The Preliminary SAT/National Merit State Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a multiple-choice test offered by the College Board that is taken by millions of high school students nationwide.
What Is the PSAT?
The exam consists of three sections: evidence-based reading, writing and language, and math. PSAT scores range from 320 to 1520, half of the possible points coming from the math section and the other half coming from reading-related sections. There is no penalty for guessing the wrong answer.
Who Takes the PSAT?
The PSAT can be taken during your child’s freshman, sophomore, and junior year. It is most common for your child to take the PSAT during their sophomore and junior years of high school, but there are opportunities to begin standardized testing practice as early as eighth grade. The PSAT taken junior year is the only test that counts towards National Merit qualification. Students in the 99th percentile for their state are eligible for National Merit. You can better understand what the cutoff score is for your state using your child’s converted Selection Index number.
When Should You Take the PSAT?
As students have the opportunity to take the test any or all of their first three years of high school, it can be confusing to know exactly when to take the PSAT. According to the College Board website, the PSAT 9 is considered a “head start.” This exam tests the same skills as the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT, but is tailored to students at an eighth and ninth grade level. Taking this test and understanding the results can ensure your child is on track for college, and has plenty of time to brush up on skills that need improving.
The PSAT 10 has the same content and skill level of the PSAT/NMSQT that is taken by juniors in high school. However, test-takers cannot qualify for National Merit with their PSAT 10 score.
The test is taken in the spring of 10th grade rather than the fall of 10th or 11th grade, like the PSAT/NMSQT.
Should My Child Take the PSAT?
You may be wondering if your child should take the PSAT at all. There are many benefits to taking the PSAT at least once during high school.
Because PSAT scores are not typically sent to colleges and universities, there is no need to worry about a test score (or lack thereof) negatively affecting the college admissions process.
However, the junior year test is a chance to qualify for National Merit, which can lead to a variety of scholarships and college opportunities. The test is also a chance for your child to practice for the SAT.
Additionally, the PSAT 9 and 10 can help identify which AP courses your child may do well in.
Do You Need to Study for the PSAT?
PSAT prep can be helpful if your child wants to make the most out of practicing for the SAT or has the goal of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship junior year.
Your child can opt into a personalized study plan based on his or her test results through in-person tutoring or virtually through websites like Khan Academy.
The College Board website displays the dates for PSAT testing, and it’s helpful to be aware of these dates when creating a plan with your child. The PSAT is offered in the fall.
Schools will offer the test one day during the testing window of October 2 to October 31, 2023. The Saturday testing date is October 14, 2023. Individual schools choose a date between the end of September and the end of April to administer the PSAT 8/9.
Creating a plan for studying and taking the PSAT based on your child’s goals is a great way for them to see their academic strengths and weaknesses and prepare for their post-graduate plans.
Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.
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