The PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a standardized test that many students take before to the SAT, which is a significant step in the college application process. Similar to the SAT, the PSAT is created by the nonprofit College Board; however, students often take it in their sophomore or junior year of study at their institution.
It can be difficult to convince high school students of the test’s worth because it is a practice exam and college admissions departments do not view the results. However, students should be aware that some of the test’s top scorers may be eligible for scholarship money. Additionally, experts claim that for people preparing to take the SAT, this practice exam can be an essential tool for familiarizing themselves with the format of the test and receiving feedback on how to improve.
Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, which offers free, individualized test preparation for the PSAT and SAT, believes that the PSAT should be viewed as the start of a student’s college path rather than “some random test in 10th and 11th grade.”
Experts think that PSAT results are important for students for the following four reasons.
A National Merit Scholarship May Be Awarded for a High PSAT Score
Scholarship money is arguably one of the most concrete advantages of the PSAT for students. PSAT results are used by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. to choose test takers who will advance to the National Merit Scholarship Program semifinals.
The National Merit Scholarship Program’s Online Scholarship Application must then be completed by semifinalists, who are competing against other students in their state, in order to become finalists. Additional requirements include taking the ACT or SAT and receiving scores that “confirm” their PSAT score, according to the OSA.
A committee of college admissions officers selects winners from the list of finalists, and the winners get a $2,500 scholarship.
Finalists and semifinalists are also qualified for merit scholarships offered by businesses and colleges. Although their worth varies, they can be significant, and some are replenishable.
For instance, Texas Tech University provides full scholarships to both out-of-state and in-state National Merit finalists who indicate the university as their top choice on the OSA, and Fordham University in New York pays full tuition for a limited number of semi-finalists and finalists respectively.
Students must take the PSAT as a junior in addition to or instead of taking the test as a sophomore in order to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students are not eligible for scholarships related to National Merit based on their PSAT scores of 10 or 8/9.
Future SAT Performance May Be Indicated by Your PSAT Score
According to Ginger Fay, global director of partnerships at Georgia-based Applerouth Tutoring Services, a student’s PSAT score is a snapshot of their academic standing and can help them determine if they’re on track to be college-ready.
According to her, “a modest score indicates that you need to improve your preparation for college, and you should do that work.” “It’s not meant to signal to you that you’re not college material.”
The PSAT scores exactly the same as the SAT, with a possible total score range of 320 to 1520. (The range of SAT scores is 400–1600.) The College Board states that a student who scores between 1210 to 1520 would be in the top 10% of exam takers. The average score is approximately 920.
Kids may start improving and get a sense of what kind of score to expect on the SAT by taking the PSAT, says Jolyn Brand, CEO of Brand College Consulting.
“It’s a good barometer of where you are,” she clarifies. “So if a kid is performing a lot lower than they expected or might be hoping, at least they can kind of reset their expectations and not apply to Harvard, and can start looking at schools that are reasonable given their SAT range.”
By connecting their College Board and Khan Academy accounts, students may take practice exams that target the specific areas they need to improve in and receive personalized suggestions based on their PSAT score automatically. According to Brand, since improvements between retakes are occasionally insignificant, this strategy may provide students a higher starting point score when they take the official SAT.