidance is much appreciated. If you need further information, just ask! Thanks.

You’ll find a wide range of anecdotal data from individuals. For a broader view of actual experiences, College Board publishes aggregated data on score changes (average and +/- 1 SD) from PSAT8 through Senior year SAT, step by step, at

Changes differ based on the initial score (more room to improve a 400 than a 740) and the time elapsed (PSAT TO Sr SAT improvements are typically higher than PSAT to Spring Jr year changes).

While 80% of people typically think they are better than average, I think the average improvements are a reasonable expectation. If a paid tutor is involved, I think it’s fair to expect a greater improvement, though I would be interested to see if this actually happens.

D20 was taking Algebra 2 in 10th grade. PSAT was 1220 (560 M/ 660 EBRW). Score for 11th grade was 1330. Final SAT in spring of 11th grade was 1460 (680 M/780 EBRW). She is not a STEM kid and worked with a private tutor for just under a year on only math. The EBRW just sort of improved with minimal effort. The tutor said she didn’t see a point in taking it again since the EBRW was already very competitive and the math was probably not going to improve much. DD wanted a 700 on the math but the stress of it all wasn’t worth it.

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I would say around 100+ is reasonable. Getting around 100 points higher is definitely possible just by studying on your own (khan academy and practice tests). Getting over 100 points high is also possible, but may require more in-depth studying.

Thank you all for your feedback. Her 10th grade PSAT was a 1080. (An even 540 on both) She starts her tutoring with an SAT home test so anxious to see that “baseline.” I think she needs to hit 1300 and I know that is quite a hefty increase. I will peruse the college board link and appreciate you sharing.

The experience of @helpingmom40 is pretty much identical to ours. The math went up when D20 was in precalc (11th grade), but the verbal was always much stronger and with a lot less effort. We knew from her practice tests that breaking 700 on the math was hit or miss, so when her scores came back with high 600s in math and high 700s in verbal it didn’t seem worth it to take it again to maybe pick up another few points in the math. She improved by over 100 points between the 11th grade PSAT in the fall and the SAT (spring of 11th grade), and over 250.points from her 10th grade PSAT. She prepped with a tutor, mostly in math, but a little in verbal (focusing on time management) to keep that section score strong. Good luck!

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D took PSAT with no prep in 10th grade - 1130.
Took again in 11th grade, still with no prep - 1130 again.
Senior year she took a two-day crash course the weekend before SAT, but no other prep or studying - 1350.

Simply taking the PSAT once will generally help with getting a better score the next time. D19 did very little prep, but she had substantial gains between every time she took the PSAT, and having finished pre-calc and AP English helped a lot as well.

My kids didn’t improve their (somewhat low) scores much between the PSAT and SAT, though neither did any studying, maybe gained 100 points? Both tried the ACT and scored much higher, so that was definitely the better test for them. D took a prep class and then a second ACT test but did not improve her score. S did a few one on one tutoring sessions before taking a second ACT and improved his score by 6 points.

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Two of my kids scored very similarly to their PSATs (they both had solid scores to begin with) and the third raised her score considerably from a disappointing PSAT with a week of self study using practice tests to identify and target her weak areas, and a lot of self-motivation. She ended up with the highest scores of my three kids.

From the tables, a 540/540 PSAT10 results, on average, in a 590/590 by Fall Senior year, with a 1SD range of at least +/-50.

So 1300 wouldn’t be a typical improvement, but roughly 15% of students would exceed 1280-1300’ish, so it’s not extremely rare.

Thanks for this info. Just wondering how to best choose a college prep /SAT prep / essay prep service? How did you find the person/ organization that you went with?