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6 Reasons to Take the PSAT

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The PSAT is one of the best ways to prepare for the SAT. Here are some reasons you should take the PSAT during your sophomore or junior year in high school.

The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT, and while colleges do not consider PSAT scores as part of their  college admissions criteria, many high school guidance counselors and admissions experts recommend that you take it. Here’s why.

1. The PSAT familiarizes you with the test questions and format of the SAT.

Lots of students wonder about the difference between the PSAT and SAT. The PSAT is not an exact replica of the SAT, but the questions, test formats, and scoring are similar. 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.

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

Taking the PSAT 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 SAT. This “dry run” may help you feel less nervous when you take the SAT.

3. Your PSAT results can guide your test prep.

Your PSAT scores should highlight your strengths and any areas of improvement that you need to work on before you take the SAT. 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.

4. Colleges will not see your PSAT scores.

Your PSAT scores are not considered by colleges as part of their  college admissions criteria and are not provided to them. However, by checking “yes” to the Student Search Service question on the PSAT, you are giving the College Board permission to provide colleges and scholarship organizations with limited personal information about you, which may provide you access to over $300 million in scholarships.

5. You might qualify for the 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.

6. Colleges might try to recruit you.

If you give the College Board permission to release information about you to colleges and scholarship providers, 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 schools and programs that you might not have considered.

Where and when to take the PSAT.

Because high schools rather than individual test centers administer the PSAT, each school decides when to administer the test. Check with your school counselor about when your class is scheduled to take the PSAT and how and when to sign up for it. For the 2020-2021 school year, high schools may schedule to administer the test on the following dates:

  • October 14, 2020
  • October 17, 2020
  • October 29, 2020 (Revised, originally October 28)
  • January 26, 2021 

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

What About the PreACT?

The PreACT®, targeted to high school sophomores, gives students practice with the ACT and an estimated ACT test score that can be used as an indicator of college readiness. The test is administered by many schools and can be given at any time during the school year.

The PreACT simulates the ACT within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects. Like the PSAT, your PreACT scores are not shared with any colleges or other third parties, but you may opt to have limited personal information shared with colleges and scholarship providers. However, unlike the PSAT, PreACT scores are not used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship.

If you didn’t take the PreACT in 10th grade or your high school doesn’t offer it, the ACT offers a free ACT Academy featuring practice tests, interactive practice questions, study games, and videos.

 

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