The PSAT: Reasons why Students Should see it as an Opportunity…with Benefits
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
Yes, it’s all a bit much. SAT’s, ACT’s, PSAT’s, AP’s, IB, etc. etc. Let’s face it, getting ready for college is not always a walk in the park. But students that use the system to their advantage can help themselves in the long run. While the fight continues in academic and college counseling circles to remove the barriers and “hoops” to get into college, students will need to continue preparing the best they can to give themselves the most opportunities when it is time to apply to college.
That said, standardized testing still has a major foothold on the college admissions process. The good news is that the number of test-optional or test-flexible colleges increases each year. However, applying to only test-optional colleges or universities is still not a viable plan for most students, so the standardized test process continues.
So where does a student start their standardized test journey? Usually with the PSAT which is offered at high schools as early as the 9th grade, but certainly to most students by the fall of 11th grade. Most high schools offer the PSAT in October.
The purpose of the PSAT is to set a “baseline” for students as they approach the timeframe to take the SAT’s later in junior year. While the results of the PSAT test have little to no bearing on college admissions, it is important in other ways. Here are a couple of things to know about this testing.
For Juniors the PSAT can:
- give students some very good feedback on SAT preparedness and what specifically to brush up on for the SAT.
- be used, in comparison to the Pre-ACT, to gauge which standardized test a student should be completely focused on to submit to colleges.
- provide a small segment of the Junior population with an opportunity to compete for a National Merit Scholarship through the College Board. Details can be found here. https://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/interior.aspx?sid=1758&gid=2&pgid=424
For Sophomores and sometimes Freshman, the PSAT can:
- introduce students to the SAT format in this low-stress situation.
- provide baseline information on the student’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to the test content and begin to give the student a little inclination on how competitive they may be, for colleges they may want to consider. Keep in mind, scores can change a lot in a year or two, particularly with good preparation, but having this information can help guide decisions on the need for test prep in the future.
While the PSAT test has very little bearing on college applications and acceptances, it does provide the student with valuable information needed to prepare for the actual SAT, which counts a lot at most colleges. But, the PSAT is only valuable and useful if the student tries their best to be successful on each test administered and each portion of the test. By doing so, the data from the test can help professionals like myself, high school counselors, and test prep coaches to assess how to most efficiently and effectively assist the student to prepare for the actual SAT later in the junior or senior year.
While I mention the PSAT/SAT specifically here, the same can be said for the Pre-ACT/ACT. I recommend that students take the PSAT and Pre-ACT as many times as it is made available to them in their freshman, sophomore and junior years. It just makes sense that students will get more comfortable with the test setting, test timing, and test format the more they take the test. Having this comfort level is important when the real struggle is the content of the test. Why not minimize these other variables in the testing process?
With that said, students do not need to study or cram for the PSAT, so it should not be turned into another stressor for the student. However, a good night sleep of 8 hours or more, a good breakfast and being hydrated can go a long way to help a student do their best.
View my video on the steps High School Juniors should be taking to prepare for college admissions.
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