Does the PSAT Matter?

All across the nation, high school juniors are taking the PSAT. These tests often happen during the regular school day and it’s rare for schools to dedicate any time into preparing students. Most look at the PSAT as an opportunity for practice, and think of it as a step towards the SAT or ACT. But is that an accurate assessment of the test’s utility, or should students do more to get ready?

The PSAT/NMSQT is a test administered in the junior year of high school. Students take this test, typically on campus at their local high school, and receive results a few weeks later. For most high school students, it’s just another test and they do nothing to prepare. However, for some, the PSAT unlocks more opportunities than any other test they’ll ever take. The PSAT can set students up for the National Merit Scholarship, which is typically awarded to the top 1% of PSAT scorers. Scoring well enough on the test enters your candidacy into the race for the scholarship, but there are a couple of other recognitions along the way (Commended students & Semi-Finalists).

For students that don’t anticipate scoring within the top 1% on the test, it is tough to see the utility in this test. Colleges don’t view PSAT scores so there isn’t much of an obvious impact on your ability to get into college. Some view it as an opportunity to prepare for the real SAT, but with about 50% of test takers nationwide (and 100% of students in most mid-south states) taking the ACT for college, the overlap between the PSAT and ACT is tough to see.

However, the PSAT can be used to determine the best test for each student. We’ve preached the importance of finding the right test since our inception. We’ve studied student performance between the ACT and SAT, and the results are astounding. Students struggling to improve scores on one test can often transition to the other and see dramatic improvements almost immediately. The differences between the two tests occasionally result in huge differences in score percentiles, so finding the right test for how each student learns and tests is paramount. If the PSAT creates issues for you, look here for the differences between the SAT and ACT. The SAT and PSAT are almost identical tests, so if you struggle with the PSAT, you’ll encounter similar issues on the SAT. The ACT might be a better fit. Alternatively, if the PSAT goes very well, then run with the SAT for college. Remember that every single US college will accept EITHER test, so take the one that is the best fit. Use the PSAT to learn about your preferred testing style.

Even if you’re not in the running for a National Merit Scholarship, you should still do what you can to get ready for the PSAT. If you have no idea how you’ll do on the PSAT, we provide free full-length tests. You could be very close to the score you need for National Merit, and a bit of prep might send your score into contention for the scholarship. If you’re not competitive for the National Merit Scholarship, use the PSAT to determine if the SAT or ACT is best for your college admissions test. Then, prepare for the real thing by looking at your weaknesses and improving them.

If you’d like to take a free test, just enter your name and email below, and we’ll send you a free, full length PSAT. Once you’re done, we’ll score it and provide a score breakdown, plus a free plan of action to improve!

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