In high schools across the country, freshman, sophomores, and juniors will be taking the PSAT test in the middle of October. Many have no idea how important this test is for their college prospects. The PSAT is a strategic part of optimizing SAT scores and it can also be the key to earning significant scholarships.
I have recently started a podcast and a recent show was dedicated to discussing the PSAT in detail. (You can listen to the show here or from iTunes where you can download the show and subscribe to future episodes.) If you don’t have time to listen now, here is a brief summary of the episode:
First, the PSAT is a strategic stepping-stone to the SAT.
Although many families like to wait to take the real SAT as a “practice test,” it is better to start taking the PSAT in 9th or 10th grade. (Yes, homeschoolers, this includes you, too). The PSAT costs significantly less than the SAT ($14 compared to $52.50) and PSAT scores will never be sent to colleges for admissions consideration, making it a better practice opportunity. I give some explanation of the scores—how to compare to the SAT, what is average, and how to read the report.
Second, the PSAT determines semi-finalists for National Merit Scholarships.
For students who score well on standardized tests, there are significant scholarships available based on PSAT results. These students will especially want to take the PSAT as early as possible so they can identify whether they are high scorers and then study to boost their grades into range to qualify for National Merit Scholarships junior year. Students qualify for National Merit recognition junior year only!
Finally, find out whether, when, and how to study for the PSAT.
For example, there is no need to stress out and make 8th graders start studying. However, there might be a benefit in taking an 8-week class to begin thinking about test taking strategies when a student is a junior. Learn what studying is appropriate and what is too much. Overall, keep in mind: When used well, the PSAT is a strategic stepping-stone to high performance on the SAT, which can help get you into a great college.