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What is the PSAT?

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Every year in October, high school sophomore and juniors take the PSAT. The test has been administered annually since it first came into being in 1971. The test is administered by the College Board in cooperation with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

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What Exactly is the PSAT?

Many people wrongly assume that the PSAT is nothing more than a trial run for the all-important SAT. The SAT is a standardized examination that plays a significant rule for many people seeking admission to institutions of higher education.

The PSAT does allow students the ability to understand the basic elements of the SAT because the examinations are similar. In that sense, it is a trial run. With that noted, the PSAT provides another significant purpose.

As mentioned previously, the PSAT is administered by the College Board in conjunction with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation The PSAT is utilized to identify students who may qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The PSAT primarily is a multiple choice examination. The only exception is four questions at the end of the math section that require answers to be plotted on a grid.

Who Takes the PSAT and When is the Exam Administered?

There is some flexibility when it comes to who may take the PSAT. Typically, high school students in their sophomore and junior years of study are the primary test takers. With that said, younger students can also take the test if they so desire.

The test is administered to students in public and private schools. In addition, homeschooled students are also able to sit for this examination.

The PSAT is administered in October across the United States. Historically, the test was administered on Saturdays. More recently, the PSAT has been administered on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Guidance counselors at high schools, of another designated administrator, typically has information about PSAT test dates and related matters

Differences Between the PSAT and SAT

As mentioned previously, the PSAT and SAT are very similar. As was also noted, the PSAT can serve as something of a warmup for a person who intends to take the SAT.

Despite the significant similarities between the two examinations, there are some differences between the PSAT and SAT. A key difference between the two examinations is that the PSAT is not submitted to colleges and universities.

The PSAT is also shorter in length than the SAT by about 15 minutes. The SAT has an essay as part of the examination and the LSAT does not have this examination component.

The PSAT and SAT have slightly different scoring structures as well. As is presented in a moment, the LSAT has a maximum score of 1,520. The SAT has a maximum score of 1,000.

Do PSAT Scores go to Colleges and Universities?

PSAT scores do not go to colleges and universities. Scores can be utilized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is a test taker is interested in being considered for a National Merit Scholarship. Once the examinations are graded, student test takers are able to access their scores via the website maintained by the College Board.

How is the PSAT Scored?

There are two sections to the PSAT. These are a reading and writing section as well as one focused on mathematics. Each section is scored in a range between 160 and 760 for total possible PSAT score of 1,520.

In addition to the overall score and the individual scores for each section, other scoring data is found in the PSAT results. These include the evidence-based reading and writing score as well as the math score.

The national percentile is a key piece of scoring data associated with the LSAT. The national percentile shows where a particular student’s score lands when contrasted with the full spectrum of students that took the PSAT on any given year.

When a PSAT score report is issued, a student is able to examine his or her strengths and weaknesses. This can prove invaluable as a person begins preparations for the SAT. This data can show a student where he or she truly needs to spend time studying in advance of the SAT.

National Merit Scholarship

As mentioned previously, the PSAT results are utilized in determining whether a student qualifies for a national merit scholarship. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation utilizes what it calls a Selection Index to ascertain who may qualify for a scholarship.

Rather than use the scoring range of the LSAT itself, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation scores each section on a scale from six to 36. The organization then doubles those scores to ascertain where a test taker falls within its Selection Index.

Students that fall within a specified percentile on the Selection Index are deemed National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. This distinction is not announced until the school year following the taking of the examination.

Students designated as semi-finalists must then complete an application in order to be considered as National Merit Scholarship finalists. In addition to the PSAT score, other factors are considered in this final phase of the process. These are

  • grade point average
  • SAT score

Students that don’t qualify as semifinalists may be designated as commended students or receive letters of commendation, depending on where they fall on the Selection Index.

Social Media and the PSAT

With the rise of social media, and multiple test dates during any given October, controversy has surrounded the PSAT. Following the Wednesday examination, a good number of students tend to take to social media to discuss the test. This gave rise to a requirement that students must copy and sign a statement that they would not discuss the PSAT after taking the test, including making any type of social media post pertaining to the examination.

Despite some protests regarding the SAT, PSAT, and other standardized examinations, both the PSAT and SAT are likely to remain in wide use into the future. Due to this reality, some students elect to take specialized SAT and even PSAT prep courses to assist in getting reading for these examinations.