Juniors (and some sophomores) at high schools across the country take the PSAT exam each October. For many college bound students, it is the beginning of the “college planning process”. It is the catalyst for exploring colleges, thinking about reasonable prospects, and considering additional testing (SAT, ACT and Subject Tests) and related preparation.
The PSAT provides students an opportunity to practice for the SAT with no downside. Colleges do not see PSAT scores. However, the PSAT score report can serve as a very helpful study guide for the SAT exam. PSAT scores can be used to estimate future performance on the SAT. Finally for high scoring juniors, the PSAT (in conjunction with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation) is used as a qualifier for prestigious honors and scholarships.
In December PSAT score reports are provided by The College Board. The score report includes valuable information that can be extremely helpful for future test preparation. A numerical score is given for each of the three sections of the exam: (1) critical reading, (2) math and (3) writing. These are the same topical areas as the SAT exam with the exception of the writing section; the PSAT exam does not contain an essay writing section. The PSAT is scored on a 10 to 80 scale. Multiple by 10 (i.e. add a zero to the end) to extrapolate a corresponding SAT score.
The PSAT score report also contains a percentile score indicating relative performance to other students in the same grade. Also included is information about the types of problems on the PSAT (by area) and which questions the student answered correctly and incorrectly, making it an excellent initial study guide to prepare for the SAT.
Many families use the PSAT score report as the first step in the college search process. While standardized test performance is only one criteria for college admission, it is an important factor for many colleges and universities. Many college advisers use the PSAT report as a starting point for identifying prospective colleges, suggesting test preparation, and starting off serious conversations about higher education goals and priorities, and devising a game plan to achieve them.
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