Is studying for the PSAT important?
Wendy Williams of Williams Educational Consultants asked Edison Prep to explain why the PSAT is important. Brian and Sylvia Eufinger, Co-Founders of Edison Prep, give great insight about this test for all families.
Before we get to the why, it’s important to define what the PSAT is for parents who may be unfamiliar with it. 1) The PSAT is an abbreviated version of the SAT with easier math (no Algebra II content) and lacks the writing sample that is included on the real SAT. 2) The PSAT is 130 minutes long and contains 125 questions; the SAT is 225 minutes long and contains 170 questions plus one essay. 3) The PSAT is a one-shot deal and takes place on a Wednesday each October; the SAT is offered seven times each year. 4) The average Sophomore scores a 129 out of 240; the average Junior scores a 144 out of 240. (link)
Two critical truths: 1) For 85-90% of students, the PSAT is fantastic practice that helps students familiarize themselves with SAT-style test questions. It cannot hurt a student in college admissions decisions.
2) For the students who score in the top 10-15% on their Sophomore PSAT (165-170 or higher) and who are willing and able to study before the Junior PSAT test, the test serves another purpose. It is the sole entry point to the National Merit Scholarship Competition. The top 50,000 Junior PSAT test-takers (approx. 3%) receive National Merit recognition.
It’s a great honor to earn either Commended or Semifinalist status. Scholarship money can also be earned from the NM Corporation itself and/or from some universities who designate merit scholarship dollars for National Merit-recognized students. Prestige is attached regardless. What’s quantitatively rare and restricted in admissions is valued in an era in which grade inflation is rampant and other subjective factors are hard to compare across high schools.
All students should take the PSAT every year that their school offers it. Some schools now charge students $14 to take the test (prior to 2009, most schools covered the fee). Skipping the PSAT would be a very unwise decision.
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