By Amy Johnson
Every year, the PSAT or “preliminary SAT” is offered at high schools across the country. Many juniors and sophomores choose to take the test each year.
Generally, juniors are automatically enrolled in the PSAT by their high schools. However, only some high schools automatically enroll sophomores. We would recommend that sophomores who are not automatically enrolled proactively contact their school counselors to request to take the PSAT as a sophomore.
You may see two tests: The PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT 10. The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) and PSAT 10 are the same test, offered at different times of year. The PSAT/NMSQT is offered in the Fall (October) and the PSAT 10 is offered in the spring. The Spring test is for 10thgraders only, and scores do not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, but could connect students to other scholarships. In the sophomore year, students could take the PSAT/NMSQT in the Fall and the PSAT 10 in the Spring.
This year, the PSAT/NMSQT is scheduled for October 11, 2017 as the primary date (with October 14th or 25th as alternate dates). Check with your high school for the exact date.
Students should be aware that the PSAT has no official impact on college admissions, but it could provide a good indication for how a student will do on the real SAT and it is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.
The PSAT is also a great chance for students to take a test under conditions similar to the ACT or SAT. It is timed, in a classroom, and formatted similarly to the SAT. Students could also choose to take the PLAN, which is the pre-ACT equivalent.
Although the PSAT is similar to the SAT, students should be aware that the questions are somewhat easier and the test is shorter than the SAT. It is designed for students at the beginning of their sophomore or junior year.
National Merit Scholarships
Although the PSAT isn’t used for college admissions, the PSAT scores are used to determine National Merit Scholarship finalists. The winners will receive $2500 as a one-time scholarship, and many schools and private sector companies may offer additional scholarships to finalists. Students taking the test should ensure they say “yes” to the Student Search Service box indicating that you want to share your scores with interested schools.
Only students taking the PSAT/NMSQT as juniors are considered for entry into the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP). Although the PSAT 10 is not considered as entry for the NMSP, it could qualify students for other scholarships. The College Board has partnered with several organizations to offer scholarships to qualified low-income and minority students.
Also, for PSAT scholarship finalists, many colleges and universities offer excellent scholarships. For example, over 50 colleges offer free tuition, renewable every year, for PSAT finalists. Students that focus on doing really well on the PSAT can earn a full-ride scholarship to an excellent college.
For more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program, visit their website here: www.nationalmerit.org.
The Bottom Line
We believe it is worth it to take the PSAT. It can help students and their parents get an idea of the kind of preparation students need for the SAT or ACT, and it can also help determine the expectations for college admissions. An added bonus is that students that do really well on the PSAT can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship and could also earn very valuable college scholarships. Taking the PSAT helps students know if they should invest in tutoring or more extensive test preparation courses before taking the SAT or ACT.
Christianson Tutorials tutors can help students prepare for the PSAT with one-on-one tutoring, or, after taking the PSAT, can review your scores with you and help you prepare for the SAT or ACT based on the results of the PSAT scores.