Ten Reasons Why the PSAT Matters

Many students are about to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in mid -October and many of them are probably wondering why it’s so important. Almost all high school students take the PSAT during their junior year.  Some students take the PSAT as sophomores and even freshmen to get the feel for the test. Here are 10 reasons to take the PSAT and why it matters to do well:

  1. The PSAT is the best practice for the SAT. It’s a standardized test made by the College Board, the same company that creates the SAT, and it tests the same three subjects as the SAT: critical reading, math problem-solving, and writing. The kinds of questions and the directions are almost exactly the same as the SAT.
  2. Students get to experience sitting down for a two to three hour test with few breaks. For many, it’s an eye-opener. The real SAT is about an hour and a half longer than the PSAT.
  3. PSAT scores indicate how a student might do on each section on the SAT. Using the test results, students can then focus their test review on the areas and types of questions they need to improve most.
  4. Students and parents can use the scores as a gauge to see what kind of additional study aids or tutoring is needed. Consider poor results as an early warning signal that serious work may be needed to do well on the real SAT.
  5. By taking the PSAT, a student could become a National Merit Scholar. This is a highly prestigious recognition. To participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program, a student needs to score above a certain percentile on the test. The National Merit Scholarship program only accepts scores from the junior year.
  6. Some 1,200 National Merit Program participants, who are outstanding, but not finalists, are awarded Special Scholarships provided by corporations and business organizations.
  7. High scoring African American high school students become eligible to participate in the National Achievement Scholarship Program as well as in the National Merit Scholarship Program. High scoring Hispanic/Latino students may be identified through the National Hispanic Recognition Program.
  8. After taking the PSAT, a number of colleges will send brochures and other college related mail. It’s a good chance to see how schools distinguish themselves and which ones are showing interest.
  9. PSAT scores are not reported to colleges. Students can take the PSAT and not worry that their score will hurt their chances of admission.
  10. Students can see how their performance on the SAT test might compare with that of other students throughout the country. This may boost self-esteem/confidence or be a good dose of reality/kick in the pants.

To all students: Good luck on the PSAT!