When Is The PSAT Just For Practice?

My daughter is a sophomore and will take the PSAT in October.  Does she need to take a prep class?  We don’t want her scores to have a negative impact if she tests poorly. The PSAT is a month away and for many parents it is the first recognizable step in college planning.  Then the questions begin . . .

  • Does my student need to take the PSAT?
  • Will these scores be sent to colleges?
  • What if my student does poorly?
  • Do we need a prep class?
For 95% of students the PSAT is just a practice version of the SAT.  Scores won’t be sent to colleges or used for admissions, so a poor PSAT score will not hurt a student’s future opportunities.  For most students the PSAT is a perfect occasion to experience the questions and format of the SAT under official, timed conditions.  To understand when the PSAT is just for practice, you need to know more about the test. The PSAT is given once a year in October.  School districts have a choice of a Wednesday or Saturday administration and, unlike the SAT, PSAT registration is done through the school.  (Home school students should contact the guidance counseling office at a high school in their area to register.) The significance of the PSAT differs by grade level.
  • 9th Grade – Some schools offer the PSAT to freshman; it is just for early practice.  (Usually the test is offered to freshman because the majority of the school will be taking the test, so it is easy to add more students at the same time.  Don’t worry if your school doesn’t offer the PSAT for 9th graders.)
  • 10th Grade –I strongly recommend ALL sophomores take the PSAT as a predictive tool for National Merit Scholarship qualification. Again, scores are only used for practice, but students who do well in 10th grade may need to study before the PSAT in 11th grade.
  • 11th Grade – 95% of juniors are taking the PSAT for practice; the top 5% of test takers are attempting to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.  This is the only year a student can use his or her PSAT results to qualify for the National Merit program.
  • 12th Grade – I have families ask about taking the PSAT senior year.  Don’t bother.  Seniors need to take the SAT in the fall and can find a full-length practice test on the College Board website.
So for all 9th and 10th grade students – show up, pay attention, do your best, and use your PSAT results to plan for the future. You don’t need to take a prep class this year. Juniors—use your results from 10th grade to decide whether you need to get serious and prepare for the PSAT or whether you are taking the test for practice. (In the following weeks I will give more information about National Merit Scholarships and how students can prepare for the PSAT as juniors.)]]>

Comments (2)

  • Hi,
    My daughter took PSAT in 9th grade and she is taking again in 10th grade. Our assumptions is that Only 11th grade counts towards National Merit Scholarship and it doesn’t hurt to take PSAT 3 times(9th,10th and 11th). Could you please let us know if our assumptions are right? Really appreciate your help
    Thanks so much in advance!

    • Yes and yes. Yes, 11th grade is the only test that counts toward National Merit. Yes, there is no harm in taking the PSAT three times.
      Wishing you the best on the test this week!

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