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6 Reasons to Take the PSAT or PreACT

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The PSAT and PreACT can help students prepare for the SAT and ACT. Here are some reasons you may want to consider taking these tests during your sophomore or junior year of high school.

Although many colleges have recently adopted test optional or test flexible admissions policies, high school guidance counselors and admissions experts recommend that students prepare for and take the SAT or ACT, especially if they are planning to apply to highly selective colleges.

One way to prepare for these tests is to take the PSAT in your junior year of high school and/or the PreACT as a sophomore. Here are some reasons why.

1. The PSAT and PreACT familiarize you with the test questions and format of the SAT and ACT

Neither the PSAT or PreACT is an exact replica of their parent tests, but the questions, test formats, and scoring are similar.

Students generally take the PSAT in October of their junior year, but some students take it in their sophomore year. The PSAT, like the SAT, includes three multiple-choice tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. It does not include the SAT’s optional essay test, which was discontinued in January of 2021.

The PreACT, targeted to high school sophomores, simulates the ACT within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects (English, Reading, Math, and Science). It doesn’t include the ACT’s optional Writing Test. Tests are scored on the same 1-36 scale as the ACT. The test is administered by many schools and can be given at any time during the school year.

2. You’ll get a “dress rehearsal” for test day

Taking the PSAT or PreACT in a classroom, with other students, under strict time limits with a proctor present is the closest simulation you’ll get to taking the real tests. This “dry run” may help you feel less nervous when you take the SAT or ACT.

3. Your PSAT and PreACT results can guide your test prep

Your scores on these preliminary exams should highlight your strengths and any areas of improvement that you need to work on before you take the SAT or ACT. In addition to many other test prep services available to you (both online and brick-and-mortar), the College Board, alongside Khan Academy, offers free test prep personalized to your PSAT scores. The ACT also provides free practice tests and, through its partnership with Kaplan, offers fee-based prep courses and online tutoring.

4. Colleges will not see your scores

Your scores on the PreACT and PSAT are not be provided to colleges or other third parties or considered by colleges as part of their college admissions criteria.

5. Your PSAT Score might qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship

When you take the PSAT, you may earn a qualifying score to enter the National Merit Scholarship Program and compete for national recognition and college scholarships. To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, you must also satisfy high academic standards and other requirements.

PreACT scores are not used to determine eligibility for a National Merit Scholarship.

6. Colleges might try to recruit you

When you sign up for the PSAT and PreACT tests, you may opt to have limited personal information shared with colleges and scholarship providers. If you do opt in, be prepared to be inundated with mail, email, and invitations to apply. While this can be overwhelming, it also provides an opportunity to learn about various schools, programs, and scholarships that you might not have considered.

Where and when to take the PSAT and PreACT

Because high schools rather than individual test centers administer the PSAT and PreACT, each school decides when to administer the test. Check with your school counselor about when your class is scheduled to take the these tests, and how and when to sign up for them.

What if your school doesn’t offer the PSAT or PreACT?

If your school does not offer the PSAT or PreACT, or you are unable to take the test on the date it is being administered by your school, you might be able to take it at another local high school. Contact your high school counselor for more information.

If you are unable to take the PSAT or PreACT, keep in mind that there are many other ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT, including taking the free, online practice tests offered by the ACT and College Board websites. These online practice tests can give you an idea of how you might do on one test as opposed to the other, and help you identify areas where you need to improve. Taking the PSAT or PreACT is just one option to prepare for the SAT and ACT.

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