Most of us are familiar with the SAT and spend considerable time and effort to get that perfect score. However, Preliminary SAT, or the PSAT, doesn’t enjoy the same status primarily because it plays no official role in the admission decisions. Despite this, it is worth taking a look at the several benefits of taking the PSAT.
A few facts relating to PSAT
Before we get to the benefits of taking the PSAT, let’s look at a few facts relating to the PSAT — or to be more precise, the PSATs.
There are three different PSAT exams – PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT. As the names suggest, PSAT 8/9 is designed for students in grades 8 and 9, while PSAT 10 is meant for students in grade 10. The PSAT/NMSQT is the same assessment as the PSAT 10, but it’s not just a preliminary SAT. NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and for US High School students the test doubles up as the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT/NMSQT is ideally taken in the 11th Grade.
Some of us consider the PSAT just a practice SAT, and miss the several other benefits of the PSAT. Here are the benefits of the PSATs that no one should lose sight of.
11 reasons why one should take the PSATs
1. Good practice giving you a feel of the SAT: SAT is quite different from the tests that we are used to taking in school. Taking the PSAT helps one not only to get familiar with the question types and the test format but also to get used to the proctoring and the time pressure that are integral parts of the test-taking experience. Once you become comfortable after taking the PSATs, the SAT will not be that challenging or stressful.
2. Good practice at a fair price: The fees for all the three PSATs are quite reasonable and much less compared to that for the real SAT. There is no good reason to miss the opportunity to take the three authentic practice tests at such a reasonable price before you take the real SAT.
3. Tests and scores aligned to levels of school curriculum: The three PSATs taken at 9th, 10th, and 11th grades of your school years match in gradually increasing levels of the school curriculum as you move from one grade to the next (higher) grade. That takes away the sudden pressure that someone who has not taken the PSATs is bound to feel while taking or even preparing for the SAT.
4. Scores are indicative of your likely performance on the SAT: The PSATs and SAT are scored on slightly different scales, but the reports use a common score scale, providing consistent feedback across the PSATs and the SAT.
Thus, your total PSAT score is a direct indicator of your SAT score had you taken the real SAT. For example, a total PSAT score of 1250 means that, if you took the SAT on the same day, most likely you would have scored 1250 on the SAT.
5. Get detailed score report with benchmarking; figure out where you stand: The PSAT Score reports show the total score, sectional scores, and the different test scores and also come with College Readiness Bench Marking. Scores at or above the benchmark indicate that you are on track to be ready for college. Scores below the benchmarks serve as alarms to tell you that you need to work on your skills, but fortunately you will have time on your side. That’s the advantage of taking the PSATs.
The percentile indicated in respect of PSAT scores corresponds to the grade the student is in. This provides a useful measure of performance comparing your score to the scores of actual College Board test-takers in the grade that you are in. It represents the percentage of students who scored equal to or less than you. For example, a score in the 85th percentile for a 10th-grader will mean that the student scored higher than or equal to 85 percent of the test takers in 10th-grade.
6. Good indicator of how you need to prepare for the SAT: Review of your performance on the PSAT will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you will be able to figure out what to work on as you prep for the SAT. Are there grammar concepts you need to learn? Was it a problem relating to time management? You can figure that out and improve your scores on the SAT. Get a personalized practice plan based on your results for the PSAT/NMSQT®, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 from a Manya – The Princeton Review expert.
7. You can avail of the College Board’s Student Search Service: A great score on the PSAT can get you noticed by several colleges and scholarship boards. Avail of the College Board’s Student Search Service. It is free!
The PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 test takers are asked if they want to participate in the College Board’s Student Search Service. If a test taker opts in, the College Board shares limited information about the test taker with colleges and scholarship programs looking for such students. For PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 test takers, this service provides information about educational and financial aid opportunities from close to 2000 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs.
Many colleges and universities use PSAT scores to identify students they think may make a good addition to their student body and who may be deserving of scholarships. Having schools express interest in you and connect with you can certainly boost your confidence.
8. Get AP Potential feedback from College Board: The PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and the PSAT 8/9 can be used to explore AP potential. College Board’s “AP Potential” tool is available for free. Analysis of students’ test scores can indicate whether the students are likely to succeed in specific AP courses. According to some College Board research, students who get a 3 or more on AP Exams are likely to be academically more successful in college than non-AP students. The AP Potential data, although it is not the sole criterion, helps identify students likely to succeed on AP Exams and determine which AP courses to offer. By the way, the other criteria include individual student motivation and preparation, parental support, and teacher efficacy.
9. Get College/ Majors/Career Search using BigFuture: The online score report connects you to College/ Majors/ Career Search on BigFuture, another free service from College Board for PSAT test takers. BigFuture helps not only students but also parents to create a detailed plan relating to finding colleges, exploring careers, and paying for college. It guides you through school to college, advises you on what to do when, and also helps you track your progress. It even provides an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator.
10. Create your career roadmap using Roadtrip Nation: Roadtrip Nation is free for all PSAT test takers. Here you can create your own career roadmap. Roadtrip Nation helps you connect your interests to careers. The Roadmap provides you suggestions relating to careers, majors, and Leaders that match up with your interests. Interestingly, several of the career, major, and Leader pages also include “Take Action” link to help you get started on your road!
11. NMSQT means it is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test: Although not available for Indian (non-US) students, US High School students enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program by taking the PSAT/NMSQT® (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The test must be taken no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12.
It’s very true that “college is expensive and competition for scholarships is fierce.” By securing high scores on the PSAT, students can take a lot of stress out of the college admissions and financial need. Even College Board has an India Scholars Program under its “India Global Alliance” initiative. Manya-The Princeton Review admission experts can help Indian students explore various other scholarship opportunities.
No one should underestimate the importance of the PSAT. Do take the PSAT – all the PSATs if possible.