Every October, students across the country take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, or PSAT/NMSQT. Almost all high school students take the PSAT during their junior year. Some students take the PSAT as sophomores (and even as freshmen) to get a feel for the test. Still, you may be wondering why this test is important and why students are asked to take it.
Why take the PSAT and why it matters to do well:
1. If a student scores well on the PSAT in junior year (grade 11), they can become a National Merit Scholar, a highly prestigious recognition. To participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program, a junior needs to score above a certain percentile on the test. The cut-off for last year’s juniors can be found here. Nearly 7,250 National Merit Scholarships are awarded annually; these awards have a combined value of more than $35 million. It is important to note that different types of scholarships will be offered.
2. Use it as practice for the SAT. The PSAT is created by the College Board (the same company that creates the SAT), and it tests the same set of skills as the SAT: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The types of questions and the test directions are almost identical to the SAT, so taking the PSAT is the perfect way to prep for future tests.
3. Increase test-taking stamina. This is just another way of saying the PSAT is great practice for the SAT, especially for students unfamiliar with standardized test settings. By comparison, the real SAT is only about 15 minutes longer than the PSAT.
4. Predict how a student will perform on the SAT using PSAT scores. Using their test results and free help through Khan Academy, students can focus their standardized test preparation on the specific areas and types of questions they personally need to improve. Along those same lines, students and parents can also use the scores as a gauge to see what kind of additional study aids or tutoring might be needed.
5. Receive information from colleges, universities, scholarship programs, and educational opportunity organizations. There is a question on the pre-registration portion of the PSAT that asks if a student is willing to share their information with colleges, universities, scholarships, and educational organizations. If a student answers yes, schools and organizations will send brochures and other college-related mail to their home and/or their email. It’s a great way to learn about all the different options available to high school students after graduation.
What if I don’t do well on the PSAT?
It’s okay! There is no need to worry since PSAT scores are not reported to colleges and will have no impact on a college application. And remember, ONLY juniors are eligible to participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program. With that in mind, there is nothing to lose by taking the test.
When will the PSAT test be offered in 2022?
The PSAT is offered three times a year. Students should check in with their school counselor about when their school is offering the PSAT this year.
- Primary test day: Wednesday, October 12, 2022
- Saturday test day: October 15, 2022
- Alternate test day: Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Congratulations to all the recently announced 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalists, and good luck to all the students taking the PSAT next month!
Have questions on the PSAT, newly released National Merit Scholar results, or anything related to college admissions, visit https://internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954-414-9986.