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Making the Most of the PSAT

Posted by: Website Administrator on 11/28/2012

If you took the PSAT in October, expect to receive your scores in December. The PSAT serves two primary purposes. First, it’s the qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Second, it’s great preparation for the SAT.

Read on for more information about how to make the most of  the PSAT.

SAT Preparation. You can use your PSAT score to help you prepare for the SAT later this year. The PSAT has three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing Skills. Each section is scored on a scale of 20-80. If you add a zero to the end, the score looks a lot like an SAT score. However, don’t think that your score on the PSAT is a prophecy of how you’ll do on the SAT. Instead, you should view your PSAT score as an opportunity to see which sections, and which question types you can work on to help improve your SAT score.

The PSAT score report, officially called the PSAT Score Report Plus, has several useful tools for you to use in preparing for the SAT. In order to fully take advantage of these tools, you need to create an account with My College QuickStart. Here are just some of the useful tools that your PSAT Score Report Plus and My College QuickStart give you.

1) Personalized ranges that show how your scores might vary if you took the test multiple times.

2) Personalized feedback on your PSAT performance.  You can see which specific skills on the PSAT are your strengths, and which you could improve upon.

3) You’ll get a copy of your actual PSAT Test booklet.  You’ll be able to see the level of difficulty of each question, and how you scored on each question.

4) A customized SAT study plan based on your PSAT performance.

National Merit Scholarship Program. Your junior year PSAT Score is also used to determine your eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The highest scorers on the PSAT in each state are invited to continue in the National Merit competition as Semifinalists. Semifinalists then have to complete an application to become Finalists. Scholarship Winners are then selected from among the Finalists. If you want to move forward in the competition, be sure to complete the application National Merit sends you, and follow all instructions carefully.

National Merit Scholarships tend to be very small, and some colleges will match these awards, or provide awards of their own for Winners, Finalists, and/or Semifinalists.  If you receive National Merit recognition – great! But don’t expect it to make up for other weaknesses in your profile.  Your four year academic record and your SAT/ACT scores (where required) will be stronger indicators of your chances for admission than your National Merit status.  This also means that if you are not selected for National Merit, not to worry.

Colleges won’t use your PSAT score in evaluating your application, and your score is not necessarily a predictor of what your SAT score will be.  Take advantage of the interactive score report to help you prepare for the SAT, and if you are selected as a National Merit Semifinalist, continue on in the competition.  In general, think of the PSAT as another useful tool in the college application process.