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Important Notes on the Data

Most data points in this year’s report cannot be compared to those in previous years. Here’s why:

  • The redesigned tests are new tests based on different specifications than the old tests.
  • While the majority of students in the class of 2016 took the old SAT, some took the new SAT.
  • The way we collect and report race and ethnicity data has changed.
  • We changed our data systems to support our new score-reporting portal and to better align to school, district, and state data systems.

Get more details and learn how to work with this year’s data

The 2015-16 school year was the first time the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT and the new PSAT 10—a parallel form of the PSAT/NMSQT that 10th graders can take in the spring—and PSAT 8/9 were offered to students. Therefore, this year’s performance and participation data will serve as a baseline we can use to track progress over time. In future years educators will be able to monitor the academic growth of students who take our tests through their middle school and high school years.

This is precisely what these tests are designed to do: work together to show how students are progressing toward college readiness. Student test results provide educators with actionable data they can use in the classroom to identify where students are excelling and are ready for more challenging course work, as well as where they may need more support—all as early as eighth grade.

Next year, we will provide the first year-over-year comparative analysis of both participation and performance progress for students taking the PSAT-related assessments.

What Students Think of the Redesigned PSAT/NMSQT

In October 2015, we surveyed nearly 47,000 high school juniors after they took the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT. These same students took the old PSAT/NMSQT as sophomores in 2014.

  • 70% said reading on the new test was the same as, or easier, than what they expected.
  • 76% said the new test reflected what they’re learning in school.

Overview: PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9

The redesigned PSAT/NMSQT is aligned to what students are learning in class and to the SAT. The new PSAT 10 (for 10th graders) and PSAT 8/9 (for eighth and ninth graders) assess the same skills and knowledge at grade-appropriate levels. These tests work together to give consistent feedback for measuring student progress over time.


Like the new SAT, the  redesigned PSAT/NMSQT is focused on the skills and knowledge that evidence shows are necessary for success in college, and reflects what students are learning in class. The first administration of the redesigned test took place in the fall of 2015.


With the introduction of the PSAT 10 in spring 2016, 10th graders now have the option of taking a parallel form of the PSAT/NMSQT in the spring of the school year.

PSAT 8/9

The  PSAT 8/9—the entry point into College Board assessments—has grade-appropriate content for eighth and ninth graders and establishes a baseline measurement of students’ college and career readiness as they enter high school.

Research shows that it is important for students to be on target for college readiness in middle school so that they can focus on developing their skills in high school. PSAT 8/9 results can give educators information early on that allows them to intervene, adjust classroom work, and engage students in productive practice.

First administered in the 2015-16 school year, the PSAT 8/9 is offered in both the fall and the spring.



In 2015, over 4 million test takers took the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT—more than the number of test takers who took the old test in any other year.

In the first year it was offered, there were nearly 247,000 PSAT 10 takers. Combined, over 4.24 million students took either the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 in the 2015-16 school year; this represents 50.6% of all U.S. sophomores and 46.1% of all U.S. juniors taking either assessment in 2015-16.

2015-16 Number of Unique Test Takers by Grade
  2015-16 School Year Fall 2015 Spring 2016 2015-16 School Year
Total Test Takers 885,447 4,022,895 246,924 4,244,535
By Grade
8th Grade 358,855 30,753 381 31,129
9th Grade 497,641 235,271 2,709 237,755
10th Grade 2,930 1,911,473 240,489 2,127,816
11th Grade 1 1,780,046 1,194 1,780,618
12th Grade 1 9,710 114 9,787
Other 13,665 3,890 470 4,358
No Response 12,354 51,752 1,567 53,072

2015-16 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Test Takers

Note: This year’s race and ethnicity data can’t be compared to those of previous years. Learn more about new race/ethnicity categories.

2015-16 Percentage of Test Takers by Race/Ethnicity
By Race/Ethnicity 2015-16 School Year Fall 2015 Spring 2016 2015-16 School Year
American Indian 1.0% 0.7% 1.0% 0.7%
Asian 5.6% 7.7% 5.2% 7.5%
Black 12.8% 12.1% 10.3% 12.0%
Hispanic 27.5% 25.3% 18.0% 25.0%
White 35.4% 44.3% 50.4% 44.5%
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 0.3% 0.3% 0.2% 0.3%
Two or More Races 3.0% 3.3% 3.3% 3.3%
Other 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1%
No Response 14.4% 6.3% 11.5% 6.6%

When we redesigned our assessments, we also redesigned our college and career readiness benchmarks. Students’ online score reports use the SAT Suite of Assessments’ College and Career Readiness Benchmarks—including the SAT benchmark and grade-level benchmarks—to show students and their teachers and counselors if they’re on track to be ready for college. Grade-level benchmarks are based on expected student growth toward SAT benchmarks at each grade.

There are two section-level benchmarks for the SAT and the grade-level benchmarks: one for the Math section and one for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. Overall college readiness is defined as achieving both of the section-level benchmarks. The below figures represent the percentage of test takers by grade and assessment taken who met or exceeded both section-level benchmarks.

Since these groups of students are those who chose to take each assessment and are not nationally representative, the percentages of college-ready students across the assessments cannot be compared.

Of 2015-16 PSAT 8/9 takers:

  • 32.1% of the eighth graders met the new eighth-grade College and Career Readiness Benchmark.
  • 37.6% of the ninth graders met the new ninth-grade College and Career Readiness Benchmark.

Of fall 2015 PSAT/NMSQT takers:

  • 38.5% of the 10th graders met the new 10th-grade College and Career Readiness Benchmark.
  • 41.6% of the 11th graders met the new 11th-grade College and Career Readiness Benchmark.

Of spring 2016 PSAT 10 takers:

  • 38.2% of the 10th graders met the new 10th-grade College and Career Readiness Benchmark.

These percentages suggest that there are still far too many students who are not on target to be college ready by the time they graduate from high school. We still have much work to do to help these students prepare for success after high school.

Note: This year’s benchmark data can’t be compared to those of previous years. Learn more about comparing old and new benchmarks.

More Resources

Read the press release

See related 2016 reports

See older reports

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